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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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Strategy

How to Become a Trusted Advisor

Posted on 5th July 2012.

Exclusive Bonus: the very best way to establish yourself as a trusted advisor to your senior clients is using a Value-Based Marketing strategy. To download your free step-by-step blueprint to implementing Value-Based Marketing and get FREE access to the Fast Start videos that will get you up and running and generating leads and clients fast, click here.

It's the holy grail of Professional Services – to become a trusted business advisor to your senior clients. To be viewed – and sought out – as a source of valued advice and support.

The benefits are crystal clear: if you're the first port of call for a client with a critical business problem then you're in a tremendous position to help shape that client's thinking, to build a deep understanding of the situation, and to establish strong credibility through the discussions.

In other words, you'll be in pole position to win any related work.

And if you’ve established a position of being able to help and offer good advice across a broad range of issues – not just in your own specialism – then you become an indispensable partner – not just a supplier.

But becoming a trusted advisor doesn’t happen overnight.

The position’s got to be earned – and that takes time and it takes consistent action.

How To Become a Trusted Advisor

The clues to what to focus on are in the name – trusted advisor.

You must establish both a trust-based relationship with your client; and you must be viewed as a source of valuable advice.

Building trust comes from demonstrating and proving trustworthiness over time to your clients.

That means repeatedly demonstrating that you understand them, you have their best interests at heart, and you'll deal with them with candour: always being honest about what you can and cannot do, and taking a long term perspective rather than seeing them as a short-term sales prospect.

And that starts even before they become clients. How you treat them when they're prospects sends a strong message about how you'll treat them when they're a client.

When the Huthwaite Group studied client’s perceptions of professional service salespeople, they found that of the key elements of trust (in their words: candour, competence and concern) it was the area of showing concern and empathy for their clients where professionals performed the worst.

Much worse that their counterparts in product sales.

Accountants, lawyers and consultants are trained “to be professional”. To be objective, fact-driven and solution focused. We've been conditioned into feeling we must constantly demonstrate our cleverness and expertise in order to be credible.

But all of this mitigates against showing genuine human concern for clients and their challenges.

It’s not that we don’t care about our clients – far from it. But we've got to learn to express this concern in ways which clients can appreciate.

Using our listening skills, for example, not to gather ammunition for our next verbal gem – but to build genuine and deep understanding of a client’s situation.

And when it comes to demonstrating that you can provide valuable advice, again you've got to do this consistently over time. Every interaction with your senior clients is a chance to either advance their perception of you as a source of valuable insight…or not.

Now that doesn't mean that a junior consultant or lawyer should try to jump right in and spout their “wisdom” to senior clients on day 1.

You've got to “earn your spurs” first.  You have to earn the basic right to be listened to by your senior clients.

You do this by demonstrating competence in the areas you've been hired for. Until you've done this, any attempts to advise on wider areas are going to fall on deaf ears. You need to prove your basic capabilities first.

Or as a grey-haired consultant told me on one of my early projects when I was trying far too hard to “add value” on a whole bunch of topics: “Ian, you've got to get your own sh*t sorted first”.

So that's your starting point.

But unfortunately, many professionals stop there.

They limit their interactions with clients to talking about the work at hand and the specialism they focus on.

Over time, this causes them to be pigeon-holed as just being technical specialists. People who can be relied on to deal with specific topics – but not a trusted advisor who can help with more challenging problems.

To establish your trusted advisor status you've got to demonstrate you can give valuable advice outside your specialism. You need to show you have broader knowledge of business in general, and of the client’s business and industry specifically.

That means you've got to do your homework.

As a professional you need to know the key issues of the day. In business and industry generally. In your client’s industry more specifically. And if you can, in your client’s company.

As you get closer and closer to your client, they’ll also begin to share issues that are personal to them and their role. But at the start, it’s the more general industry and company issues you should focus on.

Always make sure you’re up to date with industry news – and ask the client about their opinions. Put out tentative hypotheses to gently establish the fact that you’ve been thinking about their industry and their company. Highlight a recent move a competitor made and ask them how effective they feel it was – and be prepared to give your views too.

Use the smalltalk at the start and end of meetings to cover these relationship-building topics rather than jumping straight in to talk about the job at hand.

Or invite your client out for a coffee next time you do a progress update. A change of scenery to a more casual environment often helps clients open up more broadly about the things on their mind.

Don’t push this too far, too early though.

I’ve seen many junior consultants and aspiring partners rush far too fast into trying to “coach” senior clients long before they've earned the right.

Instead, recognise where you are in your relationship.

  • Have I established my basic competence?
  • Have I created an impression of strong general business knowledge?
  • Have I demonstrated useful insights into key business problems?

Look at the development of your relationship as a ladder you climb step-by-step. And hand-in-hand with your client at every step of the way.

In the early days, ask about issues just a bit wider in their organisation. Or things that are big news and everyone is talking about.

As your relationship develops you can move on to broader and bigger topics. But always do your homework so you have an interesting point of view to share.

Do this and you will set yourself well apart from the vast majority of consultants and other professionals.

Do it really well, and you’ll find that the clients you develop your trusted advisor roles with will support you for many, many years.
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Featured

Selling

The Secret of Ethical Selling

Posted on 23rd March 2012.

Ethical Selling: Three wise monkeysWhat's the secret of being able to sell ethically without being manipulative, salesy or pushy?

Marketing.

No, seriously. It's marketing.

Here's why:

Why Marketing is the Key to Ethical Selling

Let's think about what might cause someone to sell unethically. To manipulate or push someone into buying something they perhaps don't really want or need?

Or to bring it right home, what might cause you or me to sell unethically?

I'm a nice person. I'm sure you're a nice person. In fact overwhelmingly, most people I know are nice people.

None of us wants to sell unethically. So why might we do it?

Selling is a pretty simple process when it comes down to it. You sit down with someone, disucss their problems and challenges, goals and aspirations. You talk about what it would take to solve or achieve them – and what the impact would be. Then you discuss how you might be able to help and whether you're a good fit for working with them.

Why might that conversation stray and become manipulative?

The answer is desperation.

If you're the only potential client a professional has met for a month and he needs you to hire him so he can pay the mortgage and feed the kids, then the chances are that even if you're not a perfect fit, he's going to try to “sell” you.

Desperate professionals overstep the mark. If they really need the sale, they perhaps claim their service is that little bit better than it actually is. They ignore some of the alternative options the client could take even though they should really mention them. They try to get the client to sign up quickly, instead of when the time is right for them.

So if it's you, how do you stop that desperation causing you to sell unethically?

Well, you either develop an iron will…

Or in the real world, you remove the cause of the desperation.

And that's where marketing comes in.

Marketing makes sure you have a service that's in demand. That lots of potential clients want and need and that will deliver great value to them.

And marketing makes sure you have a steady stream of leads – more than you need – so that when you sit down with that potential client, he's not the only one you've seen that month. You have a backlog of potential clients to see.

And that way, when he's not a perfect fit, or the timing isn't right for him, there's no need for you to push or drive for a sale you really shouldn't be pushing for.

You can do what's best for the client and move on, confident that the bills will still be paid and little Johnny will still have plenty to eat. Because there's a steady flow of high quality leads coming in to your business. If this one isn't right, the next one will be, or the next one.

Truth be told: ethical selling is pretty easy if you've got more leads than you need.

So marketing, good marketing, is the key to ethical selling.

–> By the way, one of the very best resources on behaving (and selling) ethically is Charlie Green's Trust Matters blog. Lots of very thought provoking articles that will help you come to grips with this tricky topic.

Ethical Selling (and much, much more) at the Trust Matters blog.

——–

Photo Credit: Anderson Mancini via Compfight

Featured

Selling

Do You Really Need a New Sales Process?

Posted on 27th April 2011.

Sales ProcessI read a thought-provoking blog post by Dan Waldschmidt today entitled The Lie of a “Better” Sales Process.

In it Dan argues that we spend far too much time looking for a shiny new way of selling that will improve our results – and far too little time getting better at using the perfectly adequate process we already have.

I'd agree with him up to a point.

If you've already got a decent sales process or methodology in place, then switching to a new one is going to have little impact on your success. Some methodologies are better suited for selling professional services than others (SPIN, Solution Selling and the ORDER process from Let's Get Real immediately spring to mind). But given a decent methodology, you're usually far better off getting better at using it than starting again from scratch.

However, there's an exception to this rule.

And it's one that, sadly, applies to many consultants, coaches, lawyers and other professionals.

If you don't use a methodology at all – then you need to find a decent one.

If you “just wing it”, you think you're a “natural salesperson” or you use what you've learned from your personal experience – the chances are your performance is way below what it could be.

Sales isn't just an art. It's been studied based on decades of experience and observation of thousands of sales meetings. And that includes large, complex professional services sales.

If you're using just your own experience or what you've learned from colleagues and you're up against a competitor using a process based on these decades of experience from thousands of people then you're going to be outgunned time and time again.

And before you invest in sales training focused on “tips and techniques” – make sure you have a solid process in place too. Otherwise most of what you learn will be pointless. Rather like trying to learn how to “fade” a golf ball when you haven't got your basic swing sorted.

——

How about you? Have you switched sales processes and had great success? Or has it just been a horrendous waste of time? Drop me a comment below, it would be great to share experiences.

Featured

Selling

How To Differentiate Yourself When You’re Selling

Posted on 9th December 2010.

We talk a lot about differentiation in marketing. Differentiation is something that sets us apart. Unique attributes of our services that are valued by our clients but that can't be easily reproduced by our competitors.

At it's simplest level, it could be a service we can deliver that no one else can. Or perhaps we specialise in working with a particular sector so we have more experience and knowledge in that field.

Differentiation in marketing can make us the obvious “go to” person for a client who recognises they need our unique skills and capabilities.

We talk much less about differentiation in selling however. But it's just as important.

If we're face to face with a client trying to persuade them to choose us over a competitor then unless we're different in some way, the client will end up choosing on price.

Differentiation at this level is hard. By the time a client is talking to us face to face they've already discarded the firms and individuals who aren't specialised in their sector (if that's important to them) or who don't deliver the services they're looking for.

At this stage, the short list almost always comprises firms who can perfectly well help them address their problems or opportunities (or at least claim they can). They might do it in a different way to us. But at the end of the day, it's highly likely that they'll claim they can achieve the same end results.

If a client says they want to reduce their indirect procurement costs by 20% – all the consultants pitching to them will say that's what they'll deliver.

If a client says they want a smooth divorce that doesn't impact the kids, all the lawyers will say that's what they'll deliver.

If a client says they want their accounts done quickly and efficiently with minimum hassle – then pretty much every accountant they speak to will say that's exactly what they'll do.

And if everyone is saying they'll do the same thing – then the only thing that sets them apart in the client's mind is their price, right?

That's not good. Certainly not if, like me, you price at a premium because you believe you deliver a premium service.

So when it comes down to the crunch. When you're sitting 1-1 with a client and discussing what you'll do for them, how on earth do you differentiate yourself?

Well, the first thing you need to accept is that simply identifying the client's needs and then telling them you'll address them isn't enough. Everyone will do that.

Here are some ways you can differentiate yourself in these competitive selling situations:

The “Safe Pair of Hands” Strategy

You may all promise you'll deliver what the client wants. But from the client's perspective, there can be major differences in how confident they are that you'll make good on that promise. If you're able to prove through testimonials, references, or just how much you seem to understand their situation, then they'll feel more confident that you'll be able to deliver what they want. And so they'll pick you rather than selecting on price.

The “Relationship” Strategy

People choose to work with people they like and trust. They won't pick you if they don't think you can do the job. But once you've proven that, then they'll almost always choose someone they like and feel they can partner with over someone they don't.

The “Change the Game” Strategy

When you're interacting with a potential client and talking about their needs – if you can identify problems or opportunities that they haven't thought of themselves – then you can mark yourself out as being different. The quality of your diagnosis immediately marks you out as being an expert – and (rather fortuitously) can prompt the client to question the abilities of your competitors who didn't highlight these new ideas.

It can be a risky strategy if the client has fixed ideas about what they need and doesn't want to be challenged. But it can be a particularly powerful way of pulling the rug from under entrenched incumbents who have better relationships than you and are seen as safer pairs of hands.

What's Your Strategy?

These aren't the only strategies you can use in sales situations – but they're good ones. Ones which I've seen work time and time again.

Whenever you're in a competitive selling situation you absolutely must have a differentiation strategy in place. Just diagnosing the client's needs and saying you'll meet them is not enough. That's the baseline – everyone will do that.

Unless you want to end up competing on price you must have a compelling reason why they should choose you. It might be different for every client – but you need one for every client. And that means in every competitive sales situation you've got to put the time and effort into developing it.

So for those upcoming bids, pitches and sales meetings you've got: what's your strategy?

———-

Image by Foto43

Featured

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.

Featured

Selling

Why Are We So Afraid Of Selling?

Posted on 1st November 2010.

Selling Professional Services is tricky.

Most professionals intensely dislike selling. In fact, I'd go as far to say that a great many fear it.

The thought of having to sell ourselves brings butterflies to our stomachs, makes our palms sweat, and triggers all sorts of negative thoughts:

“I didn't do years of training to have to go out and sell”.

“I'm the expert here, people should be coming to me, I shouldn't have to beg for work”.

“Selling is beneath me”.

In fact, some professionals can't even bring themselves to call selling by it's proper name. They call it business development or even marketing. When really they mean selling: engaging with potential clients and persuading them to hire you.

Why do we get such intense emotions when it comes to selling?

The most common response is that it's “fear of rejection”.

But that's far too simplistic a view. What on earth is “fear of rejection” really? We get rejected all the time. What are we really afraid of?

In my experience, there are multiple factors.

Sometimes we're worried that we might damage client relationships by being “too pushy” and asking for sales.

Sometimes it's because we have a very negative stereotypical image of salespeople. The sales people we've come across are the Ricky Roma, Willy Loman “used car salesman” types and we don't want to be like them. (Apologies to all the professional used car salespeople out there who of course aren't at all like the stereotype).

But the issue I see more often than not is that we're worried what others might think of us. We're worried that by “selling” we might come across as desperate. We have a self image of a highly successful professional we want everyone to buy in to.

Of course, we make all sorts of excuses and rationalisations. The time isn't right to call. A direct mail sales letter is “unprofessional”. Clients' don't respond well to being asked for referrals.

We're none of us immune to this. I did – and to some extent still do – this all the time. I have to catch myself when I start talking to myself like this and shake myself up.

Next time you find yourself thinking like this, take a step back and consider whether this is the reality – or whether the real issue is that you're worried what the client or prospect might think of you.

And then think about how much preserving that image is worth to you. Is it worth limiting your career for? Is it worth risking the livelihood of your business – and your family for?

Sometimes we just have to get over ourselves and get on and do what's needed.

Featured

Selling

Have You Forgotten How To Listen?

Posted on 16th March 2010.

We're sorry, we've decided to go with someone else.

Aargh. The worst words any professional wants to hear.

You did a great job, it's just we decided to go with a training solution rather than the coaching you proposed.

But hang on, I do training. In fact I'm great at it. Let me tell you about the training I do…

But it's too late.

Has that ever happened to you?

The chances are it's because you weren't really listening to your potential client. Or more accurately, you didn't ask the right questions and you made too many assumptions about what they wanted.

Listening is Sales 101. It's one of the basics. The stuff they teach in your first few days in a role with business development responsibilities.

Listening allows you to properly understand what the client really needs and how to position your services to show they meet those needs. And clients need to feel listened to. If they feel you're not paying attention to them they'll assume you'll be like that to work with and they'll decide it won't be a pleasant or successful experience.

So why do so many of us do it so badly?

Well, there are two types of people who struggle with listening: The enthusiast and the expert.

Enthusiasts are often business owners or the ideas person behind a particular service. They're passionate about their services, they truly believe in them and they're convinced that their potential clients will benefit from them tremendously.

Passion's great when you're selling. In fact it's essential. If you don't believe in your services, how can you expect your clients to?

But sometimes passion can get in the way of selling. Passion can turn into evangelising, into a one way monologue rather than a dialogue where you do most of the listening.

Experts struggle because they assume they know what the client needs without asking. The minute a client mentions the first symptom of their problem they'll jump straight to the solution. They've heard it all before and they think they don't need to know anything more for their diagnosis.

The trouble is, they're often wrong. And even if they're right, the client doesn't feel as if they've really understood the issue. And the clients themselves, because they haven't been involved in a process of mutual discovery about the issue, don't feel any ownership of the solution.

Unfortunately for us professionals – especially those of us who run our own businesses – we're often both enthusiasts and experts. It can be a deadly combination.

After experiencing a number of “I'm sorry we're going with someone else” incidents many years ago I learned to bite my tongue. I learned to pay full attention to what the client was saying, not to focus on the next clever thing I was going to say. I learned to probe their problems fully and to explore the impacts. I still make mistakes and I'm far from perfect – but it works.

In short, by learning to listen, I learned to sell.

Make sure you do too.

Featured

Marketing

The Referral Formula

Posted on 17th June 2009.

ReferralsThis is the second in a series of posts on how Professional Firms can get more referrals. Read the first in the series – Referrals: You've Got to Have A System

To some degree, succeeding with referrals is something of a numbers game. More referrals equals more business. However, for busy professionals who need to balance business development with billable hours, it's rarely wise to sacrifice quality for quantity. Better to go for a smaller number of high probability referrals and devote enough time to convert them to sales.

So what makes a high quality referral?

Referrals work because of transferred trust. Obviously I am going to put more credence in a recommendation from a colleague or business partner I know and trust and who I know has experience in the area than from a casual acquaintance or someone I bumped into at a networking event (although it's surprising how much credence we do give to those more distant referrals). The higher the level of credibility of the referrer, the higher the quality of the referral.

In addition, the level of endorsement we get in a referral can be crucial. This is why referrals from clients can be so valuable. Referrals from clients are more credible because they have actually experienced our work. And if we have performed exceptionally well the referral will be much more complimentary than a referral from business partners who know us but have never worked with us ever could ever be.

Finally, a high quality referral is a targeted referral. We are far more likely to get a sale from a prospect who we know needs our services right now and has the budget to pay for them than from a random, unqualified “name and number”. This is one of the frequently overlooked strengths of referrals. In many professional service businesses, client needs are often difficult to detect from the professionals perspective. Businesses considering a takeover don't like to make their intentions public by announcing they're looking for M&A advisors. Couples with marital problems try to show a united face in front of strangers. Companies planning to make major layoffs and needing HR and employment law advice rarely want the news to leak out until after they've had that advice. As a result consultants, lawyers and other professionals rarely see these opportunities on their radar screens until it's too late. However, an insider or current advisor in frequent contact is often alerted to these opportunities well in advance. That's why accountants, who are in frequent contact with their client businesses, are such sought-after partners by lawyers and other professionals. They can give highly targeted referrals to clients with pressing needs.

Putting all that together gives us what I call the “Referral Formula” – a simple guide to the key areas professionals should work on to maximise the value they get from referrals:

Referral = Number of x Potential of x Credibility of x Strength of
 Value     Referrals     Prospect        Referrer      Endorsement

Future posts will go into more details on specific aspects of generating more referrals

Featured

Strategy

Keep out of the "Muddy Middle" when Selling Professional Services

Posted on 16th June 2009.

For many decades, perhaps the most successful client development strategy for both professional service firms and individual professionals has been one of focusing on a small number of high value clients.

As Andrew Sobel points out in “All For One”, a consultant or accountant only needs a handful of good clients to make a great career. And most successful professionals will maintain around 15 to 20 truly important client relationship over their business life.

Building a small number of deep, trusting relationships pays off much more than having shallower relationships with a broader group because there's a very high probability of converting each prospect into a client.

However, more recently, an alternative strategy has emerged. Fuelled by the ability of technology to allow relationships to be developed with large numbers of people via email newsletters, contact management software, Linkedin and other networks.

This strategy focuses on developing a very large number of shallow relationships: people who know of you, who have read your material, who may have interacted briefly via email. But not people you know very well.

This strategy pays off because – thanks to the efficiencies of the technology – very large numbers of people can be interacted with to a much deeper level than was ever possible before – and at almost zero cost. Someone who receives your email newsletter and who occasionally asks you a question on a forum is not a deep relationship – but it's much deeper than the non-existent relationship you would have had historically before the advent of technology. Even though the conversion of prospect to client is much, much lower than for deep relationship – it works because of the law of large numbers. A 1% conversion rate when you have only 20 potential customer will not lead to much business. A 1% conversion rate on an email list of 20,000 is pretty impressive. And it can open up your services to a global market (provided you can deliver globally)

Now obviously, different strategies work best in different situations. It's of no real value for an HR consultant focusing on clients around Birmingham to have a huge global email list of 30,000 prospects if hardly any of them are in her core market.

Conversely, it's highly risky to focus on a handful of prospects if you have a small one-off service to deliver which can't be repeated for the same client.

But as long as you find a good fit between your target market and your strategy (and also your own preferences and skills), then either of the strategies can be highly effective. And it's perfectly possible – even desirable – to run both in parallel. And the “broad net” approach can often identify high potential candidates to enter the “in-depth nurture” approach.

But where the problems occur is when you get stuck in the “muddy middle”. Where you build only shallow relationships – but with a small-ish number of people. This can happen in one of two ways:

  • A professional focusing on the in-depth nurturing approach can allow his target client list to expand too much and end up diluting his efforts with his real high potential clients.
  • A professional pursuing the broad big-numbers approach may fail to build his contact list enough – and as a result the low conversion rate combined with a small prospect list will mean he wins little business.

How can you avoid these mistakes? Make sure that in your marketing plan you have separate plans for each of these strategies. Make sure you are doing what's needed to make each strategy succeed.

The nurture strategy requires you to identify clearly your very high potential prospects then work diligently to make yourself as attractive to them as possible and to interact with them as much as possible.

The broad big numbers strategy requires that you build a large, targeted list and that you tailor your marketing messages to the segments in the list.

Do either or both of these strategies well and you will be on your way to having a growing and profitable practice.

But whatever you do, don't get stuck in the muddy middle.

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Mindset

Helping Professionals Sell Using Empathy Styles

Posted on 10th April 2009.

One of the biggest barriers professionals have in developing their selling skills is that they simply don't see themselves as salespeople. Many carry round negative stereotypes of salespeople – but even when they don't, their image of a successful rainmaker is of a charismatic extrovert with highly developed social skills.

Not fitting this model themselves, they often fear that they don't have what it takes to sell effectively. This mental block can prevent them from taking some simple steps to improve their sales capabilities.

Jim Wigg of Epicurean Associates presented a seminar on “Empathy Selling” at a recent pro-manchester meeting. The seminar looked at different Empathy Styles – and how each style had different sales related strengths.

The advantage of this model over other psychometric assesments is that it doesn't focus eccessively on one particular type being the “natural salesperson”. By highlighting the sales strengths of each type, it allowed the professionals attending to see how they could grow their sales capabilities without having to have a “personality transplant” and adopt an extroverted style that simply wasn't them.

By breaking down that initial barrier and helping them see that there are multiple ways to succeed in selling, and that you don't have to fit a particular stereotype personality or style; they were freed up to think about how they could improve.

Jim's an engaging and knowledgeable presenter. If you get the chance to attend one of his seminars I recommend you take it up.

You can take a simple “empathy styles” questionnaire here