mount-whitney-hiking-pictures-15In my past installments I covered a variety of topics regarding how to get started and why, the team, marketing and business relationships and services to focus on.

In this blog I will talk about the customer’s viewpoint and what you must be careful of – if you want your engagements to be successful. I’ll list a few points that will help you build on the practice through building solid relationships with clients and enabling your staff to perform.

  • Managing optics – so you’re in the business and your trying to convince your prospects that you are. How do you make sure your prospects know you’re in the business? How do you put to rest any doubts? Start paving the way for engagements?
    • Start off by picking your top clients for the next 6 -12 months. Perhaps one of your Executives and the clients CIO have met to discussed business. Out of that meeting you know they are serious (wont spin wheels) have budget, are willing to give you a shot and you have a list of projects to focus on and points of contact.
    • If you haven’t taken a Target Account Selling or Holden Methods course please do so, best money you’ll spend. I have met several sales managers that simply dont get it – your not selling products. In many cases your selling the intangible – a much different sale.
    • Get your technical consultants in front of the client to kick off relationship building. Bringing layers of sales people will not work, they are not the value of your company. Yes you must engage at different levels but if they don’t see your consultants they won’t believe. The best thing you can do is get your consultants in front of the customer on a regular basis.
    • Let the consultant talk about the projects the company has delivered, their role, approach and outcomes. Even better, have them converse with the client about how the experience might help them – a two way dialogue.
    • Network with the entire team of decision makers and influencers such as executives, project managers, purchasing, architects etc.
    • Esoteric statements about # of staff and case studies won’t close a deal. They might spark interest but coming from a sales person they will not be taken too seriously. If your consultants did the work let them talk – it will help alot in building credibility. Note that past projects delivered by consultants that have left the company or live and work in a far off country won’t help much. These days clients cross reference case studies with the consultants resume.
  • Marketing your capability – the first thing your  clients will probably do is search on your company and consultants names. They will look for a Blog presence, magazine articles and public speaking engagements.
    • Get your consultants published and into public speaking engagements.  Work with publishers and blog sites.
    • If you haven’t read it, read “Marketing Your Professional Services Organization” by Dick Connor and “Professional Services Marketing” By Mike Shultz.
    • If you dont have a Knowledge Management (KM) component in your consulting practice, get one and make sure consultants and managers are metric’d on their contributions. Search my blog for KM related how to’s.
  • Thin edge of the wedge – don’t expect the multimillion dollar deals right away. You have to prove yourself. Remember that people do business with those who they trust. People also have a lot of choices and if you screw up, there is someone waiting in line to take your place.
    • Position short two week engagements to get your consultants in there working, developing relationships and demonstrating value.
    • Use that time to scope opportunities and align the proposal with key pain points and risks.
    • Keep your consultants engaged to deliver the first paid engagement so that you maintain relationships and deepen understanding of client’s needs. Aim for a $25-50k engagement. This engagement must position the next engagement. Once completed a presentation to stakeholders is done and the next engagement positioned.
    • The next engagement is up to you. For me the next engagement was $250k, then $1.5mil and then another $1 mil. For another account we invested 6 months and the first engagement was $50k, then $100k then $4.5 mil.

So you do all the above but run into trouble? Here are some warning signs that the client isn’t a good candidate for you:

  • Everything is outsourced and not to you – if everything is outsourced what can you provide? Will the venders cooperate? Risk assessments come to mind, adding new services that are not currently in place today and outsourced.
  • Technical staff is gone – so what’s left then? Managers? Again, read the above.
  • The ask for your written methodology or book of best practices – brain milking – don’t do it as they plan to do it themselves.
  • Last 3-4 projects were a flop – perhaps they are so messed up you can’t win? Some organizations are just trouble, need re-orgs to help clean them up.
  • The CIO talk didn’t happen – the talk I mentioned in the prior sections didn’t occur and therefore you have no visibility into the account. Could spin wheels for a long time – not a good thing.
  • No contacts in the account – strategic placement, get one of your ex employees in there or a friend on staff.
  • You submit a proposal and no response – they are either not interested, the project is low priority and they don’t want to deal with you.

Of course there are always exceptions to the rule. A potential client I dealt with a few years back through an RFI I thought for sure was a waste of time. We had no regional experience, weak presence there, were almost twice the price but we offered an end to end solution.

Finally, its surprising how many companies just don’t get it. They want the business but don’t want to invest (take any risk) and wonder why they don’t get consistent (or any) results.