Hard sells simply don’t work in professional services; most of us don’t like being “sold” to. As we’ve discussed before, building brand and marketing activities are only the backdrop to real business development conversations and interactions.
Unfortunately, when it comes to winning work from prospective clients, many professionals open business development conversations using material unlikely to establish meaningful dialogue.
In some cases, well-meaning professionals deliver monologues, or simply shoot off printed marketing material comprising information best classified as “business non-development.” The impression you leave with material like this is: “no insight into my problems” or “misses the point”.
As one respondent stated in our marketing and business development research:
“I personally think capability statements are an excuse not to have a conversation with the client.”
When a sales call or capability statement features irrelevant and un-targeted information, you only erect barriers. Potential clients will be underwhelmed and less likely to choose you as their expert service provider as canned sales pitches can make it feel like you don’t get them or their business.
Conversation topics to avoid!
In most professional services settings, business non-development strategies include initiating conversations (rather than true dialogues) around:
- history of your firm from the year dot
- your beautiful offices
- glowing academic qualifications of your professionals
- social connections of your people
- recent achievements of your alumni
- your prestigious client base
- vastness of your range of services – your “full service” one-stop-shop offer.
Better business development conversations
You’ll make much better progress towards creating business development dialogue if you centre your conversation on how what you do will make a meaningful difference to your prospective client.
So, talk – and get your prospective client talking to you – by asking about:
- business impacts you’ve had with clients confronting similar challenges
- useful ways for you to invest time with your prospective client to discover the areas where you can make a big impact
- situations they confront and how what you do will overcome a problem, reduce a significant risk, or help with a new opportunity
- insights, ideas, information, and network connections you can offer now, of real value to them, and as a foretaste of what they’ll gain as your client.
These themes are much more likely to yield focused business development conversations and warm up your leads.
And remember, it is always risky to start “selling” before you know what the client wants and needs to buy.
If you’d like some coaching, or a training session for your team, on the art of better business development conversations, or help creating a targeted capability statement, please do get in touch or learn more about how we can help here.
Tender readability remains a problem for some in the 21st century. I still see submission documents that cling to a handful of really old hat tender presentation and formatting techniques. I suspect this is because some of these ‘rules’ are viewed as being more appropriate to a ‘formal’ style of document such as a tender. […]