When I was a young consultant, a prospect said to me (friendly, it was), “Yeah, yeah, you do strategy, but do you DO anything?” I immediately changed my tag line to “Joey Tamer designs and builds….” so I could promise the result and bury the strategy (but I got paid for it in the detailed agreement). I became results-driven very early on. Later I learned how to establish my value, my client’s trust, the promised results, and the re-assurance of my client.
In many cases with a new prospect, you need to get inside the company or department to understand the extent of your true scope of work. For this you need to conduct a (paid) audit, assessment or needs analysis (pick whichever word fits your industry). In pitching this idea, you need to avoid the skepticism I experienced, and countermand it in the pitch itself.
Now, some industries and prospects think a needs analysis is just the consultant finding more ways to charge for services, or to avoid actually delivering any concrete results. Other companies understand its use perfectly.
To pitch an assessment, however, takes a certain skill to overcome these suspicions. Here are some tactics to include when proposing an assessment:
- Explain that the assessment will reveal the most (cost-) effective approach to solving the challenges you were invited to solve.
- It will define the challenge more clearly, suggest what kinds of employees or contractors would be best to hire on, to create a team to work on the challenges.
- Beyond that, it may indeed restrict your (expensive) role by early off-loading work to experts in the market niches required, so that the client may work with specialists that cost less than you do.
- This approach may cost less money to the client.
- Remember: re-assure the client that you will be there every step of the way, and that you will oversee the project.
- Remember: re-assure the client that you are functioning as a trusted adviser to the quickest and best good of the company.
- Remember: remind the client that you will stay beside him or her as long as requested, but will also plan for your own obsolescence. Promise you will stay on as an adviser (for a reduced but rational fee), as long as you both agree is appropriate.
- Remember: you must both energize your client, and make him or her comfortable and not threatened. This is the success secret many consultants forget (or do not understand).
In all these tactics, you are establishing value, gaining your prospect’s trust, promising results, and offering reassurance. Good luck.
You have been invited to present to a room filled with excellent referral sources, perhaps in one company, or in a networking group. You don’t know them, but you want them to share their clients and contacts with you for new projects.
I often help my clients by drafting these presentations, or reviewing what they offer as a first draft. Defining your value proposition and structuring the presentation to not seem like a sale pitch can require a subtle use of language.
Of course, you must not “pitch.” Everyone hates to be “sold.” You must define a larger problem that you and your referral sources can begin to solve. You must educate your sources to understand your unique value and where it fits in the target markets and threats to success of their client companies. And you must first engage your audience and make them “see” you as a compassionate expert, and to connect with you.
Here are the elements of a successful partnering/referral pitch deck:
- Must engage the audience to like you and your willingness to help their client companies.
- Must define your expertise.
- Must define a larger problem than they (the audience or their clients) can solve themselves (economic shifts, technology changes, etc.)
- Must define a larger problem in general — the failing of companies based on current conditions (all which can be solved by your expertise).
- Must define the impact of the problem if left un-resolved (failed companies, loss of employment, investment and ROI).
- Must educate the audience about the problem and the larger issues mentioned above.
- Must tell stories of threatened companies and the resolution to that threat by the expert (you).
- Must remind them that you care, and why you care, and how you can help.
- Must then offer services which they can research on your site and Linkedin, and also allow them to ask you direct questions.
- Must provide contact information.
- Must leave time to engage in an open conversation.
This approach, for all its structure, must be sincere. If you are only pitching, it will show. If you don’t care about your clients and your referral sources, that will show. So dig deep and find that real part of you that wants to truly engage with your colleagues, and speak from there.
These five rules are effective to keep you focused on results, and to avoid wasting time on efforts that bring no return on your investment of time and effort.
For every project, marketing outreach, or other time-consuming effort on your business plate, no matter how small, make certain you stick to these basic rules.
1. Define the result you want from this effort in a short phrase, and verify that this effort will meet the 5 rules.
- I want this to bring me more prospects.
- I want this to alert my referral network to send me more referrals.
- I want to win this gig.
2. Identify the audience (the specific target market), for example ~
- qualified prospect who has passed my screening criteria
- existing client ready to be upsold to more work
- your referral network
3. Speak only to the specified audience about the result you want.
- Do not address any audience other than the one you have targeted.
- Say one thing well to one audience.
- Brief is better.
4. Craft a message that presents your value to that audience to gain the specified result.
- Do not confuse the outcome with any adjacent messages.
- See #3 above.
5. Ask for the result.
- When you have crafted your single message, addressing your single target audience, and you have presented your value, ask for the result you want. Be specific. Make a direct request for the referral or the sale.
These 5 rules will save you much wasted effort, and focus your outreach, projects or prospecting in the most efficient manner. Be sure you review the 5 rules you have created for each project while you are working on it, to be certain you have not moved off-message or off-target.
This is the task that successful companies and consultants mark as a priority, and most others neglect: defining, testing and refining your ideal client profile.
Your product or service or consultancy is serving a specific market, and that market must be defined. Yes, it may be broad-based (“horizontal” as in “all consumers ages 18-49”) or very narrow (“vertical” as in “doctors in private practice in the top 12 metropolitan areas”), but there is always a market to be defined.
Excellent companies focus on this definition, and continuously test and refine this profile based on their successful penetration and on their failures. Even small one-person consultancies must attend to the definition, and refine it often, especially in light of lost clients that were not well-served.
So, begin with defining your ideal client profile in as much detail as possible. Then test and test again — does your marketing reach those profiled? What is your close-rate and your retention rate? Does the message need to be adapted? How are leads generated? If by referral, then you must define your ideal referral source. If your audience is reached by marketing and advertising, then you must refine your message to fit the profile, or you must segment the profiles into narrower targets so the messaging can be fitted to each.
As you continue to refine your profiles and your outreach to those profiled, you must listen to the feedback you are receiving. If the outreach gets you “non-clients” and prospects that do not close, change the outreach or change the profile. Remember that every lost prospect you pursue is not just wasting your time and effort and expense, it is costing you the lost opportunity to pursue your ideal prospect that will close.
This is not rocket-science. This is discipline. And this discipline is one of the foundations of success.