A comparative look at the skills required for both career paths
About two years ago, I made the move from consulting to tech sales and I always get so many questions as to why.
Both are intriguing career paths and offer unique challenges and opportunities for career growth and personal development. They have lots of overlap but also differ in some distinct ways.
I have decided to write this short blog exploring the key differences between these two paths, shedding light on the roles, skills required, and the journey from one to the other.
Management Consulting: involves working with clients to solve complex business problems. I worked in consulting for 5 years working with clients across various sub-sectors in financial services but mostly banking and fintech.
Tech sales: involves building relationships with clients and selling technology products or services. I am currently in B2B tech sales for a wealthtech company.
Skills that overlap between consulting and tech sales
- Intellectual curiosity — a natural or learned intrigue about businesses and their problems is required in both roles. In consulting, this is a fascination about what the world can look like in the future and in sales this is about your client’s pain point that your solution is solving.
- Ability to work well under pressure — consulting is a service-based industry and therefore if a client says jump, almost all the time you are saying, how high? Most if not all consultants are accustomed to working long hours to meet client demands. Sales is not too dissimilar but the pressure is different, there are peak periods when you are completing RFPs [request for proposals] or responding to many clients at a time (and trying to gauge who is most serious!) but the pressure is more in the moment whereas in consulting it is pretty much constant unless you are on the bench (not currently on a project).
- Strong communication — Effective communication is crucial for chairing meetings, presenting findings, reports, and recommendations to clients in consulting. In tech sales this is very similar — pitching and leading client meetings.
- Excellent interpersonal skills — Tech sales professionals need to be outgoing, persuasive, and capable of building rapport with clients exactly the same as consultants. Both careers have done tremendous things to help me build my professional network.
- Time management — Consultants juggle multiple projects and tight deadlines, requiring excellent time management skills. Sales is the same but you are managing multiple leads and managing your time between clients at different stages of the sales funnel.
Skills relevant to consulting only
- Strong analytical skills — being au fait with Excel and tech generally is pretty much expected in consulting and they often have training focused on upskilling staff on this.
- Problem-solving skills — the ability to think in frameworks and solve problems in a methodical way and enjoy doing so is unique to consulting. When I am with my consulting friends the conversation has such an interesting flow and pace because we think using the same frameworks and use the consulting basics like agendas, project planning, SWOTs and thinking in our personal lives.
- Diligence — consulting in my opinion is very much about perfect is better than done. You work hard on projects and documents until there are no mistakes or very few the client can disagree with or challenge.
- Business acumen — Understanding various industries and business models is essential to provide relevant and valuable advice to your clients in consulting. Consulting taught me a lot about thinking big and understanding megatrends.
Skills relevant to sales only
- That one KPI, sales! — In tech sales, the primary focus is on generating revenue by selling to customers whereas in consulting you have multiple KPIs (utilisiation, client feedback, types of clients your on, how much time you have spent on BD etc.)
- Negotiation — Tech sales requires the ability to negotiate deals and navigate complex sales cycles building upon the stakeholder management skills you learn in consulting.
- Resilience — Facing rejection is a recurring part of the job in sales, and tech salespeople learn to be resilient and persistent in pursuit of successful deals. Although you can get rejected from projects in consulting or be on the bench, you know it won’t be long till you end up on another engagement or pick up some BD (business development).
- Deep product knowledge: A deep understanding of the tech products or services you are selling is essential for effective pitching. Whereas in consulting you can excel by speaking to clients at the ‘megatrend’ / birdseye view level.
Overall, making the leap from management consulting to tech sales (or vice versa) can be a natural transition.
The transferable skills gained in consulting, such as problem-solving, analytical thinking, and business acumen, provide a strong foundation for a successful career in tech sales.
It’s essential to assess your strengths, interests, and career goals to make an informed decision about which path aligns best with your aspirations.
If you enjoyed this blog, catch my part 1 and part 2 conversations with Tamer from CareersTalks below covering my career to date and expanding on these points and my experience.
I have a draft blog on the pros and cons of startup vs corporate so if you would like me to post this, let me know!
Thanks for reading.