WHEN ATTENDING A luncheon seminar, you meet with a senior executive from one of the companies on your target list. After some small talk and the exchange of business cards, he suggests you contact his secretary to arrange a meeting.
IMAGINE IT IS two weeks before an important pitch. You are putting the finishing touches to the proposal, but something does not look right. You tell your manager that the price seems high and remind him that you missed out on a recent contract when offering a similar rate. First, there is silence, then comes the answer you did not want: "We need this fee to make the project worthwhile.”
IN A PERFECT WORLD, just one person representing the client would decide whether to buy your product or service. That individual would identify business needs, sift through the facts and be responsible for weighing up the options.
AS YOU SIT in a taxi returning to the office, your mind is still racing with thoughts of the just completed sales meeting. The opening was professional, you spent time understanding the client’s situation and background, and real needs were uncovered which your company can address.
OVER THE YEARS, salespeople everywhere have been looking for new and better ways to "close the deal". They are constantly searching for hints and techniques to enable them to secure more clients in the shortest possible time.
HAVE YOU EVER asked a business executive their attitude towards suppliers in the market? If so, chances are you heard “they don’t understand my business.” Your perception may be different, but what you think doesn’t matter. Since the client signs the cheque, it’s their perception that counts. As a professional you’re under great pressure to really understand the client. In fact you’re probably competing against people who come from the industry you’re targeting – giving them the inside scoop. To succeed today, you can’t afford to be accused of not understanding your client’s business.
IT’S THE FIRST meeting with a potential client. Instead of launching into a pre-determined sales pitch you take a consultative sales approach. You use the BRACES process to guide you through the meeting. You started off well by briefly building rapport (‘BR’) to position yourself and your company. Now it’s time to move to the next stage - ascertaining (‘A’) in detail the prospective client’s situation and confirming (‘C’) your understanding.
YOU'RE MEETING WITH a prospective client for the first time. Your only prior contact with the person has been a few emails and a brief telephone call. After introductions have been made and business cards exchanged, you pull out your laptop, fire up PowerPoint and start your sales pitch – regional offices, qualified team, services or products offered, etc… This scenario is played out time and time again when selling professional services. The problem is that a solution is being offered before there is an understanding of the prospective client’s business. Nothing good can come from this. Even if you propose the right solution, you may be missing out on a much bigger opportunity. Or worse, the solution you’re proposing may be wrong. As professionals we know the importance of understanding the client’s needs – we’ve read the books, attended seminars, participated in training, heard it from our managers. But this doesn’t stop us from offering a premature solution. The justifications (or excuses) are many. It’s a sales meeting and we’re expected to sell. The client wants to hear what we’ve got. I have to take every opportunity to sell.
YOUR MARKETING HAS resulted in a stream of interest from prospective clients. The phone is ringing off the hook. The switchboard is jammed with requests for meetings. The first available time on your calendar is two weeks from Wednesday. As great as this may sound, it doesn’t happen. It’s not unrealistic to imagine someone attending your luncheon seminar coming up to you afterwards and saying “I’m interested in learning more about this, can we get together?” It’s also possible you receive a response from a contact marketing email from someone wanting to meet once they return from their business trip. These do occur – but for most of us, this is not enough to meet our business development goals.
ASK ANY OF your clients why they appointed you. Chances are you will hear words like understanding, trust, compatibility, rapport. The words you probably will not hear are the ones related to your marketing efforts - advertising, website, public relations, press release, newsletters, or seminars. In professional services, clients buy individuals. People buy people. This doesn’t mean that marketing is not important. Quite the contrary, it has a very important role. But this role needs to be clearly defined. Marketing is not about selling your service; it’s about motivating the clients to want to meet with you.