Reference CheckRecovering from hiring the wrong sales consulting firm can take between 1 and 2 quarters. The disruption of your sales force is something you can’t afford. Having your boss question your judgment is even worse. This best practice will help you avoid hiring the wrong firm.


The Wrong Way

Currently, your process may look something like this:


  1. You narrow down to 2 or 3 companies.
  2. You ask them for industry references or companies similar in size.
  3. They provide you with 2 or 3 names.
  4. Sales operations conducts the call; the references sing like canaries for all the firms.
  5. You learned nothing new.


The Alternative—Execution Team Reference Check

The Execution Team Reference check is the best practice.


What is it – A peer to peer discussion centered around project execution from working with a consulting firm. Stakeholders from your company call their peers from the references provided.


Who does it – The execution team from the sales force must be involved in vetting the references. If only 1 of 5 stakeholders reaches out, you would be better off not bothering (if a consulting firm doesn’t have references at each level, that is an automatic knockout; they obviously are not embedded in the client organization).


Typically, each stakeholder has a couple key objectives in a sales consulting project. To illustrate, let’s say you are getting ready to roll out a new sales process. These would be some of the items your reference check should dig into:


  • Sales reps – They will be executing the new process. They want to know if the new process will help them max out their comp plan this year.
  • Sales Managers – They are coaching the new process. How much is the consulting firm going to add to their plate? Is this going to be something they can use to make next quarter’s number?
  • Sales Operations –They will be managing the data and using it for forecasting. How will the consulting firm drive the adoption of the new process and will it be automated?
  • Regional Sales Leadership – You want to know if the consulting firm will help you develop more ‘A’ player sales managers. Will they expose you in front of your boss or can you trust them?
  • Your Boss – He wants to make the growth number. He needs to know the firm you hire will improve field execution to drive this result.


Execution Team Reference Check: Download it here. You will receive a breakdown of the 3 most important execution concerns key sales force stakeholders have. You will get the questions to ask and a rating scale.


Execution Team Reference Check firm


What Type of References

Ask each consulting firm for 2 references. You want one from the past and one from the present. Why? You want to understand how the consulting firm has evolved.  The past can tell you about the results the firm helped deliver. The present can tell you if the firm is evolving. You want to partner with firms whose capabilities rapidly evolve and bring bleeding edge best practices.


What to Do with Score

Once you get the completed reference checks back, review the scores with your team. There are 90 possible points. What you should be looking for:


  • 77-90 – Firm is a winner. Proceed to the next step
  • 63-76 – Firm is worthy of consideration. You need more proof.

Matt Sharrers

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by embracing emerging best practices to grow revenue faster than the industry and competitors. 

Matt Sharrers is the CEO of SBI, a management consulting firm specialized in sales and marketing that is dedicated to helping you Make Your Number. Forbes recognizes SBI as one of The Best Management Consulting Firms in 2017.


Over the course of nearly a decade at SBI, Matt Sharrers was an instrumental early partner guiding SBI as the Senior Partner. Matt’s functional responsibilities included acting as the head of sales where he led SBI’s double-digit revenue growth, and was responsible for the hiring function to build SBI’s team of revenue generation experts.


Prior to joining SBI in 2009, Matt spent eleven years leading sales and marketing teams as a Vice President of Sales. Matt has “lived in the field.” As a result, he is the foremost expert in the art of separating fact from fiction as it relates to revenue growth best practices. CEOs and Private equity investors turn to Matt’s team at SBI when they need to unlock trapped growth inside of their companies.



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