Can we talk?

by Roger Pynn

A marketing exec friend pointed me to a story on visual selling today (clearly a sales pitch in its own right) that highlights something we’ve been saying for a long time … that the most successful way to win a client’s business is through a conversation … not by responding to an RFP, producing a fancy proposal and then trying to wow them with a PowerPoint.  (In fact, this article promotes ditching slide presentations altogether in favor of planned and structured whiteboard presentations that position you as a storyteller.)

The article references a Forrester Research study that claims 88 percent of executive decision-makers would prefer a conversation with you rather than a pitch.  I’d wager it is a lot higher than 88 percent … but many of them are being protected by purchasing agents who believe the selection of professional services firms and consultants ought to be the same as finding the absolute lowest prices on copier paper and pencils.

The most productive relationships we’ve ever had come from situations where we had the opportunity to engage a prospective client in a meaningful conversation about their needs, challenges and aspirations, and our philosophy, experience and track record addressing other organization’s situations.

Many of those clients have been professional services firms just like ours, and we’ve helped them develop similar approaches to selling their services.  But it goes way beyond the initial face-to-face encounter.  Successfully marketing professional services begins long before the prospect thinks they need help.

It starts with positioning yourself to be their first choice … the go-to provider … the one they think of because they’ve heard of you, met you and/or seen you at work for others.  In our business, what we do to market our firm every day is exactly what we advise clients they must do – day-to-day selling.

Sure, we use a PowerPoint now and then, and I agree with the theory that you make a much greater impact with pen in hand creating images on a whiteboard or flip chart, but chances are that we’re already on board because of a meaningful conversation that came about because of day-to-day selling.

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