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Ian Brodie

Ian Brodie teaches consultants, coaches and other professionals to attract and win their ideal clients by becoming seen as authorities in their field.


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Book Review: Power Questions by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas

Posted on 2nd September 2012.

Power QuestionsMy first love, way before I got into marketing (even before I met Kathy) was magic. Particularly sleight of hand, close up magic.

I devoted hour after hour to practising techniques and tricks. I devoured every latest book and video and every clever new move.

But over time I learnt an eternal truth. Your level of performance isn't dependent on learning a host of tricky new techniques. It's based on how well you do the “basics”.

All the great masters, David Roth with coins, Juan Tamariz with cards, Dai Vernon with pretty much anything. All of them know (or knew) the clever techniques. But what makes their performances so sublime and their magic so, well, magical, is their mastery of the basics.

The first thing you learn in coin magic is how to palm a coin. David Roth doesn't palm a coin any differently to me. He just does it better. He does it so well and so naturally that even if you know all about palming, you still don't get an inkling that he's doing it.

Growing your skills in any field isn't primarily about learning new things. It's about learning to do the “classics”, the important core skills, at a higher level of performance.

In business development, the first thing you learn is that asking good questions is the key to winning sales.

Watch a master rainmaker at work and of course they'll be doing some subtle things that you're not. But the most important thing they do, the thing that makes the difference, is they ask better questions.

More insightful. Better chosen. More suited to the situation. Braver.

And that's what Power Questions, the new book by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas is all about.

You won't find any fancy new techniques you won't have heard about in it. Just detailed descriptions of how to ask insightful, thought provoking questions that will get your potential clients engaged and opening up.

If you've ever wanted a replacement for the corny old “what keeps you up at night” question, you'll find a bunch of much better alternatives here.

There are questions that will get clients to open up and tell you what they really care about. Questions to find out what they're looking to see from you. Questions that help you recover from bad starts. Questions to ask yourself to make sure you're on track.

Each chapter focuses on a specific type of question with an explanatory story, details of how to ask, and alternative phrasings and follow-up questions.

If you're looking for a book full of new approaches to marketing and selling you've never heard of, you'll be disappointed.

But if you want a book that'll help you progress to the higher levels of skill that mark out the true masters – then this is a book you'll want to have in your library. And it's one you'll keep coming back to.

As one of Andrew's clients in the book, the CEO of a $12-billion company, explains: “I can always tell how experienced and insightful a prospective consultant, banker or lawyer is by the quality of their questions and how intently they listen. That's how simple it is.”

This book will help ensure you're one of the ones that CEO rates as insightful and experienced.

You can find out more about the book and watch Andrew talking about some of the content by clicking here:

>> Power Questions

Disclosure: Andrew sent me a free copy of the book for review.

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Guru12: The Top 12 Gurus of Professional Services

Posted on 31st December 2009.

OK – there's a huge risk here that I'm going to put quite a few noses out of joint – including a number of people I know personally.

But I'm going to give it a go anyway. The following is my personal list of the most influential writers, advisors and consultants to the professions – particularly when it comes to strategy, marketing and business development.

I've gone for a global list rather than people who have had an influence in specific countries or specific circumstances.

And please, please, please – if you expected your name to be on the list and it isn't – I can promise you, it'll be an oversight rather than a deliberate slur. My memory just isn't so good nowadays.

The list is in no particular order.

David Maister1. Well, I said the list was in no particular order, but who better to start with than David Maister. Since the publication of Managing the Professional Service Firm in 1993, he's been responsible for pioneering or popularising countless ideas and principles which we now take for granted. Now retired, his body of work (including First Amongst Equals, The Trusted Advisor, Practice What You Preach, True Professionalism and Strategy and the Fat Smoker) and the impact of his personal influence mark him out as the most influential contributor to the professions over the past two decades.

Ford Harding2. Ford Harding literally wrote the book on Rainmaking (as well as Cross Selling and Creating Rainmakers). Harding's work is characterised by deep, insightful thinking. You won't find simple “one size fits all” remedies in his books. What you will get is experience, research and critical thinking combined to allow professional firms to develop the unique strategies and approaches that will work for them.

Charlie Green 3. After co-authoring The Trusted Advisor with David Maister and Rob Galford, Charlie Green has gone on to make the “trust niche” his own. He's broadened his scope by publishing Trust Based Selling, and has become the leading commentator on the importance of trust in business relationships.

Alan Weiss 4. Alan Weiss is perhaps best known as a prolific author and advisor to the independent consultant sector. But his contributions to the professions go way beyond that. He's published on management, recruitment, work-life balance – and he led the field in driving for value-based fees. He's often controversial – but always worth paying attention to.

Bruce Marcus5. Bruce Marcus was writing a blog way before any of us knew what a blog actually was. As the author of 15 books from Competing for Clients back in 1986 through to Client at the Core in 2005, and as a Marketing and Public Relations consultant to some of the leading accounting, law, consulting and financial firms, he's been at the forefront of both defining and implementing leading techniques in Professional Services Marketing. He was one of the early pioneers who highlighted the real differences between services marketing and product marketing and has continued to bring new insights and ideas to bear to this day.

Suzanne Lowe6. Sadly the only female in the Guru12, Suzanne Lowe focuses on the gnarly issue of Marketing Integration: how to get marketing and sales, and professionals and staff aligned and working together on business development challenges – rather than taking refuge in their comfortable silos. While many of us focus on the perhaps more straightforward issues of helping individual professionals and practice areas improve the way they market and sell; Suzanne tackles the sort of problems of cross team and cross discipline integration that bedevil large firms.

Andrew Sobel7. Like Charlie Green, Andrew Sobel is an ex Gemini Consulting VP and expert (or Deep Generalist as he would put it) on Client Relationships. Sobel's work has focused on how professionals can build trusted advisory relationships with their clients. Latterly, he's explored how relationships can be deepened beyond individuals to allw teams and entire firms to build long-term partnerships with their clients.

Mike Schultz & John Doerr8. Mike Schultz & John Doerr are perhaps the “New Kids on the Block”. As the authors of this year's best selling Professional Services Marketing, they're at the forefront of today's knowledge of “what works”: from social media, to the web, to good old fashioned seminars and networking. And as publishers of Raintoday.com, they bring the leading thinking from global experts right into the reach of practising professionals.

Robert Middleton9. Robert Middleton was the first “online guru” of professional services. Focusing on independent professionals, Middleton pioneered information marketing approaches (email marketing, teleseminars, etc.) long before the current wave of “experts” jumped on the bandwagon. And his material remains the best and most versatile resource for the sole practitioner and small practice.

Michael McLaughlin10. Another “New Kid on the Block” who's actually been around quite a while is Michael McLaughlin. Mike wrote Guerilla Marketing for Consultants, one of the most accessible sources which professionals can simply pick up and use. This year he turned his focus to selling with Winning the Professional Services Sale and set about converting professionals from pressing and pushing sales to helping clients buy in a way that works for them. It's a fun read too!

Richard Chaplin11. Richard Chaplin is a name that many won't have heard of. He's not a famous author or speaker. But over the last two decades as founder and chairman of the Managing Partner's Forum and the PM Forum (for Professional Services Marketing and Business Development) he's done as much as anyone to promote effective management and marketing in the professions. Richard's Linkedin connections list reads like a Who's Who of Professional Services. What Richard doesn't know about networking (and especially about Linkedin) probably isn't worth knowing.

Who will be the 12th guru?12. The identity of the 12th Guru is up to you. Drop your nominations into the comments box for who you think should join the other 11 on the Guru12 list and I'll create a poll to select the final Guru. Or if you're too shy to comment, drop me an email at ian@ianbrodie.com.

PS Thanks to Mary Flaherty of the Raintoday Rainmaker Blog for inspiring this post with her recent excellent posts on the “Best of the Decade” in Professional Services Marketing & Sales.