Professional Services Marketing Part 20
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-Mike Sheehan, CEO, Hil Hol iday WHERE DO ASPIRATIONS FIT IN?.
Imagine you are a partner at a diversified accounting, financial, and business advisory firm. You have a meeting scheduled with the owner of a medium-sized business because he is not happy with the tax services he has been receiving from his CPA firm.
Through a series of questions, you have uncovered several problems this business owner has had with his current accounting firm, including missed deadlines, impersonal service, and a suspicion that the firm isn't keeping ful y up to date on the latest tax regulations. He's nervous that any one of these three issues may come back to haunt him if he doesn't change firms.
Because you know your firm specializes in his industry and because of your dedication to exceptional client service, you know you can stack up wel against his current firm and have a good shot at winning the business. You ask him what his greatest problems are. You get a straight answer about his afflictions, and now you know how you can help. You continue the conversation, proposing next steps on how to move forward with a potential new relations.h.i.+p.
You feel fairly confident in how you managed the sales conversation and believe that a new client wil be in your future.
You are just about to say good-bye when he says, "I'm meeting my company's attorney for lunch. You two don't know each other. Want to join us?" Not wanting to pa.s.s up an opportunity to further the relations.h.i.+p (and because he eats at expensive French restaurants), you are happy to oblige.
You get to lunch, exchange pleasantries al around, and sit down to eat. A few minutes into the conversation, the lawyer asks your potential client, "So what's going on at your company lately?"
Other questions folow, such as, "What do you want to get done in the next year or so? . . . What are your stretch goals for the businesses? . .
. What do you think you need to do to get these things done? . . . What don't you know yet that you need to find out?"
These questions are focused on future seeking (aspirations), not problem solving (afflictions).
They open an entire new range of possibilities. You are amazed by some of your potential client's answers. The client has opened up, going on for good chunks of time about the major initiatives at his company, and some initiatives he has not yet even launched.
As you listen, you realize there are at least three areas within these strategic initiatives for which your expertise is a perfect fit and your firm can greatly help him. One such initiative-valuing a niche company he's thinking about acquiring-is your personal expertise and pa.s.sion! And the fees in these areas are usual y three times as large as what you just talked about in your meeting with the prospect an hour before.
You might get good answers. But if you also think of questions in the positive context, you wil find yourself asking "Where do you want to go?"
and "What are the possibilities?" By asking questions in a positive light, you wil find that, instead of just negating problems or fil ing a need, you can paint a vision of a new reality (more on this later) for the clients that takes them past problem solving and into new possibilities and innovation.
I-Impact After you uncover the potential client's aspirations and afflictions, the question then becomes "So what?" If the afflictions don't get solved, what wil or won't happen? Wil they get worse? How do they affect the bottom line of the client's company, division, or department?
If your aspirations don't become reality, so what? In a business-to-business scenario, these questions might sound like, "Wil your compet.i.tion get ahead of you if you don't innovate? Wil you lose market share if you aren't aggressive in your strategy?"
The exact "so what?" questions wil vary depending on the situation, but your ability to quantify and paint the "so what?" picture is the foundation for just how important engaging your services is to the prospective buyer. This is of paramount importance to you because, as we have discussed previously, when it comes to sel ing professional services, your compet.i.tion is often the indifference of your client, not another organization or service provider. So creating urgency for buying your services hinges on how wel you help your client answer the "so what?" questions.
"It real y gets down to the people at your firm and their skil in asking the right questions to uncover what the prospective clients' issues are and to see if you can help them."
-Ed Russ, Chief Marketing, Grant Thornton BALANCING ADVOCACY AND INQUIRY.
Wil y: I don't know why-I can't stop myself-I talk too much. A man oughta come in with a few words. One thing about Charley. He's a man of few words, and they respect him.
Linda: You don't talk too much, you're just lively.
-Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman We al have sympathy for poor Wil y Loman in Death of a Salesman. He knew he talked too much; but he couldn't figure out why and he couldn't stop talking too much, even though he wanted to be like Charley-a man of few words-who was respected by al .
When business developers talk too much, they generate too few clients. So why do those of us trying to develop business constantly find ourselves in a similar position? Perhaps because, like Wil y Loman, we do not understand why we talk too much.
While many people do indeed talk too much during the business development process, on the other side of the spectrum others learn somewhere along the line that good business developers ask great questions. They then take the advice to an extreme and ask question after question, offering no advice and making the people on the other side feel like they're getting the third degree. So instead of talking too much, they're asking too many questions.
The key to talking and questioning each in the right amount comes in balancing advocacy (giving advice, talking) and inquiry (asking questions, finding out more, and letting the client have the airtime).
In RAIN, you now know the "A" stands for aspirations and afflictions and the "I" stands for impact. The "A" and the "I" do double duty, though, helping us to remember advocacy and inquiry.
"To your point about balancing advocacy and inquiry, when I first started with Accenture, a technology partner and I had a meeting to win a job with the CEO of the bank that is now JPMorgan Chase. We had 60 minutes. My teammate wanted 60 slides. No gaps. Solid content, solid talking. I wanted no more than five slides. We needed a conversation if we wanted to make a connection."
-Mike May, Professor at Babson Col ege, former Co-Vice Chair of KPMG, and former Global Managing Partner of the strategy business for Accenture N-New Reality One of the greatest difficulties in rainmaking is helping potential clients to understand exactly what they get when they work with you and then communicating this benefit to other people involved in the buying decision. At the end of a wel -managed sales process, your job is to create a new reality that wil be the best for your client, given the client's specific aspirations and afflictions and the impact of doing (or not doing) something about them.
This process can start even before you have engaged your complete needs discovery and solution-crafting process. Ask prospects what they want the world to look like once your work is done. Broad questions that start them envisioning the future are a good way to get the creative juices flowing.
* At the end of this engagement, what wil success look like?
* After working with us for six months, what do you see happening?
* What is your current service provider delivering in terms of creating the changes you need? Where are they fal ing short?
* What do you want to have happen as a result of our work together?
* What would a Wal Street Journal article say about you (your company, your group) three years from now?
Don't be surprised if the prospect's first answer to these questions is, "I don't know." More than likely she also wil say, "That's a good question." If this happens, do not jump right in. Silence wil indicate you expect an answer, and with some thought she wil give you one. Prompt her if need be.
As much as possible, you should present this new reality in both qualitative (descriptive) terms and quant.i.tative (financial measurement or other numerical y based) terms.
Applying RAIN Like any good conceptual model, RAIN Sel ing goes a lot deeper than how it looks on its face. The power of RAIN Sel ing is that you can apply it right away and have it make a difference. Good models, while having deep intrinsic value, are also easy to understand and apply.
Thus, the best way to get you started is to simply remember what the acronym RAIN stands for. Seling professional services (i.e., rainmaking) requires that you connect with a potential client (rapport), because professional services buyers often choose who they like the best; that you get a sense of where you can make a difference, either by solving their problems (afflictions) or by helping them innovate and grow (aspirations); that you help everyone involved in the buying process to understand the "so what?" (impact) of moving forward; and that you make tangible how the world wil be different by painting a picture of a better future (new reality).
Networking, Relations.h.i.+ps, Trust, and Value For it is mutual trust, even more than mutual interest, that holds human a.s.sociations together. Our friends seldom profit us, but they make us feel safe.
-H. L. Mencken Life Before BlackBerry . . .
Years ago, heading out of the office for a leisurely three-hour, three-martini lunch with professional col eagues wasn't so out of the ordinary. With no Internet, no e-mail, no cel phones, no fax machines, no BlackBerry, no video conferences, no webinars, and less complexity in our work lives, this kind of meeting not only was common, it was necessary.
In those days, especialy since marketing for professional services was virtualy unheard-of (or, in some cases, ilegal), the core way to build a client base was by constructing a professional network comprised of either potential clients or potential referral sources. It was relatively easy to network in the old days, as there were significantly fewer distractions. You knew where to go, you met col eagues there, and you began business relations.h.i.+ps, which, for better or worse, may have included gin, just a touch of dry vermouth, and a few olives.
Fast-forward to today. We have: * Hundreds more professional networking options with conferences, a.s.sociations, trade shows, seminars, technology-based meetings, technology communications methods, and the like.
* Greater awareness of both our markets and our compet.i.tion. This increases our potential for professional networking because we can identify new people to meet, but it intimidates us because we feel like smal fish in a much more compet.i.tive large pond.
* Many more demands on our time. We're expected to produce more, work longer hours, and contribute more to our offices than ever before and with fewer resources. It seems so long ago that everyone had a secretary (before the term administrative a.s.sistant even made sense to anyone) to answer phones, file, and manage calendars.
* Seemingly less emphasis placed on relations.h.i.+ps and networking because we can now, of course, find just the professional we need by typing a few key terms into Google. Who needs to go meet people?
* Less practice interacting with people. Conversations that used to happen face-to-face, even on the same floor in the same office, happen over instant messaging or e-mail.
So we have less time to go out and interact, less time to maintain relations.h.i.+ps if we start them, and more ability to find people and services quickly anyway. Why bother with the pain of networking at al ?
The Outcome of Networking It might seem to some like professional networking is a thing of the past, a dinosaur, a convention of slower times when relations.h.i.+ps were more important than the ability to move fast and be flexible. As we struggle to produce deliverables on time, keep our teams and our tasks on track, or bil more hours, networking is often the first item that fal s off the to-do list.
Given the reasons just listed, why bother building relations.h.i.+ps? It takes a lot of time, you never know what results (if any) it wil produce, and it is hard work for the majority of us who are not hardwired to be networkers and relations.h.i.+p builders.
Wel, business evolves, but some things stay the same. Relations.h.i.+ps are stil the number one thing that separates the creme of the rainmaking crop from the also-rans.
In our interviews when researching Professional Services Marketing with top professional service leaders, we asked each leader two questions: 1. What is the key for those people who make the transition from top pract.i.tioner to rainmaker?
2. What is the key to making the transition from rainmaker to super-rainmaker, those stars that outperform the rest many times over?
The answer from al : relations.h.i.+ps.
Paul Dunay, Global Director of Integrated Marketing at BearingPoint, says: I think if I have to sum it up in one word, it would be relations.h.i.+ps-the ability to create them and keep them, and working their networks accordingly. The guys I know who are pul ing in the tens of mil ions of dol ars or the high upper-single-digit mil ions are masterful at starting, keeping, and extending those relations.h.i.+ps.
When they become a rainmaker extraordinaire they take that up a notch. Their clients wil take them around the C-suite at a Fortune 500 company and introduce them around. Ask them why their clients do this, and they say something like, "Because he's a businessperson and believes in what we do, believes in our brand promise. And he's a close friend." The top rainmakers create a relations.h.i.+p out of a deep trust and become a trusted advisor. The other people can't.
It's All about the Relations.h.i.+p Networking is a means to an end, not an end in itself. That end is building and sustaining relations.h.i.+ps with people. The word networking may bring to mind thoughts of busy bars with rapid-fire business card exchanges, insincere glad-handing, and constant elevator pitching. This isn't what we're talking about. When we refer to networking, we're talking about creating authentic and honest relations.h.i.+ps. By focusing on how we can help others to succeed and prosper, we contribute to their success as wel as our own. But first things first: We have to meet people of similar minds and similar business interests who wil be good connections.
Are you familiar with the open-source computer operating system Ubuntu or the ralying cry of the Boston Celtics basketbal team-"Ubuntu, ubuntu, ubuntu!"?66 Derived from the African Bantu language, the word ubuntu roughly translates as "I am what I am because of what we are together." Whether you are a member of a sports team, a community group, or a business, the concept of ubuntu applies. It is a humanistic philosophy in which we achieve our potential through others by being unselfish, generous, and trustworthy. (See Figure 22.1.) Figure 22.1 Networking The authentic relations.h.i.+p-based approach to networking is one that even the most introverted professional services pract.i.tioner can adopt and feel good about. Ubuntu.
Referrals top the list of how buyers find professional services providers. As we discussed in Chapter 1 (see Figure 1.1), in How Clients Buy we asked buyers of professional services how they initial y identify potential service providers. Their top two answers were referrals and referrals: 1. Referrals from col eagues-79 percent of buyers are somewhat or very likely to find service providers this way.
2. Referrals from other service providers-75 percent of buyers are somewhat or very likely to find service providers this way.
Through networking and sustaining relations.h.i.+ps, you are able to increase the likelihood of generating these valuable referrals.
What Is Networking?
If networking is so important, why do so many people avoid doing it? Many professional services providers simply fail to understand what networking is or the benefits it brings. We like the American Heritage Dictionary definition: network (verb): To interact or engage in informal communication with others for mutual a.s.sistance or support.67 Key to this definition is the concept of mutual benefit. Use this as your touchstone to remain focused on the positive (and effective) elements of networking.
WHAT NETWORKING IS AND IS NOT.
Networking is: * Building relations.h.i.+ps before you need them-or laying the groundwork to produce good results.
* Building relations.h.i.+ps with people you can help and who can also help you-it's as much about what you give as it is about what you get.
* Teaching people what you need from them and what they can expect to get from you in return-in other words, keeping the lines of communication open both ways.
* Trusting that if you put energy into your relations.h.i.+ps, you wil receive something in return-which means not keeping a precise scorecard.
Networking is not: * Something you do to someone.
* Going to conferences and col ecting a lot of business cards.
* Manipulating people to get them to work with you.
If you go into the process thinking that networking is just col ecting business cards or reeling in favors, you'l be disappointed. Networking in its simplest form is first about giving, not about getting. (The more you give, though, the more you do get in return.) Trust and the Building Blocks of Winning New Clients To demonstrate how trust and networking work together, we wil let John Doerr's early childhood memory serve as a trigger: "Some of my most pleasant memories as a child are of playing with wood building blocks. Once I mastered the basics of stacking one block on top of another, my goal was always to build as high as I possibly could. Being the quick learner that I am, I soon discovered that the stronger the foundation, the higher each stage of my skysc.r.a.per could be. Sacrificing width for height (I had only so many blocks) would result in skysc.r.a.per col apse."
The same building-block rules apply to seling services: The stronger and broader the foundation of the relations.h.i.+p, the higher and st.u.r.dier your business development success. The question then becomes, "How do we build this foundation?" Especial y, "how do we begin to build it with a prospect we meet for the first time?"
The building blocks of a strong service relations.h.i.+p are trust, need, solution, and value.
* Trust: Trust begins with the initial rapport (think RAIN Sel ing) that we develop with each person. We need a certain amount of rapport just to get a conversation started. As prospects begin to feel that we indeed are competent and professional, they wil start to let us into their world. At this point, we can begin to uncover their needs.
* Need: It is with this block that we find out what kinds of needs our prospect might have in our general area of expertise. Often these needs exhibit themselves as pain or afflictions. But they can also be goals or aspirations for a brighter future. In either case, our job is to uncover as much need as we can in order to develop a solution.
* Solution: Once we have engaged in the conversation (or conversations) to uncover needs, we now can craft a solution. It is not a question of offering al the services we have available, but of offering only those that connect with the scope of the articulated needs. (This seems rather obvious; but, amazingly, many service providers cannot resist the urge to mention everything they offer, even though the prospect has shown zero interest in the additional services.) In order for our solution to be considered, we must then make the value tangible.
* Value: By engaging us to perform our services, what specific value wil the client gain? This value can be articulated in dol ars, in Figure 22.2 Service Relations.h.i.+p Hierarchy efficiencies, in quicker resolution of their problem, and in many other ways. No matter what method you use, by being specific and clear about your solution, you wil make it easier for the prospect to buy from you.
When we stack our blocks one on top of the other, we create and move up the Service Relations.h.i.+p Hierarchy, shown in Figure 22.2.
"What do you need to succeed at rainmaking? Interpersonal skil s and a.n.a.lytics, in that order. I have hired thousands of people in my 30-some-year career. I've hired Rhodes scholars. I've hired bril iant geniuses. I even hired one guy who put his IQ on his resume. Why? I don't know. Al of that is not a proxy for being successful in terms of getting in front of a client, making an impact, and making a sale. It's al around developing trust."
-Mike May, Professor at Babson Col ege, former Co-Vice Chair of KPMG, and former Global Managing Partner of the strategy business for Accenture Each step of the hierarchy needs to be broader than the one above it in order for you to be successful in sel ing your services.
* You certainly want to explain to the ful est how your solution offers maximum value. If you can't articulate the ful value, you may not sel the ful solution.
* You won't excel if you offer solutions beyond the stated and uncovered needs of the prospect. Clients won't (and shouldn't) buy superfluous services. You wil probably even hinder the level of trust you've built.
* A certain extent of trust is necessary to simply begin to uncover needs. If prospects doubt you or suspect your motives, they won't typical y be forthcoming with their real problems and goals.
Let's take a look at how the concept of the Service Relations.h.i.+p Hierarchy might appear in practice.
Consider this scenario: You're a management consultant and you work with large businesses on strategy and innovation. You've had initial discussions with a new prospect. During conversations, you uncovered a number of needs for which you would be the perfect service provider. In fact, you have been so good at uncovering needs, this could be one of the biggest clients you have ever landed.
Even though you haven't had what you feel is enough interaction with the prospect, the needs are so clear and compeling that you craft your proposal (outlining your incredible solution) and construct a strong case for the value that your solution wil provide. In total, the proposal is for $225,000-a huge win for you, especial y for a first project with a client.
You send the prospect the proposal and . . . voila . . . you do not get the job. You are certain of the prospect's needs. You are confident of your solution and the value it wil add. What happened?
"What makes a good rainmaker? The ability to put yourself in the other person's shoes."
-Ed Russ, Chief Marketing, Grant Thornton When you think about it, you already know the answer. You were right about the needs, solution, and value. But you were also right about this being such a big win so early in the relations.h.i.+p. In essence, you were providing too much too early for such a new relations.h.i.+p. You had asked to be the trusted advisor to the tune of a $225,000 commitment at a point when you were just building an initial amount of trust with the prospect.
You were at this stage in the relations.h.i.+p: You had developed a fair amount of trust, but the uncovered needs and the proposed solution were far beyond the trust level you had established. You had not yet built a proper foundation to support the solution you had presented.
When the prospect received your proposal, the entire relations.h.i.+p toppled over, resulting in no $225,000 sale and maybe no further relations.h.i.+p with that prospect (see Figure 22.3).
Figure 22.3 Losing the Sale!
Now consider an alternative: * The need set is the same: $225,000 in services wil be just right.
* You realize the client isn't ready to drop this much money on you to start, so you break the project into phases so you can prove the concept and prove that you are a top-notch and dependable service provider.
* Phase 1 is for $35,000-much more palatable for a new relations.h.i.+p.
Professional Services Marketing Part 20
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Professional Services Marketing Part 20 summary
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