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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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More Clients TV

How To Build Executive Relationships

Posted on 21st July 2015.

In today's video I share tips on the noble art of building executive relationships.

Selling high value products and services to corporate organisations can be the most profitable and rewarding business to be in. But it can also be tough to win those clients.

Ideally you want to be positoned as a trusted partner to your client organisations. And this only happens to the degree that you build trust and credibility with key executives in those organisations.

We don’t build relationships with organisations, we build relationships with people.


In this video I walk you through a simple process for proactive relationship building that you can apply to your work with any corporate or large organisation.
 
Click here to watch the video »

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More Clients TV

How To Revitalize Old Relationships

Posted on 24th July 2013.

For my step-by-step gudie to reconnecting with old clients, click here: Reconnecting With Old Clients.

Have you lost touch with some of your old clients and contacts? Would you love to get get talking to them again – but don't know how?

It's a problem very many people have. Your old contacts and clients could be a great source of referrals, new business or helpful advice. But if you haven't been keeping in touch it can be embarrassing to try to hook up again.

So how can you do it in a way which minimises embarrassment and maximises your chances of rekindling that relationship successfully?

You can find out on this episode of More Clients TV

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Selling

Pencil Selling: A Powerful Technique for Building Engagement and Buy-In

Posted on 9th November 2010. Pencil Sketch

One of the most powerful techniques I've come across for building relationships with clients while you're selling to them is the concept of pencil selling.

It's also one that I've almost never seen anything written about.

In fact if you google “pencil selling” then 90% of the results you'll find are about awful, pushy, cheesy techniques used in answer to the powerplay command in an interview of “sell me this pencil”.

But pencil selling is completely different. It's about building engagement and trust with a potential client through the sales process.
 

The Wrong Way to Do a Sales Meeting

When most professionals meet with a potential client to discuss how they might be able to help they typically come armed with a brochure or a big pack of slides. We consultants are the worst with the latter – often seemingly trying to batter a client into submission with the sheer weight of our slides.

These presentation materials are a sort of comfort blanket. They provide certainty for us. We've had time in advance to think them through and perfect them. They look professional.

But in reality, they actually stand in the way of building a relationship with your potential client. Of really engaging with them.

And sometimes we get even worse – we take a laptop into the meeting and present slides from there – putting an actual physical barrier between ourselves and the client.

Now I've nothing against maybe leaving a brochure behind after you leave. And maybe the odd pertinent slide (if you've already discussed with the client something you're then presenting ideas on).

But in an early sales meeting, your key objective is to engage with the client. To get him or her to open up and share with you what their real challenges are. To delve into them and pull out the impact so they're motivated to do something about it. To get them to commit to moving forward to the next step with you.

You won't get there by presenting at them.

And that's what having pre-prepared slides inevitably does – you present them. And presenting means you talk and they listen. The exact opposite of the dialogue you want.

Now you'll know from my other blog posts on selling professional services that being able to ask smart questions is one of the absolute keys to engaging a potential client.

But at some point, as a professional, you need to start sharing your own ideas and tentative thoughts. You need to be opening up the client's thinking.

This is where pencil selling comes in.
 

The Pencil Selling Strategy

Simply put, pencil selling is where – in your meeting with a potential client – you sketch out ideas and concepts which illuminate and enhance your discussion with them.

And I mean that literally, not metaphorically. Getting out a pencil or pen and sketching out a concept on paper.

In practice, what it looks like is that you position a blank pad of paper between you and the client (you are sitting next to the client aren't you? Not opposite.)

Then depending on what you're discussing, you sketch out a diagram which pulls together some of the concepts you've been talking about. And you use it to illustrate your thinking.

So if you're talking about improving their product launch capabilities – maybe you sketch out a rocket and talk about how the product itself is the fuel in the rocket. But how you also need a guidance system – your segmentation and marketing so that the rocket hits its target. And then your performance measurement and management system is like the radar – spotting obstacles ahead and adjusting the flight.

Or the client is talking about building a stronger organisation – so you sketch out a greek temple with a series of pillars representing the major components (business functions, perhaps) supporting the roof (their goals). And of course, you sketch in the foundations and talk about what they need to be in an organisation (people, culture, technology, etc.).

Or maybe you sketch a simple 2 x 2 diagnostic and hand the pencil to the client – asking them to show where they are on the map.

The possibilities are endless. the key is that you use the diagram both to illustrate a point or concept – and as an engagement device to get the client interacting.

You want them to make their additions to the diagram. To “get their fingerprints on it” and begin to take ownership.

How much more effective is that than showing some pre-prepared slides about who you are and what you do which they know anyway because they looked at your website?

Mind you – it sounds difficult.

How do you make up all these different diagrams and diagnostics on the fly?

Of course, the secret is: you don't.

You have a repertoire of diagrams and diagnostics you can use repeatedly with minor tweaking.

Think back to recent client discussions. How many times have you been asked the same questions? How many times have you described the way you run projects, or what the three core components of a marketing plan are, or what makes organisations creative?

Most of us probably have half a dozen or so core concepts which we repeatedly use with clients in slightly modified form.

Rather than (or in addition to) turning those into bullets on powerpoint slides – spend some time figuring out how to draw them out as quick diagrams you can recreate with clients.

Then try it out next time you meet a client. You'll see how much more effective it is at building a relationship and getting the client energised and interacting with you than presenting a bunch of slides is.

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Get Clients Online

How To Get More Clients Online: Part 2 – Build Relationships

Posted on 5th September 2010.

This is the second in a series of posts on how to get more clients via online approaches for your professional business. It's written specifically with small and independent consultants and coaches in mind – but the lessons are applicable to other professional businesses.

Relationship Building: The Missing Link

If you've been looking into internet marketing for any time you'll no doubt have heard the “secret formula” for success on the web – traffic x conversions.

It's a statement of the blindingly obvious really: to get business on the web you need to get visitors to your site and convert them into customers. In some ways it's about as insightful as telling an offline retailer that the secret of success is to get customers into their shops and persuade them to buy.

At least it's succinct and it helps to focus your activities.

But for getting consulting, coaching or other professional services clients online – it's not sufficient.

The trouble is that unlike buying a book on amazon or even a TV from an online electronics store, clients aren't going to buy complex, costly, intangible services after just one visit to your site.

Before clients have the confidence to hire you to perform a high value, high impact service for them they need to be convinced you understand their issues, you have the capabilities to help them, and that you'll be a good fit to work with them and their team.

That confidence isn't going to be built in one visit to your site.

You need multiple interactions. And the deeper those interactions are, the more the client's confidence will be built.

This is a big gap for most professionals. Visitors to their site passively consume the content, but there’s nothing to engage them and start up a relationship with them. Nothing for them to interact with – except perhaps a lonely contact form asking visitors to make contact if they need their services.

In fact, there are many ways to build relationships with website visitors. You can encourage comments and feedback on your blog. You can run surveys. You can create a forum for discussion around specific topics. You can encourage them to link up with you via social media. Anything that takes them beyond being passive consumers of the information on your site to being active participants.

Active participation and interaction is the key to taking your relationship to the next level. The more they feel they’re communicating directly with you – not just reading your material like they’d read a book from a distant author – the stronger your relationship will get.

For most professionals, the simplest way to get more interaction and more direct communication is via an email “newsletter”.

I put newsletter in quotes, because although that’s what they’re most often called – in fact their focus shouldn't be on news. Updates from professionals with news on what’s happening in their company, who’s moving departments, which clients they’re working with, and the latest services they’re offering are typically filed straight in the trash by clients.

But newsletters which share useful information about the area in which the consultant is an expert – and which the client needs ideas and support in – are read with enthusiasm and filed where they can be found.

Not by everyone, of course. Not everything you send out will be valued by all your subscribers. But keep producing valuable, insightful material and you’ll find you engage much more with your potential clients.

They’ll start emailing you. Thanking you for your material. Asking you questions. And eventually, contacting you about your services.

And, most importantly, since by signing up they've given you permission to pro-actively contact them – you're not reliant on them remembering to come back to your website and remembering how to find it. You can actively keep in touch and nurture your relationship with them – you're in control.

This was really brought home to me a few months after I started producing my own newsletter.

I noticed the number of emails and contact form submissions I was getting from potential clients had gone up. So I tracked back the communications from a few of the recent enquires which had eventually turned into clients.
Over half of the emails had come within a few hours of the person contacting me reading the latest edition of my newsletter.

It wasn’t the first newsletter they’d had from me. In most cases they’d signed up a few months previously. They’d read a few issues of the newsletter and clicked through to a number of other articles.

But reading the latest issue of the newsletter in each case had “tipped them over the edge”. They’d been convinced I knew what I was talking about and had contacted me with details of a particular issue they wanted me to help with.

And notice – in each case they contacted me. I wasn’t pushing anything at them. Over time the articles on the website and the newsletter had convinced them I was the right person to help them.

As you can imagine – that makes the sales conversations with these potential clients an awful lot easier than if I’m pushing and promoting, or up against other equally well positioned competitors.

There’s a saying in the world of online marketing that “the money is in the list”.

I hate the saying. I hate calling valued potential clients who’ve chosen to receive communications from you a “list”.

But the meaning behind the saying is absolutely true. Your valued subscribers are your greatest asset online.