The Power of Optimism and Positive Action

The Story of John
John is assigned some tough accounts. He has emailed and called 10 people - and none of them are there. No one is answering the phone calls or emails.

He is distressed. It's now 10AM. He is thinking: "What's the use? People are so busy, how am I to get into see a prospect?"

He doesn't want to make anymore calls, so he pretends he has an appointment, and he leaves the office.  What else is there to do?

I don't know where he goes but he comes back in the office later that day at 4PM, shuffles some papers on his desk. He talks to the people around him in the cubicles. Can't help but like John - he is jovial.

He leaves but is back in the office the next day. Similar routine to the day before.

The Story of Megan
Megan is John's competitor across town. She is in the office about 30 minutes earlier than John is.

She too makes 10 calls - no luck either. She too is distressed.

She thinks a little differently and she tries to figure out what to. She all of a sudden recalls something she read some where in a book that some managers have a tendency to come back to their offices around 11:30 to get somethings cleared off their desk before going to lunch.

She decides to give this a try.

So she prepares her list of prospects to call - it's now 9:30. She has two hours. She doesn't have an appointment for the morning, so she asks herself, "What's the best use of my time right now?"

She ponders the answer: I could go down and get a cup of coffee. I could go about calling more prospects - but that won't be fun. Or will it be fun?

She remembers what someone once told her - "Attitude is a state of mind that one chooses. And you can chose a positive or a negative state."

She thinks: "Let's make this fun. Let's see how many more calls and emails I can send out before 11:30AM." She creates a little contest with herself.

So she gets her list of prospects and calls. And sends emails.

She calls one prospect and he answers the phone. "Unbelievable, finally!" she thinks to herself.

She goes into the, "Can I have two minutes to explain who I am" speech? This client says "Sure." But then says "I am not really interested right now. Call back in a few weeks."

Megan, is a little discouraged and then she remembers: Attitude is a chosen state of mind. 

She decides to "trick" herself to look for the good in the situation. She looks at what was accomplished: she got hold of someone! And looking at it from a positive perspective, she believes she should continue to call and email.

She gets two more "hits" - one is a full appointment with a prospect.

It's now 11:30. She goes through her list of prospects and sends the emails of introduction and makes phone calls up until 12 noon as she committed to herslf. Except at 12 noon, she decides to keep calling and emailing people.

She gets two more appointment. One person she called at 11:45AM and the last one was at 12:10PM.

Why did she not stop at 12 noon? She was preparing to stop at 12noon as everyone has probably gone to lunch. But before she stops, she recalls a client explain how often he misses lunch and just works at his desk during lunch most days.

So, she figures, "What the heck, I will give this a try." And she sticks around making calls during lunch time hoping to catch managers eating lunch at their desks.

The Difference Between the Megan and John
John is experienced. John used to do all the right things. He has just drifted into some bad habits. He has a hard time recovering from his pessimistic thought patterns.

Megan is processing her distress a little differently. She is incorporating new ideas to get around obstacles. She is not only persevering, she is incorporating different approaches to her routine. She is viewing her work from a perspective of a student and is detached from it being a personal problem.

John is on the border of making this personal and pervasive. He is using escapist actions to avoid the unpleasantness of the difficulties to getting appointments.

How to Become More Optimistic - Quickly
First, when your brain is getting wrapped up in taking something personally - stop the thought pattern. It's not personal. In the case of John - no one on the other end of the phone or email even knows John. How could it be personal then? It's not - unless you begin to think of it as a personal affront. Which is very easy to do.

Second, don't allow something to bleed into everything else. If you had a bad appointment - it doesn't mean your next appointment will be bad or the meeting with you boss later will also be bad. Look to see what happened: Was I unprepared? If so, next time I will be prepared. Was the client in a bad mood? Then this was the client's problem not yours. Don't allow it to become "Personal and Pervasive." Don't allow the feeling (or vibration) or "failure" to be picked up and carried to the next event.

Third - don't stew over things. The word is ruminate - to chew. We sometimes allow our mind to think about something negative. It then becomes "pervasive" in a larger way. The negatives start "piling on" like a football game, and we see things negatively - almost everything. The person who cuts us off, the rude waiter, our boss who cancels our appointment to catch up and so on. It becomes "me."

Last - look for the good. And then get into some positive action. Do something positive. Like in the example with Megan above, she made a game of calling prospects (how many can I call?). She did something toward her goal. She acted. The positive action stops the thinking, the pondering, the ruminating. This is very important. Note - it is positive action toward the goal. Not going for the beer at 5. Although, going to workout (not the beer) can be positive action, if you explain to yourself you will be back to do the positive action - and that you are using exercise to workout the stress.

To recap: Don't allow things to be personal. Know that this was only temporary (it was not forever and pervasive and always). Do look for the good. And act - do something positive to move you in the direction of your goals.

A Little Humor - Murphy's Law on Work Assignments

The Law of Work Assignments
If you are good, you will be assigned all the work. If you are really good, you will get out of it.

Measurable Business Results - Differentiate or Die

Why is it that We as Professionals Don't Do this One Little Thing?
Most companies providing professional services "forget" what the client is ultimately buying.  Frankly, client also forget!

Both the seller and the client get wrapped up in the technology and how it works too often.  The provider of professional services actually "trains" the client this way though. If you review marketing literature most companies provide - large corporations and small firms - you will probably find more discussion on how things are done or what was done rather than what was actually achieved.

My Experience with MBRs
Several years ago the firm I was working with went and visited Gartner.  It was a long meeting, in which we talked about SLAs, how our model worked, who we were, who our clients were, and did I mention SLAs?  It seemed like we mentioned SLAs over and over.
Most clients want results.
And then later, they may want to
know how you are going to do it.
Toward the end of the meeting we brought up results we acheived for our clients.  I mean, real, tangible results.  We coined the term "MBRs" or Measurable Business Results prior to our meeting, as I kept on saying to our COO and CEO and anyone else that listened, that the work we were doing was far, far different than our competitors.

Our Competitors Talked Certifications
While our competitors were talking about certifications of ISO this, and ISO that, and SEI CMM certifications this (and in reality there were no such things as a SEI certification!) and that and this, our firm was able to go in and talk to a client about what they needed done - or more exactly achieved.

Sure some of our competitors could talk about results from a cost reduction, but they could only talk about this from a "labor arbitrage" point of view as they were just swapping out US labor costs for offshore labor costs.  Jeez, anyone can do that.

The Value Prop We Didn't Know We Had!
Our firm was able to guarantee in writing that by this date they would have X amount of customers, at least this amount of revenue, and depending on the type of client they were dealing with they could get even more specific to the industry (i.e. hotel bookings, airline bookings, car rental booking, gas and oil trades, etc). 

Now here was the real kicker: They were able to guarantee this in the contract, before they even began the project.

When I got there, we really did not tout this as a real distinction. But that was because they were so accustomed to doing this, that the some of the people there did not see this as important or a critical market distinction.  Because I came from the outside and looked in - I saw this as a critical differentiator.

So when we got to Gartner - we started talking about these MBRs.  And this made us unique to Gartner.  All of a sudden we stood out. We were different. They, like I, could not believe we would contract, up front, to drive MBRs in our contract.

To Stand Out - Well, Just Stand Out
So, if you want to be unique, understand the value in what you do.  I know MBRs are "risky" if and only if you don't know how to drive them and achieve them.  In reality - results are what the client is buying.

We Train Our Clients To Pick Us Apart
But because we are used to selling features and benefits - the old way of selling - we actually train our clients to buy from us that way.  And what do they do?  They try to understand the only thing other than price. That is - how are you going to do what you are doing?  This is allowing the client's technical staff (IT, legal, procurement) to pick apart the proposal. 

It's All More or Less - "Death by Duck Bite" 
Death by Duck bite looks like this - which you may have seen before:
  1. Who are the people on this project? Can I see their resumes? Can I interview them? I don't like Jack, you need to replace him.
  2. What is your approach? Don't you think you should start with this group first? Don't you think this should take two weeks and not five weeks? How come you have four people doing this - can't you get just two people to do this?
  3. What is the price? How much per hour for these people? What - are you kidding me?  I can get them for one-third of the price -
  4. Your competition says that they can do half of this off-shore at $22 per hour. Can you match this?  They also are saying this and that - can you do this and that?
Get the picture? If you want to avoid the trap of being picked apart - avoid selling features and benefits and get into selling results.

How to Be a Consultant to Clients - Differentiate Yourself

Many sales professionals, advisers and even consultant realize that they have to act more like a consultant to clients in order to trusted and have credibility.

While this is not news, what is troubling is that just because one sees themselves as a consultant, the client may not view you as one.  So how do you go about being viewed as a consultant?  First off, it take time and it takes a thoughtful approach to how you go about doing your work.

In this post I am going to layout a few guidelines that you can follow and put into practice immediately so you can become that elusive "Trusted Advisor" everyone always is talking about.

  1. Know your business (consulting services, professional services, solutions, accounting, etc) cold.  Know it inside and out.
  2. Related to the above - Know the 10 reasons why your services fail. Be able to articulate these to the client.  Most people are afraid to say: "This is why it won't work" because they want to come across as positive, upbeat and optimistic.  But your clients are smart. If you tell them why it won't work - they will understand that you know your business and you are not just selling them.
  3. Understand the 10 reasons why your services do work. And under what conditions. 
  4. Be able to articulate these - to the client - very, very well.
  5. Take the time to understand the client's business issue. Meet the people, hit the issue head on, pick up all the information you can.
  6. Understand the people's personal concerns and their professional concerns related to the problem at hand. (personal example - I cannot get home by 6PM to watch my son's Little League games as the problem is keeping me here at work; professional example - I want to be seen as a fixer, doer, and reliable - if I hire you will that make me look weak?)
  7. Above all else - the client's interest is Number 1.  It is not making the sale.  It is about placing the client's interest above your personal interest or your firms interest. Every decision you make is viewed from the client's interest first - when proposing work and when you are performing the work you were contracted for.
  8. Related to #7: You may have to walk away from work because someone is better suited for the project. Or you have to walk away because the client is just going to be a bad client.
  9. Be able to articulate clearly what you have done for clients with similar problems. This means being able to talk about results or what I refer to as Measurable Business Results (MBRs).
  10. Don't talk technology - if you have to talk about your technology (your project plan, your software, your approach, your tools, etc) and how you do what you do, you are either talking to a technician (you're at the wrong level in the organization) or you are still a technician and have not learned how to talk results.
  11. Related to #9: You may have to talk technology only to "validate" that the assumptions and approach will work in the client's environment. But don't allow technicians to pull apart your solution. Stand your ground if you know your approach works. If you allow the technicians to pull apart your solutions, you are not results driven or your results are weak.
  12. Be a Peer to the person making the decision. It is the Economic Buyer who ultimately decides. Act as his or her peer; not as a lapdog, puppet, or syncophant.
  13. Remember - and this is key - clients DO NOT want to be sold. Put away all your books on closing techniques, enticements, special deals of the month, and so on. What client's want is they want to be helped.
  14. Be perceived as state of the art, cutting edge, knowledgeable and understanding of the latest rules, compliance issues or whatever is facing your market and creating challenges for your client.  Leverage all the latest and greatest - why these will work or why they won't. What the government is saying regarding compliance or what the industry is now doing. Be up on the events and issues in your field as it relates to the client issues and your services.
  15. Be an authority in your field or niche. Do you have a website? Do you have a white paper? A position paper? Do you speak at conferences? Do you know the ins and outs of whatever is going on in your field?
  16. Never come across as desperate or needy. Carry a small air of indifference - act as if - you have business, even if you are starving.
  17. Never let your guard down. We all have chinks in the armor, but telling the client where they are is not going to help you. Don't talk about your company or other professionals.
  18. Never talk out of school - never talk about previous clients or prospects - especially - not negatively or in a joking manner. "If you talk about others, will you talk about me?" the client thinks.
  19. Bury your ego. Be a little humble - but be confident. Strike a balance between the two.
  20. Referral marketing - market your firm, yourself, based upon your image and reputation by heeding the advice outlined above.  Get your name out there by speaking, writing, networking, researching, making a contribution to your field.  Cold calling is dead ("Hey John, you don't know me but can I have an hour to talk to about me?).  But that doesn't mean you can't call people or email them - given you do this properly.
  21. Have a strong air about you - that you can help the client - It's like knowing the client has a curable disease and you and your firms is one of only a few that can get them the help they need. It's about a doctor specializing in a certain area and is one of the world's leading physicians - and this patient (client) has the exact ailment you have cured others for.
I hope this helps you and provides you a path to run on.

What is this Site About and Who is this For?

What this Site is About and Who is it For?
Professional consulting is about providing advice and solutions to client problems.  They can be small engagements ranging from $5,000 to 10,000 in size to larger multi-million dollar engagements.  These types of engagements can run the gamut. They can be;
  • Heady - strategy-type - consulting engagements: direction setting, working with the C-Level
  • Mundane - still vital - setting up policy and procedures, providing legal advice, regulatory advice, working with the people who keep the organization going and out of hot water
  • Transformative - implementing solutions that align with the business strategy: marketing processes and best practices, BPR, IT cost improvements (ie: outsourcing, new technology, process reengineering, quality improvements), IT new application development (ie: revenue generating, compliance) etc.
The site is for professionals who want to go "From one-time customers to life-long clients" (SM) . 

Professionals include: IT Business Development, Practice Managers, Consultants, Advisory Firms, Law Firms, - anyone providing services to clients who want to improve their relationships through the application and deployment of proven best practices designed to keep a customer coming back to you for more services.

Professionals Need to Market Themselves

This post is for professionals providing strategic services to clients, this includes: any consulting services, advice, or strategic solutions.

The title of this blog makes sense.  Who could argue with this statement?

Well, I have an answer for you: Just about everyone.  You may ask: "Are you kidding me? Really? We all know this!"

Yes. You may know it.  Because, it does seem logical: that is, we do need to market ourselves.  However few professional rarely do market themselves. And if they do market themselves, they don't do it in a repeatable, habitual manner, and maybe the most important of all, the tools and methods they deploy are not the right tools and methods.

In fact the tools and methods they use - let's call these things "strategies" for simplicity - are not the kind of strategies that actually work for consulting services aka providing professional services.

Professional Services Marketing
List of "What It Isn't" or
Things That Will Kill You
The marketing of professional services is an indirect type of marketing awareness that takes time, attention, and frankly, creativity.  This kind of marketing is "against the grain" of the marketing you learned at Harvard Business School. 

Let's get into what it isn't.  Getting into "what it isn't" is a good way to start looking at how to market your professional services.

The List of "What It Isn't"
  1. It's not placing ads in the magazine (sorry Fortune Magazine)
  2. It's not buying up billboards on I-95 (sorry Ted Turner)
  3. It's not walking around downtown NYC with a Sign around your neck "Will work for food." (Sorry every college grad)
  4. It's not getting your resume on the Job Boards (Sorry CareerBuilder, Monster, 100,000 Dollar Jobs, and all you Job Boards that are out there)
  5. It's not answering ads
  6. It's not cold calling CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs.  (Frank you are right on Cold Calling is Dead)
  7. It's not a "One-Minute Elevator" pitch that you are told you should develop in college. Who in the world are you going to pitch to in the elevator?  People will think you are absolutely insane. And maybe you are, but you don't want to tell them this - they'll find out eventually.
  8. It's not sending out broadcast emails with everyone in the BCC line. (Eat spam, don't do spam)
  9. It's not being slick, unhumble (okay, not a real word but you get it), loud, commanding, "seen"
  10. It's not running around a Tech conference or joining The Speakers Association or some other event where everyone is trying to get in front of these so-called buyers of services
Now for my consulting question: "Does this make sense?"

It should make sense. Only because you probably tried at least two of these and you probably failed miserably.  Am I right or am I wrong? 

If nothing else that you remember from this writing: Stupid marketing makes your look stupid. Doing these things, repeatedly, will eventually kill you.

The Underlying Factor to Marketing Professional Services

The marketing of professional services is vastly different from the marketing of most product and services. For the professional, whether you are working as an individual, a small firm or a large firm, marketing is challenging because on one hand you want your target audience to know who you are and that you are available.

Yet, on the other hand, you don't want to come across as pitching your services which comes across as hungry for business.

It is a matter of being needed versus being needy.  

Wrong marketing strategies
will wreck your business and
make you appear desperate.
The above statement is critical to your success. Coming out looking like you are needy has this look of being desperate. And we all know and have been around people who look or are needy.  They are not people we want to be around.

This is directly related to how you market your practice, your capabilities, and your services. It is, in the end, the underlying factor to everything in this blog.  It is the foundational principle to marketing and selling your professional services.

Consulting Zen

Okay today is a consulting zen day. 

I read a little quote this morning. I modified it a little bit to fit. If you are like me, which may be a bigger issue, you spend more time thinking about the future.

Keep this in mind for the remainder of the week:

If you think about what might have been,
or what might be,
you ignore what is.

And all there truly is - is what is. There is now. And then it's gone. Now. And then that's gone.

Nothing wrong with planning. It's when you are so busy living in the future you forget that the only thing you can control is you in the present or now. You (no one else and nothing else) and now (not yesterday, not tomorrow).

Take your eye off the now, go into the future or the past in your mind instead of just being and doing in the now, and you split yourself. This splitting of yourself, causes a lot of stress on your body. It ages you. It gives you ulcers. It raises your blood pressure. It makes you sick.

Stay in the moment. Focus and concentrate on the task in front of you. Let go of the outcome. And life becomes, frankly, better.  I am not sure how it works. I know it just does.

As professionals we are split. Living in the past: "I wish I would have . . . " Or "I can't believe that happened . . . " Or split living in the future: "When I get this, then I will take a vacation (be happy)."  Or: "I hope this happens (or doesn't happen)." 

Do you do this?  You are splitting yourself.

Our society, our work ethic says, do more, have more, then be. Focus on the outcome, the result, the end.  However, be now. Do now. Focus on the task in front of you like a mountain climber watching where he places his feet, looking up now and then, to see if he is still aimed at the right summit.

Keep your attention and focus in the present moment. That is
all there truly is. Where are you? Are you split in the future,
the past, and sometimes in the present? Talk about stress . . .
When you are too focused with eyes on the summit, you take your eyes off where you are (your footing), and you loose your balance as you lose your hold on where you are today. And you stumble. Perhaps even fall.

This practice is probably one of the hardest to teach and harder to absorb and make part of our daily regimen.

Try it by practicing it.

You Cost Too Much. Really? Differentiate or Die.

When working with clients, depending on who you are talking to and at what level, you can see them turn pale when you tell them your rate.

The Org Chart - similar to the food chain -
but by no means inferring someone is a snake or rat! The point
is to know where you are in the decision-making food chain! 
The story will go like this:

Customer: "So, tell me your hourly rate."
You (consultant): "I don't have an hourly rate."

Customer: "Well, how do we know how much you cost?"
You: "It depends on the project."

Customer: "Well, it will be a short project."
You: "How short?"

Customer: "Real short."
You: "My price will be probably be real low."

Customer: "How low?"
You: "About as low as the project is short."

Sound familiar?  Sounds like a little bit of Dilbert here.  Clients at the lower levels of the organization want to know your hourly rate. They also want to know how you will do it. They will dig and dig to find out the hourly rate in an attempt to save money. 

However, clients who are at the upper deck of the food chain want to know that you can solve the problem and how soon. This is how that conversation goes:

Client: "Can you solve my problem?"
You: "Yes."

Client: "How long will it take to get done?"
You: "About six weeks.  However, there are some people from your staff that need to be available. If they aren't available for information, then it could take longer."

Client: "I'll make sure everyone is available."
You: "Great."

Client: "When can you start?"
You: "As soon as I wrap up this other project, I can probably start the preliminary work next week and be full time on this the following week.  Will that work for you?"

Client: "Yes."
You: "Let me get the paperwork in order and I will send it over to you by noon tomorrow."

Client: "Great"
You: "Okay, thanks for your time."

Client: "Oh yes before I forget. What are the costs for this project?"
You: "It's a flat fee of approximately $35,000.  I will run the final numbers tonight and have that to you as part of the paperwork."

Now, life doesn't always go according to plan. And these conversations don't always go like this. But the people in the upper decks of the client's organization are more concerned with a few things:
  1. Can you get the results?
  2. How soon?
  3. When can you start?
Often, in these cases price is hardly part of the decision equation. It's about the result: can you get it done and how soon.

In the lower decks of the organization the things that matter most are these concerns:
  1. What is your hourly rate?
  2. What if my colleagues think I should be able to do this and can't?
  3. Is there anyone else who is cheaper?
  4. Should I get two or three more companies in here for quotes just to be safe?
  5. Do you have references and can I talk to them?
  6. Have you worked in the same environment with the same technologies in the same vertical industry?
One group of people is concerned with results. The other group is concerned with lower level needs: security/self-esteem, failure, and looking bad.

It pays to deal with people higher up in the food chain.

Increasing Professionalism - Trusted Advisor? Part 1

If you are in sales or delivery, you know that the relationship with the client - when you really have a relationship that is - is very much like a patient-doctor relationship (except you don't keep the patient waiting in a white barren room without any clothes for 20 minutes).

When you have a high value relationship, it is the highest form of professional interactions that can take place.  In fact, the relationship involves more trust than the traditional customer-sales representative relationship.

Never Talk Out of School
You are in fact a consultant to the client.  And he (or she) respects and regards your opinion and solutions highly.

In order to be a client, the client decision-maker must have a high degree of confidence that they can place confidential and proprietary information into your hands.

I have been in situations where the consultant (the seller or seller's team) would receive information that was proprietary or confidential and the information would leak out.  I have had consultants work with me and say "Everything we say here is between the two of us" and then a week later the President of the Company call to ask me about the exact situation that I described to the consultant.  Obviously, this only has to happen once before one shuts down and never tell information to the consultant again.

If you want to be valued, to be part of the team, you should be very careful with what you do with ANY information someone tells you. If the information is vital, if it is critical to the company, you have some moral and ethical obligations to consider regarding whether you raise them up the organization's hierarchy or not.  However, you are a "trusted" advisor.  Yes, we have all heard the term, a lot, and who doesn't consider themselves a "trusted" advisor?  But it is not you who gets to decide whether you are a trusted advisor or not. It is decided by the client.

In order to move a one-time customer to a life-long client,  be professional, be discreet, and be, frankly trustworthy by not talking out of school.

Increasing your professionalism is critical to your success whether you are a consultant, contractor, in delivery, in sales, or management. And that goes for whether you are dealing internally with your firm or externally with the client.

Be someone others can count on not to gossip or talk out of school.

Increasing The Personalization of Consultative Selling - Part II

This is Part II in the series.  This section is called . . .

Increasing the Personalization of Consultative Selling

Central Role of the Seller
The key and central component to the selling process is the seller of consulting services.  This goes for any service (IT, accounting, consulting, management, etc).  The seller is the irreplaceable operating element in the process.  Please note the term "selling process." Selling process is about the client experience which ultimately defines the level of confidence the client has about the firm itself.

The consultative seller exerts control over the selling process, bringing the right people into the sales process at the right moment.  He or she facilitates, guides and leads the process. The consultative seller becomes the focal point for all client interaction.  The more complex the sale is or the more value in terms of the sale, the consultative seller's role becomes that much more important to the relationships with the people in the client organization.  The role takes on a personalization element between the client and the firm - managed and led by the consultative salesperson. 

In other words, the seller becomes the leader of the sales process because of the control he or she must bring in order to move the process along to closure and implementation.

Pressures to Perform
The seller of these services has an extraordinary amount of pressure to meet both the client's expectations and the need of the firm that he or she represents.  For the most part, the pressure usually stems from the firm, not the client, surprisingly, and these pressures determine the success of the sale.  The pressures can be numerous, as cited below;
  1. Right Support Staff - does the seller's firm have the right support staff to match the client's needs (technologies, operations, etc) and match the client's personalities and culture?
  2. Leadership control - is the seller continuously second guessed or is the organization supportive in making the transaction happen?  Is the support team (from management to contracts to technology to delivery) truly a support team and cooperative or combative?
  3. Communication vehicles - are there easy methods to communicate the client's situation, updates, needs etc or are they cumbersome, internally focused creating a burden on the seller?
  4. Competing Priorities - is the staff facing competing priorities?  And of course they are, but how is this managed and by whom is this managed? By the seller?
  5. Quarterly revenue and profit objectives and related pressures.
  6. Contract Language Acceptance and Reviews
  7. Project/Product Pressures for time, cost, staffing, and scheduling
Of course the client is unaware of all these internal pressures, and yet still the seller needs to be the outward, calm, Rock of Gibraltar - the leader in the sales process.

Personally Involved in the Sales Process to the Client
The client only cares about getting the project complete and meeting the objectives in a timely and cost efficient manner. And the client only sees the seller as the leader is the seller meets the following four conditions:
  1. The seller must become personally involved in the client's current operations and future desired state and help determine how the solution will help the client bridge the gap.
  2. The seller must become involved personally in preparing and presenting the client solution, defining solution objectives and if possible, measurable business results. The client must sense the seller's confidence in the solution being proposed.
  3. The seller must act like he or she "owns" the process. This means the client expects the seller to actively manage the selling phases and has the responsibility for getting the tasks complete.
  4. The seller must "express measured confidence" in the solution - which is different from the extreme of; "exuding enthusiasm" and on the opposite side of the spectrum "cautious yet guarded hopefulness."
The personalization of the seller's role plays an important part in selling complex high value consultative sales.

Next - Part III

OK - For the Self Esteem Deprived - Here's Something for YOU to Consider . . .

Just what the doctor ordered . . .

Moving From Product Selling to Consultative Selling

Article #1.  Read this first before moving to Article #2
Going From Product Selling to Consultative Selling
In this post I will begin to outline what it takes to move from product selling to a more consultative approach.

Taking a Consultative Approach
A consultative selling approach is about how you sell a solution.   This is really about how you provide service to the decision-maker once you understand there is a need or a problem you can help the decision-maker solve.

Let's first define "solution." If a client has a problem or a need, your recommendation is the solution. Let's not overly complicate anything at this stage.  I realize this might be a little simplistic, but for now let's leave it a that.

This goes for providing a person (called contract staffing) to providing a specific piece of hardware or software or a combination of all of these.

Solutions become more complex as one adds more of these (people, hardware, and software) to meet the client needs. As you add more of these component, by the very nature of adding more, the more customization is taking place.  The complexity of the solution has variables including not only price, but also time to purchase (decision-making time), number of people in the decision-making process, the time to implement the solution, the number of staff required to implement the solution, number of hardware and software components, the Measurable Business Results (cost saving, revenue generation), and the risk (what if something goes wrong, how hard is it to fix)?

Transition From Product Selling to Consultative Selling - Three Attributes
In order to make the transition (in some cases it would be a transformation) from a product-centered sales person to a consultative-oriented sales person there are essentially three key core attributes that need to be developed.

These three core attributes will affect the seller's relationship with the decision-maker in terms of what is sold, the type of relationship that get cultivated with the decision-maker, with the value that is received and perceived in the relationship from the decision-maker's viewpoint.

This transition will also affect future purchases by the customer and how he or she interacts with the seller's company as well as the seller.  The net result is that the purchase will be made more on the sales process rather than on the product itself.  The selling is based on how the seller manages the sales process and helps lead the customer to a decision.

By using the sales process, there are many benefits. One that I will jump right into is that the customer moves to a more loyalty based decision. That is future purchases will become more preferentially- based, rather than shopping around.  The process becomes a buying/decision-making experience. It become "experiential" much like some commodity companies have packaged their commodity goods.  In this case think Starbuck's.  You are not just buying the coffee, you are buying the experience as well. From the music they play, to the greeters, to the ability to sit and plug-in your laptop to coffee variations. 

Here the relationship moves from customer - someone buying a one-time product based on price - to a client - someone buying because they feel the seller has their best interests at heart and will protect them from failing.  Note the words "protect them from failing" which may seem pretty strong, but I assure you they are not.

Three Relationship Attribute Changes - An Overview
Here are the three attributes of the changing relationship with the client from product to consultative;

  1. Increased Personalization of the Relationship. Product sales are based on the performance and price of the product only. Consultative selling is based on the performance of the seller during the decision making process and the seller's ability to control or at least influence and participate in the steps of the process.
  2. Increased Decision Maker Participation in the Relationship.  The word that comes up is collaboration.  When the seller just provides the specs and the price of the product and walks away - this is the old model of selling.  And the customer has expended a minimal amount of time in the process before getting a solution.  But in a consultative approach, the more participation from the decision-maker(s), the better informed the seller is about what the decision-maker is looking for and the decision-maker is buying into the end solution that is being proposed.
  3. Increased Professionalism of the Relationship.  Product sales are based on the older traditional model buyer-seller relationship.  This is where the buyer is on the opposite side of the table.  And "all buyers are liars" adversarial point of view.  The newer more is the client sees the seller as a consultant, and the seller sees the consultant as looking out for his best interests and protection.  The word that comes up - is trust.
Will will explore these three attributes in greater detail in the next upcoming posts.

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