Saturday, 15 October 2016

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Monday, 23 May 2016

What Leader’s Do

If you feel a sense of accomplishment for doing the work that someone you lead should be doing, then you may be addicted to firefighting work that gives you a sense of accomplishment. It’s more likely, however, that you are really avoiding the difficult decisions and the difficult work that you are responsible for as the leader.

Leaders are stewards of the future. If you aren’t working on the future because you are spending the majority of your time on today, then you are putting that future in doubt.

If you aren’t working on your biggest strategic opportunities and your most difficult systemic challenges, then those opportunities are at risk, and the bottlenecks created by systemic problems will mire everyone down in day-to-day firefighting.

As a leader, you are responsible for doing the work of the leader first and foremost. It cannot take a backseat to work that someone else can and should be doing.

The Leadership Playbook

Leaders can very easily and unknowingly fall into a trap. Without even recognizing that they have done so, they can become addicted to doing urgent and important work that really belongs to someone on their team. By allowing themselves to get mired down in day-to-day operational issues that belong to someone else, they deprive themselves of the time they need to deal with the strategic work that their role requires of them.

If the leader isn’t dealing with strategic needs and systemic challenges, no one is.

Your people bring you their challenges because they need your insight. Because the work is important, you decide you need to dig in and help your people do this work. You want to lead by example, and you want your people to know that no one is about whatever needs to be done—especially the leader. Rather than giving directions on what you believe the outcome of the important task must be, you do the work, depriving your employee of the opportunity to grow and learn, and possibly creating a dependent.

If you are doing work that isn’t the highest value-creating work you can do as a leader but instead doing work that belongs to someone else, it is a warning sign.

Why are you doing the work that someone else should be doing?

Maybe you mis-hired, and the person in that role isn’t capable of doing the work themselves. That poor decision has now led to another poor decision, namely taking you out of your role as the leader.

Perhaps you have allowed someone you like very much, but who also happens to have a case of learned helplessness, to put their work on your plate without you recognizing it.

It’s more likely that you don’t even know you’ve abdicated your leadership responsibilities.

Assuming Good Intentions

You don’t have to be happy when people make mistakes. But you do have to help them learn from their mistakes.

When you assume good intentions, you reinforce the idea that you expect the person you lead to take action and make good decisions. You reinforce that you expect initiative and resourcefulness. And you expect them to be open to the coaching that will help them understand how to make better decisions once they have a deeper understanding and more information.

If you understand people you realize that most of us aren’t here to cause problems – most of us want to be part of the solution. The way you treat the people who work for you may mean the difference between someone who believes they can make a difference, and someone who simply wants to stay out of trouble. Who would you rather have working for you?

Assuming Bad Intentions

When you assume bad intentions, you believe something about the person who made the mistake that is rarely true. When you treat mistakes like they are intentional, you are treating the person who made that mistake unfairly. You are accusing them of something of which they are not guilty.

When you assume bad intentions and punish the person who made the mistake, you may get fewer mistakes. You also get an employee who is afraid to take initiative and unwilling to use their own resourcefulness to take independent action and make decisions. This is how you manufacture engaged employees who end up being dependents. You are creating employees who wait for your permission to do the job you hired them to do.

Assuming Intentions

Most of the people who work for you are not intentionally trying to do poor work. They aren’t trying to fail in their role, and they aren’t trying to make mistakes. Very few of them are acting on some malicious intention to do harm to the business, nor is it their intention to harm themselves.

Most of the time, and there are exceptions, people are acting out of good intentions.

That employee who called the client to explain in a somewhat impolitic manner that the problem they are having is their own fault wasn’t trying to make them angry. Their intention was to help the client see that what they are doing isn’t working, even if they lacked the diplomacy and relationship to have that conversation.

The employee who spent more money on the marketing campaign than he should have, mistakenly believing that if a little is good than a lot is better, wasn’t trying to be reckless or wasteful. His intentions were to drive leads to the business and help the company grow.

The Only Question You Need for an Accurate Forecast

There is only one way to ensure that you have an accurate sales forecast. You don’t need software, and you don’t need dozens and dozens of questions. A single question will suffice to provide you with all you need to know about the accuracy of your forecast. That question is this:

“What date did the prospective customer select for their ‘go live’ date and why?”

Closed dates are relatively meaningless. Anything with a month ending date should be discounted on principle. Your prospective clients don’t select a “go live” date or a “deal ink” date by looking at the last day of the month.

If the last day of the month is bad, then the last day of the quarter is even worse. The last day of the quarter is a day only sales organizations care about. Your prospective client did not choose that date, and the one thing you can predict with absolute certainty is that they have no idea that the last day of the quarter is the foretasted close date in your CRM.

The stages in your sales force automation software are meaningless. It doesn’t matter whether the stage is negotiation or acquisition or some other stage deep in the sales process. Regardless of what the stage is indicated in your CRM, the customer is still controlling the date the deal closes. You can’t close without them.

The percentages attached to your stage are also meaningless. First of all, they probably do not reflect an accurate percentage based on stage if you were to look at your past wins and losses. Second, an opportunity with two competitors has only a 50 percent chance of winning; it can’t be 90 percent. The stage of your sales process is not a particularly accurate indicator.

The Only Date That Matters

If you expect the customer to close on a certain date, shouldn’t they be aware of that date? Are they going to be surprised when you ask them for their business and show up with a contract and a pen? Should they not have something on their calendar indicating that they are signing a deal or going live with your solution?

Could you acquire and agree on a date and still not have an opportunity close on time? Absolutely. But if you want forecast accuracy, you ask for the date to which the customer has agreed.

How to Give Up Non-Deals

The only reason you keep working on deals you know you don’t have a real chance of closing is because you don’t have real opportunities with which to replace them. In order to rid yourself of time-wasting non-deals, you need to replace them with real opportunities.

Massively Increase Your Prospecting Efforts

There isn’t any way to create more opportunities that doesn’t require you spend more time and more energy prospecting. You cannot create new opportunities until you develop new relationships.

The more prospecting you do, the more relationships you develop, and the more opportunities you will create. The faster you do the necessary prospecting work, the faster you will produce the opportunities that allow you to ditch non-opportunities.

Vary Your Approach and Use All Methods and Tools

Some of your prospective clients will respond to your phone call, cold, warm, or whatever. Others will respond to a LinkedIn connection. A small few may respond to an email request for a meeting, if it’s personal and value creating.

The best place to start is referrals. The second best place to start is with deals that you lost in competitive situations in the past.

There is no plan that includes waiting for inbound marketing or lead generation to do this work for you. You need to consistently use every method and every tool available.

Build a Serious Plan to Nurture Your Dream Clients

The problem with acting with a great sense of urgency is that it can be sporadic and undisciplined. There are some prospects for whom you need a proactive, disciplined, professionally persistent approach. These are your dream clients.

A nurture plan is a blueprint for contacting your best prospects over time using a campaign. That campaign starts with a message that creates value for your dream client. That might be a blog post, white paper, or case study. That content is followed up with a phone call.

Your nurture plan can be written in advance and used to pursue the small number of your very best prospects over the course of a year. You will get some of these dream clients to respond and engage with you. You will win some of them. Those will be your best deals and the best use of your time. But you still have to prospect and for other opportunities while you are nurturing your dream clients.

Why You Must Own Your Losses

The human mind is an interesting thing. It is powerful beyond belief, yet riddled with all kinds of viruses that will harm you if left unchecked. To protect your ego, your mind will come up with ways to rationalize your failures, even rationalizing your behavior when you wrong another person. But by protecting your ego and absolving yourself of responsibility, your ability to rationalize can destroy your results.

You Lost the Deal

You may rationalize a deal lost to a competitor by telling yourself that it wasn’t a straight up contest, that they dropped their price to a level at which no one could really serve the customer, let alone do so at a profit. You may not want to believe that you were outsold, but you were. You failed to make the case that the value of your solution was worth paying your higher price. Or you may have failed to identify the prospect as a price buyer or disqualified them early.

You can rationalize away a lost deal by believing that your prospective client didn’t really understand the value of your solution, how you are different, and why you would be the better choice. The outcome of selling is to create a preference for you and your solution. You didn’t create that preference. “But wait,” you protest, “that prospect didn’t even give me a fair chance to compete. My competitor had unfettered access to everyone on the buying team.” Whose job is it to gain access to the stakeholders you need inside your prospective client’s company?

Everything Is Your Fault

Everything is your fault. If you lost, then you own the loss.

The problem with rationalizing lost deals, mistakes, and missteps, is that it disempowers you. It robs you of your ability to do something different when faced with the same situation in the future. It means that the world is acting on you and there is nothing you can do about it.

One of the most dangerous infections you can suffer from is the belief that you are powerless to do something different to produce a better result. The linchpin human attribute, the one attribute that enables so many of the others, is resourcefulness. Because creativity is limitless, given a long enough timeline, human beings overcome every obstacle they encounter.

A growth mindset allows you to own your failures and mistakes, to learn from them, and to come up with a new strategy or tactic.

You know your competitor is going to compete by lowering their price so low that you dare not follow them. So you start teaching your prospective clients to expect lower prices and also to expect the poor results that come with under-investing in the solution they need. You make them a list of areas where the investments will be cut to get to those lower prices, and show them how it hurts their results. You leave a minefield behind you for your low price selling competitor to walk into.

You know you need stakeholders to compete fairly. So you “go there” and ask for access as early in the process as you can. If you are rejected, you push back, explaining that you can’t do your best work without access. If your prospective client refuses, you know you are column fodder and you move on to a better opportunity. Or you have your executive team work their executive team.

When you own your losses, you empower yourself to make better choices in the future. Everything is your fault, which means you have the power to do something different.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Different Intentions, Different Outcomes

Trying not to lose is not the same thing as trying to win. Trying not to lose is reactionary. It’s prevention. Most of the time it prevents you from winning. Worst of all, it starts with the belief that you should focus on “not losing,” which gives the idea of losing too much power.

"Playing to win” begins with the belief that you can and will win. It’s empowering. The belief that you can win and the desire to do so allows you to take initiative, to be resourceful, and to take the necessary actions that will better your chances of winning—even if taking those actions comes with a particular risk.

Are you “playing to win?” Or are you playing to “not lose?” What would you differently if you changed your intentions?

Playing to Win or Playing Not to Lose

Playing to win is different than playing not to lose.” The actions you would take to win are different than the actions you would take to “not lose.”

Playing to Win

If you are playing to win, you do whatever is necessary to move things forward. You aggressively try to put points on the board. You’re not reckless, but you’re certainly not passive.

When you play to win, you make the call that you fear. You have the difficult conversation. You deal with the tricky issues that may put your outcomes at risk if things go south on you.

Playing Not to Lose

If you are playing to “not lose,” you’re cautious. Probably overly-cautious. You want to avoid mistakes, so you hold back. Instead of doing what you know you need to do, you wait to react. Instead of using all of your power to tilt things in your direction, you wait.

You don’t make the call to your dream client because they said they needed time to think things over. You avoid talking about your price because you worry that your prospect will say it’s too high. You don’t act because you are fearful that anything you do will put your deal at risk.

Velocity and Your Speed to Results

In sales, fast is slow and slow is fast. This means the more time you take to to be present, create value, and help your dream client, the faster things move forward. The faster you try to go and the more you try to “cram” relationships, trust-building, and moving through your process before serving your buyer’s needs, the slower things go.

There is a serious exception to this general principle: prospecting. When it comes to opening new relationships and creating opportunities, velocity matters a great deal, especially when many salespeople and sales organizations are opportunity starved.

The List

Imagine that someone provides you with a list. This list includes the name and phone number of 1,000 prospects. The person providing you that list tells you that there is no less than $5,000,000 in new sales in this list, all that revenue coming from prospects that are right in your sweet spot. All you have to do is accept the list, and start prospecting to collect the $5,000,000 in revenue.

How long does it take you to make the calls and find the $5,000,000 in revenue?

Slow Dialing

If you made 10 calls a day, or 50 calls a week, it would take you 20 weeks to make your first contact with every person on the list. Minus holidays and vacation, that’s about half a year.

Making 20 calls a day cuts your time in half. By making 100 calls a week, you make your calls in 10 weeks, less than a quarter of the year.

But we are looking at “dials” here, “attempted” calls, not actually conversations. The reality is that most of your calls are going to go to voicemail. Even if you leave an excellent message, you aren’t likely to get a lot of calls back.

If you were to dial 40 numbers a day, you’d be through your first attempt in 5 weeks. You’d have reached some percentage of the people you dialed and, depending on how effective you are on the phone, you’d have found opportunities, more if you’ve got chops, less if you don’t.

Your Real Math

Let’s assume you have a targeted list of 200 dream clients that are qualified, not some random list of 1,000 leads full of hidden opportunities. How long does it take you make it through that list?

The speed at which you prospect is the speed you open new relationships and create new opportunities. The slower you go, the less likely you are to have a killer pipeline, and the longer it takes you to build your book of business.

Fast is slow and slow is fast in human relationships. But faster is better when it comes to prospecting. In prospecting, you want velocity.

How long it takes you to succeed is a personal decision.

Evaluation of Risks and Addressing of Fears

If there is a cardinal sin in selling it is believing that your role as a salesperson ends after you present your solution. Your prospective client still needs your help.

It’s normal and natural to have concerns before making a purchase. But the bigger the problem is, the more strategic the solution, the more compelling the vision, the more concerns your prospect will have about their risk. Your prospective client fears that the changes can be more difficult than they imagined, that they may fail, that they may not get the outcomes they need, that they may be embarrassed, and that things will be worse having tried and failed. Some or all of these may be true.

Good salespeople provide proof as a way to help their prospective clients evaluate the risk and address their fears. Great salespeople provide the counsel of a trusted advisor.

Instead of leaving their prospective client alone to think through the risks and fears, great salespeople schedule meetings and spend time helping them to make good decisions, to plan for unforeseen circumstances, and to mitigate any risks.

Is how you sell in line with serving your prospective clients at each stage of their decision-making process?
Do you know where your prospective client is in this process before you begin to sell?

Exploration of Alternatives and Options

You can sell much better when you understand what your prospective client is accomplishing during this stage. A limited view of an exploration of alternatives and options can cause you to sell poorly and lose opportunities.

And, in our sometimes limited view, we think that we are competing only with our direct competitors. But our first competitor is the alternative of doing nothing. The status quo tends to have a lot of supporters, and when change is difficult, this option often looks very good.

There are other alternatives that include doing something completely different than what you or your competitors may recommend. Some companies may outsource a whole segment of their business rather than bring in a supplier to help them do it themselves, for example.

One mistake we sometimes make in this stage is to show our prospective client a single solution rather than giving them choices and collaborating with them on the right ideas.

It’s true that in competitive situations we focus on how we compete and win against good companies with good people and good solutions, some better than ours. Good salespeople present solutions. Great salespeople present ideas, options, and a chance to collaborate on the solution and the outcomes.

What are my choices?

What are the trade-offs?

What fits me the best?

Why You Have a Small Business

There is an old joke about how to have a small business. It goes like this, “You know how to have a nice small business?” The punchline is,Buy a large business and wait.

There is a reason that small businesses stay small, and why some would-be larger businesses shrink.

They think that their business isn’t a sales organization. The cardinal sin of most small businesses is that they believe that their business is not a sales organization. They believe their business is a design firm. They believe their business is an accounting firm. They believe their business is whatever they do to create value for customers. But because they do not put sales first, they never have enough customers.

They don’t understand the principles of selling. When a small business owner finally understands that they are a sales organization first and foremost, they struggle because they do not understand the principles of selling. Most of the time, they treat every sale like a transaction. They don’t understand the sales process, or funnels, or pipelines. They believe they need to present what they do and provide a quote, almost always by email. Because they do not understand sales, they struggle.
Eventually, they hire a salesperson.

They don’t know how to hire and manage salespeople. The real problem with a small business hiring a salesperson is they have no idea how to hire or manage them. First, they believe that someone who has sales listed on their resume is qualified to sell. After all, they know more about sales than a business owner, right? Then, they get bamboozled by “salespeople” who collect the salary and produce no results. After going through this a couple times they believe there are no good salespeople available. So . . .

They stop hiring salespeople altogether. Because the small business owner doesn’t know how to hire or manage salespeople, they give up. Well, first they hate salespeople. And then they give up. They try to do the selling themselves, or they let a good and loyal employee do the selling for them.
They don’t spend the money to build their capacity for growth. When a small business owner is fortunate enough to figure out how to grow, they resist spending the money to scale and keep pace with what should be their real growth rate. Because they cut corners and fail to make investments, they never grow into what they might have been had they been a sales organization first.
The key to growth is, was, and always will be sales. Your company, regardless of what you do, is a sales organization. Embracing that is the first step on the path to growth.

Win More by Serving Your Buyers Where They Are

This is a long and critically important piece of content. You may want to spend some time with it this week.

Selling well begins with understanding where your prospective client is in their decision-making. By knowing where they are in their process, you can better serve them, and you can also create a preference for you and your solution.

A Problem Worth Solving

You will find your prospective clients in one of three states.

The first state in which you might find them is the easiest and least likely. That is where they have a problem worth solving and they are compelled to solve it.

The second state you might find your prospective client in is one where they don’t know that they have a problem, and so they aren’t compelled to change. This is more likely where most of your clients are when you find them. You can see that they should be producing better results, but they don’t understand how those results are possible.

You might also find a prospective client who knows that they have a problem but are not compelled to solve it.

The more your approach serves the prospect where they are, the better your results. If they know they have a problem and are compelled to change, you help them do so. If they don’t know that they could be producing better results and that they should be compelled to change, you teach them what their problems are and how you can help solve them.

What about the third group, the group that knows they have a problem and won’t change. Some people actually have to experience the heart attack before they change their diet and start exercising.

Is this change worth pursuing?

Sometimes your prospective clients need help understanding the root cause of their problems or challenges. They need help identifying a compelling vision of what their future should look like.

Good salespeople help their prospective clients solve the presenting problem or challenge they uncovered during their discovery. Great salespeople help their prospective clients find the root cause of those problems or challenges.

Good salespeople do an excellent job selling their solution. Great salespeople build a compelling vision of the future state, recognizing that the solution is valuable only as it relates to bringing that vision to life.

We think of discovery as coming to understand our prospective clients’ needs. But it’s more than that. They are also discovering the root cause of their challenge and a vision of a better future. This is what we do when we are at our best.

What needs to change?

Why should I change now?

How will it be better?

Profit On Every Deal

We are losing money on every transaction, but we’re going to make it up in volume.”

There are a lot of ways to rationalize taking business that isn’t profitable.

Maybe you take unprofitable business in a new vertical where you believe you need a client to develop your offering as well as a reference.

Perhaps you believe that taking one really bad order where you can’t make money will unlock the better, more profitable business.

Maybe you believe that all business is good business; that it’s revenue, and any revenue is better than nothing.

These are all rationalizations. No matter how good it feels to capture revenue, there isn’t a single reason to take business at break even, or worse, at a loss.

Empty Calories

Revenue without profit is “junk food” business. You’re consuming calories, but there is no nutritional value. Profit is what allows you to invest in your business.

You need profit to grow and expand. You need profit to hire more people. Profit is what allows you to innovate, to create, to develop new offerings that allow you to create even greater value.

And it is profit that allows you to differentiate. It is that money that you invest into doing things differently be it better products, better service, or greater caring. It’s profit that fuels these things.

Selling Isn’t Supposed to Be Easy

The reason some sales organizations take business at a loss is because selling isn’t easy. They try to make selling easier by removing price from the equation–even when they create value worth paying for.

Unprofitable business makes everything more difficult. Without profit, business is a cold, transactional, desperate endeavor, a grind in the older, negative sense of the word. Profit allows you to do purposeful, meaningful work that makes a difference. It also allows you to hire people to help you do the same.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Go Ahead and Change Your Mind

New Information

Over time, you should be getting smarter. Being entirely consistent in everything you believe can mean that you aren’t growing. There has never been a time where so much new knowledge is being created, and with it, the occasional new wisdom.

Not changing your mind about anything means that you are not taking in new information, new knowledge, or new wisdom.

Ignoring new evidence means stagnation. Consistency in the face of new information and new evidence is stagnation.

New Beliefs

What beliefs have you changed in the last few years? It’s unlikely that you’ve changed your religion or your political affiliation. It’s equally likely that you share both of these beliefs with your parents, not to suggest that you shouldn’t.

This economy is a different economy than your parent’s and grandparent’s. The challenges are different and more difficult. The opportunities are greater, and some of the obstacles have all but disappeared. The ideas that may have served you well three decades ago will now do more harm than good. Have your beliefs about the economy changed?

Work is different now. Work was different 30, 40, and 70 years ago. Careers were different. Does the word “work” or “career” mean something different to you now? Have your ideas changed?

How to Change Your Mind

You shouldn’t be embarrassed to have changed your mind. It is a sign that you are learning, discovering, and growing. It’s more dangerous to stay locked to a belief that no longer serves you, especially when there is a good reason to adopt a new idea.

When pressed about having abandoned a long-held position, you simply say, “I have changed my mind about that. I no longer believe what I used to believe.” No apologies. No shame. Instead, growth.

If your beliefs haven’t changed, it’s worth taking them time to examine them and see if they still serve you, and to measure them against new evidence and new information. If you haven’t changed your mind about anything, it may indicate a need to explore ideas that make you uncomfortable.

A Lesson Learned the Hard Way at Lunch

When I was very young, naïve, and new to selling, I relentlessly called a big prospect in my territory. She refused my meeting requests dozens of times. I had no idea then that a sales call requires a value proposition, some value the contact will gladly trade their time to obtain. So I did what I thought might work, and I invited this prospect to lunch.

I picked the prospect up in my car, and she requested that I take her to an Asian restaurant in Century City. When we sat down, she ordered two appetizers, one for now, and one that she could take with her for later. It was a little weird, but I said nothing. Then she ordered two entries, one for now, and one she could take with her at the conclusion of our lunch “meeting.”

There was no lunch “meeting.” There was only lunch. Every time I tried to ask her about her business, she changed the subject. The more I attempted to engage with her, the more awkward it was to talk at all. We were both silent, and one of us was in way over his head.

After the lunch plates had been cleared, my prospective client ordered two desserts. She looked at me and asked me if it was alright, knowing there was no way I could object having already waived my rights. You know by now that my prospect ate one of the desserts and had the second put in the already large bag of food she was taking with her.

I was always upset by the fact that this prospect took advantage of me. I was 23 years old and had no experience to know what to do in such a situation. I had no language available to me. I suffered through it.

It took me years to absorb the lesson she taught me. I had no value proposition, and I believed that I could buy her time and attention for the price of lunch. Because I thought so little of her, she thought the same of me. From that point forward, I started taking prospects lunch only after I had a discovery meeting and I always made it a working lunch.

You Are Not a Marriage Broker

You have a big call, and you don’t have the subject matter or technical expertise you need to create value on the sales call. So you invite a subject matter expert to join you on the call so they can have the conversation and handle the questions that you can’t yet handle.

Bringing a subject matter expert on sales calls is a good idea. Up to a point. At some point, it’s a weakness and a real problem.

You aren’t a marriage broker. A salesperson’s role isn’t simply to bring two people to together to see if there is a fit. You are a value creator.

Are You a Dependent?

If you depend on a subject matter expert to make your sales calls, you are a dependent. This dependence is a problem.

If the only value you bring to your client is arranging to bring a person from your company who can create the value that you can’t, you aren’t creating enough value to be consultative.

You can’t be a trusted advisor without trust, and you can’t be trusted advisor with the advice. By abdicating your responsibility to know enough to create value in every sales interaction with your dream client, you bring too little to develop a real relationship. Not knowing enough about what you do, how you do it, and why it matters doesn’t create a preference for you nor does it create a competitive advantage.

Get Smart Fast

You can get smarter. Every time you take a subject matter expert on a sales call with you, write down the statements they make so you can study them. Write down the questions that your prospective client asks and your SME’s response.

When you leave the meeting, review what your SME said, the customer’s questions, and their answers. Ask them why they said what they said. Ask them to share their thought process to deepen your understanding of their area of expertise.

You may never have the same level of expertise as your subject matter expert, and you don’t need to. However, you ought to be able to make people believe you are a subject matter expert in your own right.

And if you can’t do a web demo, you likely have learned helplessness. If you wanted to, you could learn to do it in a couple of hours.

10 Factors for Forecasting Deals

Compelling reason to change:

 If your dream client doesn’t have a compelling reason to change, it’s difficult to forecast that deal. Like a crime, you are looking for a motive. No compelling reason to change doesn’t mean you may not win eventually, but it’s not a deal you can forecast with any certainty that you are going to win it by a certain date.

Client driven date:

If the prospect doesn’t have a date by which they believe they need to–or want to–implement your solution, the date in your CRM is merely a placeholder. How can you forecast a date when the client isn’t even aware of the date you have selected?

Support beyond formal process: 

Do you have access to the stakeholders you need? Do you have access to the information you need? How much closer than “arm’s length” are you? It’s a mistake to forecast a blind RFP with any certainty over 17% unless you helped write it.

All stakeholders are known and engaged:

 In small companies or large companies with a dominator hierarchy, you may be able to make a deal with a single stakeholder. But in larger, more complex deals, you are likely to need consensus. You won’t know how to build consensus if you don’t know who the stakeholders are. Not knowing them means they don’t support you. Maybe lower your certainty.

Obstacle identified:

 If you don’t know who your obstacles are, you may want to reduce your certainty when it comes to forecasting. If you don’t know how you are likely to lose a deal, then you don’t know where you are likely to be flanked by your opposition or your competitor. Knowing how you may lose is how you know what changes to make. And who you need to help. Hold on that 75% certainty score.

All stakeholder needs are addressed, and the solution tailored: If you don’t know what people want and how your solution may be difficult for them to accept, you can’t give them what they want. If you have “a” solution, you might want to think about “solutions,” (plural) tailoring your proposal for the people whose support you need and who you will later serve.

Collaboration on solutions: 

You are much more likely to win a deal in which you collaborated with the contacts within your dream client’s company. If it’s your solution alone, it is not “our” solution. The more the solution belongs to your prospect, the greater the likelihood you win.

Support of leadership: 

Just because you need consensus doesn’t mean that there isn’t still someone who has to sign an agreement. Consensus still requires the support of leadership. You don’t want to ask if leadership supports the change initiative you are working on with your prospect. Would you rather lose?
Access to investment: A lot of people and companies have problems worth solving. Few of them have an unlimited budget for everything they would like to have. The question isn’t “Is there a budget?” It’s “is this compelling enough for you to make the necessary investment?” You can forecast a deal, but if there isn’t a reason to pay for the change, you are looking a “no decision.”

Competitor’s known:

 If you haven’t had a scrappy competitor sneak into a deal and beat you, you will. You can’t easily differentiate your offering from your competitors if you don’t know who they are. You also can’t always generate the best deal strategy. It’s better to know who you are competing against than not to know and do nothing.

The Optimal Landing Page for Consultants

I was recently asked “what does an ideal landing page look like for someone offering consulting services?” It’s a great question.  For over 15 years I’ve been a consultant and built successful consulting companies. I’ve also co-founded several online businesses. So this is a topic I’m familiar with and passionate about. Let’s get right into it. Here’s what you need to know about creating a landing page if you’re a consultant marketing your services.

The relationship the buyer and consultant will create and have is critical. For that reason, the buyer of consulting services will look to quickly gain a sense of what it will be like to work with you as soon as they land on your page.
You Are the Product

As marketers when we create a landing page to drive leads or promote our product we work hard to position it in a way that it grabs the attention and interest of the buyer. That makes sense because the buyer (user) is most interested in whether or not the product will help them overcome the challenge they’re facing? Will it help them get closer to the result they are after? And are the benefits of using the product clear and believable?

When you’re offering consulting services, YOU are the product. The user, in this case the buyer of consulting services, asks slightly different questions. Questions your landing page must answer in order for it to be successful.

These questions include:

Who is the person or company offering these services?

Do they have the expertise to help me solve my problem or reach the result I’m after?

Put another way; are they a specialist and expert?

Do they have a track-record of success and results?

What makes them better than any other person or company in this industry?

These questions are driven by the nature of the buying process in consulting. Consulting services involve human interaction. They are unlike signing up for an online service or buying herbal supplements. When a buyer hires a consultant they know they’ll be interacting with them on a regular basis.

The relationship the buyer and consultant will create and have is critical. For that reason, the buyer of consulting services will look to quickly gain a sense of what it will be like to work with you as soon as they land on your page.

In just a few moments I’ll share with you the specific elements to include on your landing page to achieve optimal results. First, let’s talk about your personality.

Show Your Face

I mentioned above how important the relationship is in the buying process for consulting services. That’s why you got to show your face.

Don’t hide behind your logo and don’t try to make yourself look like a bigger company than you are. It rarely matters. Remember, your prospective buyer will hire YOU because they like you. Because they believe that you can help them. And because they trust you to deliver results. Not because you have a beautiful logo or a fancy sounding name.

VWO published results by one of their users, Jason Thompson, who swapped out a contact icon for his face and saw conversions increase 39%.

The ONLY 3 Activities Consultants Should Focus On

There are three things and really only three that you should be spending your time on each day.

You may find that extremely exciting. No longer do you have to try and tackle a long and growing to-do list.

Proactively follow up with leads, set meetings and calls. Enter meaningful sales conversations. Done right this focus will grow your revenues like no other activity.
Or you may find that idea scary because it requires you to become even more focused and to remove all the distractions around you.

Whichever side you’re on it doesn’t change the importance of these three things.

And if growing your consulting business is a priority don’t underestimate the power of what I’m about to share with you.

Priority #1: Serve Paying Clients

Your first priority should always be to serve your paying clients.

They deserve the most from you.

When you start your day always begin with your clients in mind.

Have a clear plan of what you need to do that day to serve them in the best possible way and provide them with exceptional value.

You’ll want to spend 30-50% of your time on this priority.

They are the lifeblood of your business.  Never forget that.

Priority #2: Close Deals and Work Your Leads

Once you’ve taken care of your clients you can move to your next most important activity – working the leads you have in your pipeline.

Why is this so important? A percentage of the leads in your pipeline will become your paying clients.

If you use the right strategies and approach a significant number of them will become clients.

When you learn what type of marketing will work for your specific situation you’re able to take the right actions to improve your marketing and get results from it.
This is a revenue generating activity. It’s the straight-line from getting where you are to winning more business.

Proactively follow up with leads, set meetings and calls. Enter meaningful sales conversations.

Done right this focus will grow your revenues like no other activity.

You’ll want to spend 25-40% of your time on this priority.

Priority #3: Marketing and Lead Generation

This is the top of your funnel. Marketing and lead generation are activities you always want to be engaged in.

Failure to focus on bringing in more leads results in having a dry pipeline and a severe lack of business and opportunities.

In my Marketing for Consultants Coaching Program I teach strategic marketing tactics that can fill your pipeline quickly. A way to attract your ideal clients.

The actual tactic you choose to generate leads isn’t as important as making sure that you’ve selected the right one. Not every approach works for all consultants.

There isn’t a one-size fits-all approach.

When you learn what type of marketing will work for your specific situation you’re able to take the right actions to improve your marketing and get results from it.

You’ll want to spend 25-40% of your time on this priority.

The Percentages

Why such a range in the percentages of how much time you should spend on each activity, you ask?

Great question. The reason is that it depends on what stage you are at.

If you’ve been a consultant for a while and have some potential leads and clients already you’ll spend a greater percentage of time on priority #1 and #2.

3 Ways to Disagree With Your Clients That They’ll Appreciate You For

Realize that most leaders aren’t surrounded by staff that ‘tell it like it is’. Instead they are often afraid to break any bad news with senior management.

Focus on the positive, not on the negative. Look at the challenge as an opportunity to fix and improve.
In an organization this often results in the leader believing things are okay when they really aren’t. This makes spotting the real problem even harder when the information the leader is receiving isn’t the whole truth.

If no problems exist and the business is humming along smoothly they wouldn’t need a consultant, would they?

You step in and have to break the bad news that things aren’t as rosy as the client believes…

Here are 3 ideas to consider:

1. Establish how you work – 

at your first meeting tell the client that you’re going to be very honest with them. That much of what you uncover will be positive, however, if they’re company is like others you’ve worked with before, you’ll also find room for improvement.

Because the client will now be expecting you to share both the good and the bad, it’s easier for you to share it with them when you find it – and they’ll be ready for it.

2. Believe what you see – 

Have you ever seen the program Undercover Boss? CEO’s from various companies dress themselves up and go ‘undercover’ to work in their own organization. Their employees don’t recognize them and they get to see up close and with their own eyes where things are going well and where things can be improved.

Consider taking the same approach in your own work. You’ll hear all kinds of things from employees, management and the CEO. Don’t draw conclusions from that information. Dig deeper so that you can see and experience it yourself. Then share that experience and encourage your client to experience it themselves. It’s hard to disagree when you’ve faced an issue first-hand.

3. Tell them clearly – 

I recently had a discussion with one of my coaching clients. Based in South America this consulting firm owner had a weight on his shoulders. The challenges with his employees and the market kept coming up and what he had or hadn’t done right in the past. I told him not to worry about the past anymore, look at this as an opportunity to focus on the future and get things right going forward.

You can do the same thing with your clients. Focus on the positive, not on the negative. Look at the challenge as an opportunity to fix and improve. The last thing you want is to spend time playing the blame game and talking about ‘what if…’. What’s done is done, help your client to see what’s ahead and take the steps to capitalize on it.

10 Proven Marketing Tactics for Consultants and Coaches

“What type of marketing works best?” It’s a question I’m asked over and over again.

Each year we run our Marketing for Consultants survey which provides insight into this question.

I recently decided to ask some friends (who are consultants, coaches, and solo professionals) what type of marketing is working best for them.

Especially what I wanted to explore was ‘what type of marketing is generating the highest quality leads and opportunities?’

And ‘WHY they believe it works so well for them?’

Below you’ll find answers to these questions from 10 experts. I’ve also provided my thoughts on the responses and a BIG takeaway for you at the end of the post.

(If you enjoy the post please share it)

Hugh-Culver-1 Hugh Culver

What type of marketing works best for you? I have been using webinars for five years, but only recently added a piece to the marketing formula that has really improved our results. Our new webinar formula is to schedule a full year of webinar dates, one per month. When I connect with someone who also serves the speaker/expert market I invite them to promote one of our dates. Because SOS is a monthly service, we can afford to be more generous with our partners. If I don’t have an affiliate lined up I run the webinar regardless off our list.

Why does it work so well? Each affiliate webinar grows our list and generates income for us and the partner – nothing new there. The trick I’m finding is to have the full year of dates already pre-booked. The set dates motivate the partner to take action and make a decision.

Laura-Ashley-TimmsLaura Ashley-Timms

What type of marketing works best for you? High end Business Development events – i.e. where we pay to attend a select event with guaranteed mutually chosen meetings with around 10-20 of our target corporate level clients (these are often from C-Suite level top FTSE 500 companies or Global equivalent) – held across UK or Europe.

Why does it work so well? It works because we mutually select each other – they get to see our passion and quality – we can follow it up and build on the relationship with other added value sessions

Stefan-DrewStefan Drew

What type of marketing works best for you? Leveraging “Creating Business Growth” the book [I co-authored with several other marketers] is bringing me in high value clients.

Why does it work so well? In a world full of white papers, social media posts and ebooks, a lot of serious business people in my niche still regard a physical book as being something that is only produced by people with expertise and authority.  So I’m emailing key decision makers in the £10-60m turnover section of my niche and telling them I’m sending them a copy of my book.  I also tell them that, unless they object, I’d like to set up a strategy meeting with them once they’ve read the book.  A week or so after sending the book I then phone them and check if they received the book and ask when they would like to meet. I also find most gatekeepers take me far more seriously as they’ve also seen the book.  In most cases they either get the decision maker on the phone for me or set up a date for a meeting with their boss.

Anthony-IannarinoAnthony Iannarino

What type of marketing works best for you? My email newsletter generates the most qualified leads, hands down.

Why does it work so well? I believe this form of content marketing works well because it allows me to nurture relationships consistently. The newsletter allows me to share stories that resonate with my readers and understand what I might be like to work with. Most of the time, when someone needs me, they already know what they are getting, and it makes it easy for both of us to say “yes.”

Chris-BroganChris Brogan

What type of marketing works best for you? The best marketing I’ve been doing lately is content upgrades that earn me new subscribers to my newsletter. 70% of my revenue comes from my newsletters.

Why does it work so well? The reason it works so well is that the “content upgrade” gives people a lot to consider for free, and entices them to think about what ELSE I might be offering, if that’s the quality of what they get for free.

LaRae-Quy-PhotoLaRae Quy

What type of marketing works best for you? My marketing plan focuses primarily on [promoting my articles through] social media, but I do find that not all social media is equal. My most productive leads come from LinkedIn connections.

Why does it work so well? I find that the articles I write generate interest in what I’m doing, and I’ve had several companies contact me about corporate consulting for their management teams.

Peter-SandeenPeter Sandeen

What type of marketing works best? It’s a combination, really. But if I have to pick just one, it’s email marketing.

Why does it work so well? People who have the necessary level of understanding of how marketing creates sales will eventually understand why the way I look at marketing makes sense and creates results. Those who are focused on tactics, tools, and strategies will rarely contact me. But those who see that the tactics etc. are only delivery mechanisms for a marketing message and that the message is what makes people want to buy, are (by definition) extremely well-qualified.

Dov-GordonDov Gordon

What type of marketing works best for you? All kinds of joint venture promotions where another party shares something of value I’ve created with their audience.  And their audience has the opportunity to join my list to get even more.

Why does it work so well? It works so well because partners have the ability to put you in front of large groups of qualified people in a very short time. And because their audience already trusts them, when they endorse me, it so much of their own credibility is passed along to me.  That makes it easier for people to listen and benefit from what I share.  And the more people who benefit, the more my business grows.

Ian-BrodieIan Brodie

What type of marketing works best for you? In the last 18 months Facebook Ads have been my #1 source of qualified leads. These days my business is primarily online so it works well to generate a regular flow of email subscribers who eventually become paying clients.

Why does it work so well? Like most marketing it works well primarily because I put time into it and learnt how to do it well. Like most of the population, many of my target clients are Facebook users – the trick is being able to find them, motivate them to click your ad and then to subscribe to your regular emails, and then having a follow-up system in place to convert subscribers into paying clients. It’s simple in theory, but requires a lot of work on audience research and to master landing pages and email marketing.

Erin-Thoms-MelnickErin Thoms Melnick

What type of marketing works best for you?  Speaking

Why does it work so well? The audience has an experience with us that they either fully connect to, or are fully repelled from. Either way, the polarization is powerful.

So…What type of marketing works best?

The answer is “It depends.”

The marketing tactic that one consultant uses effectively may not be the right fit for another consultant.

One of the biggest mistakes I see consultants and coaches making is trying to market their services by copying what others are doing. Yet just because a marketing tactic is working for one person, doesn’t mean it will be the right tactic for you.

Start by getting clear on who YOUR ideal client is. Once you know who they are, then you can align your marketing messaging and value proposition to them, and ensure that your marketing reaches them where THEY are. And that the tactic you choose is the RIGHT one to reach your ideal client in a way they are most likely to be responsive to your message.