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Best Practices for Integrating

Sales Process into Consulting and

Professional Services Organizations
Summary of the 2008 Miller Heiman
Sales Best Practices Study
Best Practices for Integrating Sales Process into
Consulting and Professional Services Organizations
Summary of the 2008 Miller Heiman
Sales Best Practices Study

Consulting and professional services organizations their own subject matter expertise,” he says. While
don’t sell widgets. They sell widget knowledge. They Blakeman recognizes the importance behind expertise,
don’t manufacture, but they help manufacturers gain he also points out that this model fails to recognize the
efficiencies and competitive edge. But, as the 2008 customer’s unique challenge.
Miller Heiman Sales Best Practices Study suggests, this
sector has opportunities to sell more of its services and Miller Heiman sales consultant Rob West adds that
generate higher revenues in ways salespeople and their many professional service firms began to recognize
managers may never have thought possible. the importance of a strong sales function just recently.
He agrees with Blakeman: “Historically, they relied on
subject matter expertise alone.”
Subject Matter Experts:
A Good Start, But Not Enough A survey respondent who serves as principal at a global
In the study, this sector was 21 percent less likely than management and technology consulting firm says
all survey respondents to say their sales force is very he wasn’t surprised by this data. “A lot of firms have
effective at selling new products and services. broadened their portfolio, yet a lot of their salespeople
are unaware of what’s in the basket,” he said. “They
are more likely to sell what they are comfortable and
Our sales force is very effective at selling accustomed to selling. Especially in a time of increased
new products/services. acquisitions, salespeople may not know what their
expanded firms offer.”

Another respondent, who serves as a district manager

30% -21% for a large management consulting company, says this
goes to something his organization preaches. “A lot
38% All
of times the customer is buying from the salesperson,
not from the vendor per se. If the salesperson has a
great relationship with the customer, the customer
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90
may not know much about the company.” He adds
that sometimes salespeople tell customers what they
Bethany Schultz, Miller Heiman’s vice president of think they want to hear, rather than validating what
client engagement, says that firms in this industry the customer’s true situation is and thus miss out on
do not follow a typical corporate sales structure. the opportunity to present the the full scope of what
“Many firms will purposely remove the term ‘sales’ the organization offers. He agrees this is a missed
from their corporate vernacular,” she says. Schultz opportunity for many sales organizations.
says that consultants are often entrenched in their
own deliverables and rarely go out to sell a service Not All Consultants Like to Sell
outside of their own delivery competencies. “In these Similarly, the sector was 21 percent less likely than
organizations, consultants can team up with business all survey respondents to agree that their customers
development professionals to scope and deliver while understand the full breadth of their capabilities.
they continue to build the relationship.” Blakeman says that professional and consulting firms
are not known as highly effective at cross-selling. “They
According to Rich Blakeman, Miller Heiman sales vice
are in a practice model,” he points out. Clients may not
president for the western region, when salespeople in
understand the firm’s breadth of services because the
consulting and professional services think about what
firm approaches clients from their narrow practice point
they do, they don’t see themselves as selling products
of view, he says.
and services. “Instead, they see themselves as selling

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Best Practices for Integrating Sales Process into Consulting and Professional Services Organizations

Because consulting is a relationship business, it should

Our customers understand the full breadth come as no surprise that the sector is seldom surprised
of our capabilities.
by the loss of a strategic account. In fact, consulting
and professional service respondents were 22 percent
more likely than all survey participants to say they never
17% get surprised by such a loss. “They are in a relationship
business,” Blakeman says. “People do this kind of work
Consulting based on relationships, so they tend to stay closer to
22% All clients long term.” Blakeman uses an advertising agency
as an example. “If they lose an account, it’s a big deal.
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 These firms promote a more personal relationship and a
deeper level of solution creation. They’re not customers.
Schultz agrees. “Professionals in this industry see a They’re clients.”
significant risk in introducing unknowns to their client.
Whether they are introducing new services or even other
We never get surprised by the loss of a strategic account.
people from within the company, they will seriously weigh
the risk against the reward, even if the client is in need of
a new service.”

According to West, “They don’t talk about their full 35% 22%
capabilities. They really struggle with that,” he says.
This sector, by and large, sees itself as subject matter Consulting
29% All
experts. “They see their job as to deliver expertise, not to
develop new business.” He says that while being highly
knowledgeable in your subject area is desirable, it’s 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90

not enough: the best salespeople take a keen interest

in knowing about their customers’ businesses, the
challenges they face and their unique needs. “They live with their clients,” says West. “They know
when the waters get rough, when doom might be on the
Blakeman believes this goes to the practice model horizon. If they lose a client, they see it coming; they are
again. As a content specialist, he says, “you have a there day in and day out.”
narrow entry into a given client. They see you in a
narrow capacity. The salesperson or consultant is highly Opportunities to Leverage
specialized. You’re not going to see a lot of cross-selling the Practices of Winning
unless you’ve got a strategic account management
approach where someone is looking out for the firm’s
Sales Organizations
relationships in a broad way.” He believes that if you When compared to Winning Sales Organizations
want better performance in that area, “someone above (WSOs), the consulting and professional services sector
a collection of practices has to be engaged in looking at again shows strong potential for growth by taking
the relationship between your company and the client a methodological approach to sales – and perhaps
company.” relying less on its “practice model” as a way to develop
Schultz notes that buying influences for different services
typically reside in other parts of the client organization. In the study, this sector was 50 percent less likely to
“The project lead, who typically holds the most client- agree that they regularly engage their strategic accounts
facing role, may not have the inclination, incentive or time in their product/service planning process. West says that
to pursue relationships and opportunities with key buying in his experience, consulting and professional services
influences.” She says this is a key reason that many firms do not have account planning processes. “If they
firms have dedicated business development roles. “This do have them, it’s a budgetary function,” he says. And
is a great opportunity for all sales organizations, even he believes this presents a huge opportunity to leverage
WSOs.” While WSOs do this significantly more than this what has made these firms successful over the years –
industry, (36 percent), this presents an opportunity for all their content. “The best way to do that,” he says, “is to put
sales organizations to benefit from more cross-sell and together a structured process for talking with the client
up-sell efforts. about what is happening in the client’s world.”

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Best Practices for Integrating Sales Process into Consulting and Professional Services Organizations

We regularly engage our strategic accounts in We continually measure the improvement

our product/service planning processes. of our salespeople.

23% -50% 26% -43%

Consulting Consulting
46% WSO 46% WSO

10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90

Another area where the consulting sector’s subject matter Bottom line for consulting and professional services
expertise may be over-riding effective sales practices: the sales organizations: As the industry experts and survey
performance review process. In the study, respondents participants point out, this sector has much to leverage
from this sector were 46 percent less likely than WSOs – strong client relationships, subject matter expertise
to agree that their performance review process helps and a reputation for intellectual rigor. However, the
improve the sales force’s job performance. Blakeman need for consistency and replication of best practices
says that many times in this sector, people in business in creating and managing opportunities is real. If
development are hired for what they know, not for how addressed, these practices can have major impact to a
well they can sell. “So, if you’re hiring people based firm’s profit and utilization numbers. Sales teams that
on subject matter expertise, not against a set of sales add a methodological approach to the sales process
competencies, then your performance management – especially by learning about the customers’ needs,
system may reflect that.” understanding their own companies’ full range of
services and measuring sales performance – are poised
to gain a strong competitive edge.
Our performance review process helps improve the sales
force’s job performance.
Bethany Schultz
23% -45% Vice President of Client Engagement

Consulting Bethany Schultz joined Miller Heiman as a sales
consultant, bringing more than 20 years of experience
in sales, management and consulting. As a consultant,
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 she experienced many wins with The Miller Heiman
Sales System™, including Miller Heiman’s largest
single engagement to date. In her current role, she
West points out that this sector doesn’t talk about
assists clients with tracking, measurement and
its performance. “They talk about their content, their
realization of results as a result of their engagements
expertise. And while they shouldn’t abandon who
with Miller Heiman. She also works with customers to
they are, they should complement their subject matter
identify their needs in order to enhance new product
expertise with a sales culture.” He believes they need the
development efforts.
leadership, process, talent and language of WSOs.
Rich Blakeman
In keeping with the trend, consulting and professional
Miller Heiman Sales Vice President
services sales organizations were 43 percent less likely
than WSOs to agree that they continually measure the Rich Blakeman has a unique business background
improvement of their salespeople. West believes that combining sales and marketing executive leadership
because these organizations don’t have a historical focus with consulting assignments at senior levels of
on sales effectiveness, they don’t have as many metrics global industry-leading firms. He has proven
as WSOs, and therefore can’t use metrics to map sales himself successful at creating organic growth and
performance. differentiation for companies through their sales

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Best Practices for Integrating Sales Process into Consulting and Professional Services Organizations

strategy and its execution. Rich’s track record includes Objectives and Research
leading teams of cross-company sales leaders in
developing and implementing enterprise models for Objective
strategic account management and sales effectiveness. To obtain a clear understanding of the complex selling
environment, its challenges and trends in the current
Rob West economic environment.
Miller Heiman Sales Consultant
Research Method
Rob West has over 24 years of experience in a variety
of sales, marketing and leadership positions. For the The survey was designed as exploratory research to
past 15 years, Rob has held executive posts for industry collect primary data using a structured design. Formal
leaders like ARAMARK Corporation, Budget Rent-a-Car statistical procedures were employed to analyze the
and Fidelity Capital. Throughout his career, Rob has data. Such procedures included exploratory factor
led and developed sales organizations numbering from analysis, reliability analysis, and frequency analysis.
25 to 400 sales professionals. His experience covers
all aspects of selling from short cycle transactional Survey Instrument
telesales to managing national account relationships. After the broad issues and metrics were reviewed and
discussed with key informants, the instrument was
subjected to a pretest. The final instrument contained
About the Miller Heiman seven challenge sections with a total of 55 closed-
Sales Best Practices Study end questions based upon a 7-point Likert scale for
responses of Strongly disagree, Disagree, Somewhat
Miller Heiman’s annual research study of sales disagree, Neutral, Somewhat agree, Agree, Strongly
practices, success metrics, and Winning Sales agree. Twelve metric questions were added to this
Organizations is recognized as the largest continuous study. Finally, five demographic questions were
research project dedicated to sales performance in the included.
world. Sales leaders benefit from the resulting trends,
insights, and best practices revealed by our research. Time Frame
Even more significantly, the research results support
Data were gathered from October 1, 2007 to December
benchmarking exercises that enable companies to
31, 2007.
understand how they compare to their peers and how
they can better identify areas for improvement.
Data Analysis
Since the study was launched, more than 17,000 sales Upon receipt, all survey responses were initially
professionals have participated. Our formal research reviewed by Miller Heiman staff and then subsequently
projects, day-to-day business relationships with sales cleaned and coded. A database was developed in
professionals and the wisdom of our own top sales the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS
executives enable us to continually validate and refine 15.0). Survey data were entered for analysis. One
our thinking in the real world. phase of data analysis employed Factor Analysis as
a technique that addresses the problem of analyzing
Miller Heiman’s research focuses on complex, the structure of the interrelationships among a large
business-to-business sales which, for this study, number of variables. Based upon this step a data
we’ve defined as having sales cycles longer than reduction, if necessary, can be achieved which allows
one quarter and more than four decision-makers for a summarization of the data and subsequent
influencing the outcome. To date, more than 5,500 interpretation. Also the structure of each Element
sales professionals have participated in the current area was assessed for the visibility of the underlying
study, representing more than 21 industries including descriptors supporting the overall challenge. In all
technology, healthcare, business services, finance and instances the KMO and Reliability of each factor
manufacturing. Respondent companies are located in was assessed and found to be acceptable for data
the U.S., Europe, Australia, Asia, South America, the processing.
Middle East and Africa.

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Best Practices for Integrating Sales Process into Consulting and Professional Services Organizations

Study Demographics
Sales Force Size Geography

5% 10% 5%
500-999 1,000+
4% Asia 4%
8% Australia South America
10% 8%
11% Europe Other
100-249 Middle East
23% Africa



North America

Titles Deal Size

10% 5%
13% 8% $1M+
$0 - $5K
16% $500K - $1M
Other Executive
12% 17%
11% $250K - $500K $5K - $25K


9% 28%
$25K - $100K
Sales 26% 20%
Representative Sales VP/Director $100K - $250K
Sales Manager

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About Miller Heiman
Thirty years ago, Strategic Selling® launched a company. Thirty years later,
Strategic Selling® is just one part of what Miller Heiman offers sales organizations.
Over the years, we have earned our clients’ trust with our in-depth knowledge of
the sales process and our demonstrated ability to deliver results.

At Miller Heiman, we help companies overcome the challenges that affect

productivity and top-line growth. We go beyond treating symptoms by introducing
The Miller Heiman Sales SystemSM as a long-term commitment to understanding
challenges and building solutions. With all of the appropriate tools and
experience, we are able to quickly and effectively lead our clients to success.

Miller Heiman provides the processes that ensure results:

• Improving Sales Force Productivity

• Managing Sales Talent
• Transitioning from Product-led to Solution-led Selling
• Winning High-value Complex Deals
• Shortening Sales Cycles
• Improving Sales Forecast Accuracy
• Evaluating and Integrating Sales Forces Pre-and-Post Merger
• Protecting and Growing Strategic Accounts

Copyright © 2008 by Miller Heiman, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this report
may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including
information storage and retrieval systems without written permission from the
Miller Heiman, Inc.
10509 Professional Cr., Suite 100
Reno, NV 89521
President & CEO, Miller Heiman: Sam Reese
Editor-in-Chief: Jennifer Vodehnal
Creative Direction: Bret Poinier
Associate Editors: Kaye Lingad, Sarah Licausi
Research Analysts: Howard Olsen, Erica Olsen
Writer: Louis Greenstein

Miller Heiman Corporate Miller Heiman Europe Miller Heiman Asia Pacific
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Suite 100 No 1 Auckland Park 12 Waters Road
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