The Lean Startup by Eric Ries presents a method for building and launching new products. It’s a good book and not just for startups.
One of the core concepts in The Lean Startup is the minimum viable product (MVP), which allows for synchronous development of customers and products.
This is an excellent concept that can be applied to sell consultancy.
Stop pitching and start solving
When consultants struggle to get sales meetings with senior executives I usually ask them, “Why would they want to meet with you?”
The majority answer by telling me about their services, case studies and so on. They’ve obviously done their marketing homework, but it isn’t working for them.
Because they have their own concerns busy executives aren’t interested in hearing about capability and credibility. They’re looking for ideas that resonate with their immediate priorities, either solving problems or creating solutions.
I then ask my clients to start thinking about the client’s issues and how they might use a minimum viable product (or project) as a basis for engagement. I use this case study to demonstrate how that might work in practice.
MVP in sales – a case study
I first saw the idea of synchronous development in the mid-1980s. The National Bus Company in the UK had just been privatised and divided into 70 independent companies. Like many large organisations back then the National Bus Company relied on a centralised mainframe computer system. The independent companies now had the opportunity to go it alone. The only issue for them was there were really no alternative business systems on offer to the existing mainframe ones.
The creative sales executive
At the company where I was working, one of the sales executives conceived a vision of The Bus Company Business Solution. The solution would comprise: Computer hardware; Software from three different software companies (accounting, maintenance, personnel and payroll); Custom integration; Project managed implementation.
But, first he needed to create enough interest, and orders, to have it built. So, he designed a sales-led MVP with three parts.
- The brochure: About the value of information technology for operations and decision-making in Bus Companies. This brochure led to meetings with board members of the bus companies.
- The demonstration: A prototype of the solution built using relevant bus company data. This showcased the value of the solution and how it would support the newly formed businesses. After the demonstration Board of Directors often committed to buying the system.
- The offer: A sales contract for the solution and an agreed start-date for implementation.
The MVP worked. As the sales executive learnt more about the needs of the bus companies the demonstration and offer were tweaked to become a better and more compelling fit. In less than a year he’d closed multiple deals, worth several million pounds, with a significant proportion of the independent bus companies. In the process his vision of The Bus Company Business Solution became reality.
The Bus Company case study illustrates how a simple brochure delivered enough value to get a meeting and open the client to the prototype demonstration. Then the prototype demonstration delivered enough value to lead to a sale. These sales led to feedback for further development of the product and site reference visits for other bus company prospects.
None of this was particularly expensive, or time consuming, to achieve. The brochure was four-pages, printed at a local Prontaprint.
Why would they want to meet with you?
The same concept can be applied to get meetings and sell consultancy. Begin by asking yourself these questions:
- What is the smallest thing I can do that delivers enough value to the client, so they’ll be open for more?
- Does this thing capture value for me too, as either learning or direct fees?
Once you understand your minimum viable proposition, or project, you’re in a much stronger position. Approaching prospective clients is easier and they are likely to be more receptive.
Give it a try for yourself.
The bottom line
Get real: Clients are interested in their own issues, not your capability and credibility pitch.
Get prepared: Think about the concerns and priorities senior executives might have. Prepare a sales letter, or brochure, based on ideas and insights that fit with these.
Get savvy: Adopt an Entrepreneurs mindset. Stop being predictable. Think what’s possible.
Thanks as always for reading, please consider sharing: