Consultants love to talk about their unique process, even when it’s not that unique.
When asked, clients will generally tell you they’re tired of hearing about 4, 5, or 6 step processes. You might even notice them glaze over when charts with right facing arrows come out. Regardless of the client’s state we plough on though. We must present our process.
Plan => Design => Develop => Launch =>
There’s good reasoning behind this madness. We all believe our processes are important because they differentiate our approach from those used by other consultancies. As consultants we sell intangible concepts and the process pitch is our attempt to establish something tangible in the client’s mind. Something that lends credibility to our experience and expertise.
The problem is … and you may not have realised this yet … instead of being a major differentiator, pushing our unique process makes you look like everybody else. Because it’s what we all do.
Now, I’m not suggesting that explaining the delivery process isn’t an important part of the sales conversation. What I’m saying is that it’s usually presented too early and in the wrong context.
So, what’s the alternative?
The truth is decisions makers aren’t that interested in your process. [Some technical recommenders and DIYers might be, but that’s a topic for future article.] Decision makers are interested in solving their issues.
Instead of talking about process demonstrate your unique understanding of the client’s issues instead. Do this before talking about solutions and you’ll establish credibility and trust. Which is what you want, isn’t it?
Here are three ways you can do that:
- Demonstrate empathy. Have a point of view (PoV) about the type of issues the client is likely to have. Use this to get conversations going, then ask questions and listen. Put yourself in the client’s shoes. It’s far more interesting for the client to talk about and consider issues than it is to receive a sales pitch.
- Educate the client. If the client were already an expert in their issues they wouldn’t need you, would they? By explaining things about the issues that others don’t, you take your credibility to another level. Clients appreciate ‘sparring partners’ who bring new ideas and perspectives.
- Add some immediate value. Sometimes a simple suggestion supported by your PoV can be extraordinarily valuable to the client. This may be where you clarify something, or make a distinction, or offer insights that haven’t already been considered. Doing this will position your expertise as valuable, while establishing a relationship where you have permission to sell.
Now,once you’ve done these three things it may seem perfectly natural to start talking about how you might help the client. But don’t rush to present your process just yet because there’s something you need to do first.
Not sure what that is? If you’re responsible for selling consultancy work in your practice contact me and we can discuss it.
The bottom line
Get real: Your client has no emotional connection to your process, even if you do.
Get prepared: Start to develop a list of issues your clients have and take your understanding about these deeper.
Get savvy: Stand out from the crowd and be seen as an expert in the client’s issue as well as a solution provider.
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