Tactics for pitching for a “needs analysis” – establishing value, trust, results and re-assurance

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:

  1. Explain that the assessment will reveal the most (cost-) effective approach to solving the challenges you were invited to solve.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. This approach may cost less money to the client.
  5. Remember:  re-assure the client that you will be there every step of the way, and that you will oversee the project.
  6. Remember: re-assure the client that you are functioning as a trusted adviser to the quickest and best good of the company.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Elements of successful pitch deck for your referral sources

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.

SEO vs. Blogging: Which Is Best for Your Marketing Budget? by Terry Corbell

Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach

Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach

 

To blog, or not to blog – that is the question.

With apologies for paraphrasing the famous opening line in William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, it seems apropos in debating the merits of blogging vis-à-vis hiring search-engine optimization (SEO) experts.

If you’re like most business owners, budgets are tight. So you have to make sure to get the best return on your marketing investment. That means a strong ROI from online and traditional marketing.

With all due respect, you’ll find millions of people online who have proclaimed themselves as SEO gurus. And every day, they contact me or my associates looking for work. Many, possibly, are successful. But many can’t back up their claims. Why?

If you have to choose between hiring an SEO person or blogging, the former simply doesn’t lay a long-term foundation for Web prominence as well as good blogging.

To use a sports metaphor: If you launch a great blog, you won’t have to look over your shoulder as much, and worry about your online competition. You can focus on aggressively running your race.

Blogging is a platform for content marketing, and there are valid reasons why savvy B2B marketers like content marketing. SEO should only complement a blog.

So if you have budgetary constraints, and you have to make a choice, your best branding bet is to budget time for a blog and to add it to your Web site.

The advantages:

  1. Ironically, regular blogging is inherently a SEO best practice, especially for B2B marketing. Meaningful blogging on a regular basis and promoted on Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook serve as catalysts for highly prized links in business. (Pinterest works for women readers, in particular.) Links are an SEO objective.
  2. Frequency of change is an important criterion for search engines. After you post a blog, search-engine crawlers are all over your Web site noting the change. The crawlers along with choice keywords, generate valuable traffic and links. The more you write, the more links you get.
  3. Google, in particular as the No.1 search engine, places even a higher premium on quality content. In evaluating your Web site, Google asks itself 23 key questions about your Web site.
  4. You can get added credibility by using Google’s author program.
  5. Internet users crave information. They especially will appreciate your checklists, tips and strategies.
  6. A blog ties in well with press releases. If used correctly, they’re a great tool to promote blogs, and strategic press releases will help you beat your competition. However, don’t use the same verbiage in your blog as in your press release.
  7. Blogs are a platform to display rich media, eBooks, and white papers that you can sell. (For example, see the 11 best practices to profit from writing a business white paper.)
  8. You will be able to create opportunities to interact with your visitors — it’s a great idea to engage your potential customers or clients.

Further, blogging is easy if you can write. It will be a source of great satisfaction for you.

“The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.”

-John Russell

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

 

Publishing strategy for entrepreneurs and consultants: the key questions to start

Lots of entrepreneurs and consultants rush into social media networking without a strategy or a clear intention to implement that strategy.  This is particularly true of blogging and other self-publishing efforts.  There is no reason to spend the time creating content to publish without a plan.

This is true of all marketing efforts around products to sell:  if you make content or online products to sell (eBooks, videos online or on CD, and so on) you must have a marketing strategy ready at launch, and then you must maintain the effort to implement that strategy.  Otherwise, you have wasted your efforts in creating what you will distribute (for sale or for prospect outreach and credibility).

A plan would define what you mean to achieve by the effort committed (a return on that investment of time and effort), and allow you to measure it, however informally.

And blogging is not the only format that works:  newsletter publishing to your opted-in list (do you have such a list?  are you developing one?  How rigorous are you are maintaining it– and using it?) is a different publishing strategy, and one which may take less time and produce more results.

Consider a plan that extends your outreach to broader distribution (re-publishing on other sites, conversion of various writing concepts to webinars for distribution through targeted media empires, and bundling many writings on the same topic, and so on).

To begin, ask yourself these initial questions:

  • How often do you want to post/publish?  (Thought leader bloggers post 2-3 times each week, each blog is 300-500 words.)
  • What topics will you write on?  List several.
  • What impact do you want the writing to have, on what audience?
  • How will you build that audience?  Social media? Linkedin only?  Twitter followers? Private development of your networking list? Local or worldwide?
  • What results do you want to achieve from your selected audience?  Conversion to customers for your products?  Credibility in your professional community?  Attraction of prospects for your services?
  • For now, only focus on your original writing, not on aggregating content from other bloggers.

If you can identity what you want to achieve, from what market/audience, and how to reach that audience, and what content you need to create to pull in that audience, then you are on your way to using your time effectively in content creation.  You may need help from partners:  strategic guidance or practical implementation of the marketing strategy.  That’s all part of the plan too.

I know it is exhilarating to launch into your most creative endeavors.  But if you are building a product or service business, or a consultancy, then time and effort are you most valuable assets.  So focusing only on the efforts that will bring you the best results is critical to your survival.   For that, you need some objective thinking and planning before you begin.

Good luck.

#8 Ability to speak & write in a short, succinct style (from “The 12 characteristics of successful consultants”)

A key to success in consulting lies in simplifying your communication:  no corporate-speak, no academic-speak, just subject-verb-object like you learned in second grade.  Your prospects and clients weary of plowing through your long complex sentences, voiced in the passive tense, with dependent clauses losing their subjects and objects.  They stop reading.  They don’t want to talk to you anymore.

You can un-learn your bad behavior in speaking and writing.  You can achieve simple sentences that take responsibility for what you are saying, promising, and concluding.  It may take some practice, and it certainly requires the discipline of reviewing what you have written, and editing to simplify, until these good behaviors are part of your mind-set.

Here are some guidelines.

  1. Return to “See Spot Run.“  When you learned to create a sentence, you were taught to establish the subject (who was doing what), a verb (what the subject was doing), and an object (to what or whom the subject was acting upon).  Remember?  Well, start there.
  2. Avoid the passive tense.  If you stick to “see spot run” you will begin with your subject and follow with an active verb.  “Dick showed Jane the letter.”  With this sentence the reader knows who did what with whom.  In the passive tense, the reader would read, “The letter was shown to Jane by Dick.”   The passive tense, when content becomes more complicated, tends to obscure the responsibility of who will promise what to whom, who will be held accountable for certain actions.  In business, the passive tense is the language of avoidance and obscurity, which is why you should avoid it.
  3. Use action verbs.  Action verbs are about “doing” and “committing” yourself to a behavior, promises or results.  Say ” I will deliver ….” not “I would deliver…” or “I may include…”   The words “would” and “may” imply that your deliverables  are conditional on some other action (even if there is no other action), whereas the “will” is a direct commitment.  Only use these conditional phrases when you mean to limit your commitment.  And then state clearly the condition of the limits of your commitment.
  4. Write shorter sentences.  It is not sophisticated to write long, complex sentences.  You do not prove your intelligence or your education this way.  Laying out in simple short sentences what value you offer, what promises you will make, what deliverables you provide when… this approach gains the confidence of your prospects and clients.
  5. When writing a list of values or deliverables, use bullets.  If you are addressing three or more items in a list, create bullets or a numbered list.  This allows your reader to quickly understand what is being said.
  6. When writing a list of values or deliverables, repeat the preposition before each item.  If bullets or numbered lists are for some reason unacceptable, and the list is better contained within a long sentence, be diligent about your handing of the preposition that precedes each item — repeat it for clarity.  For example, “The Ongoing Support phase will result in new procedures to reduce document-processing time, to ensure greater reliability of data collection, and to increase profitability.”

The secret here is to be so clear in your language that your reader’s mind never stops absorbing your information (your pitch, your deal, your conclusions or your recommendations), and that your reader never hesitates and thinks “What does that really mean?” or “Am I being tricked here?”  These hesitations are the seeds of distrust.

Your prospect or client may not be able to articulate why your sentence structures and careful use of grammar are effective.  But the clarity of your presentation, written or spoken, will reassure your client that you will do what you say, and that you are trustworthy and honest.