There’s a lot of business development hokum out there, especially when it comes to ideas on how best to win consultancy projects. It’s so easy to waste a lot of time if you apply the wrong marketing and sales approaches.
Consultancy is a high-touch game, and unless you work on the relationship aspects of the sale, as well as the sales process, you’re not going to succeed.
You can think of winning projects as having two parts – a sales process and the relationship framework.
The sales process is about systematically moving the sale forward. It’s a step-by-step method … with components like preparing for meetings, exploring needs, qualification, and closing. This is the more tangible ‘hard’ side of selling. If you’ve had consultative sales training, or read a book like SPIN selling, you’ll already be familiar with this type of thing. There are tools, checklists, and techniques galore you can use at each step.
The relationship framework is different. Think of it like building a house of cards. The foundation layer starts with your personal state, how you feel and think before you even meet the client. Then the next layer is where you gain the client’s permission, that’s usually about expectation setting and contracting. And the next layer you build rapport. And it’s only at that stage that the client is going to tell you the things that you need to know, in order to successfully pull a project together. There are others layers as well, before you can start adding in your point of view and influence. These are the intangible ‘soft’ side things. This is where you’ll earn the right to speak as either a trusted advisor or get relegated to vendor status.
If you ignore the soft side, just like a house of cards the relationship collapses. You lose permission. You lose rapport. You lose influence.
Just stop reading for a moment and think of a time when you lost permission, or you couldn’t get rapport with a particular type of client.
- What happened to the relationship?
- What happened to progress on the ‘hard’ side of the sales process?
Things probably didn’t go much further at that stage.
There are, of course, ways to gain permission, to build rapport. And ways to regain permission and rebuild rapport if it’s lost. These are the building blocks for concepts like trust. The empathy that puts you in the client’s shoes and takes you deeper into the client’s world. And the type of listening that draws clients out, so they tell you things that surprise even them.
And taking time build these foundations produces the type of relationship that ensures your new ideas – things that serve the client – are received well … and acted upon.
What are your thoughts on this?