In case you missed last week: Are you prepared to blow up your practice? Maybe a bit of hyperbole. But we get consumed by putting out today’s fires. We must take time to be forward-looking (like the cost of capital!) and prepare for the time when the past is not a proxy for the future. I think we are coming up on such a period of time in our industry.
On to this week: If you are looking for a better perspective to understand how clients buy our professional services – particularly if you are hoping to improve the odds of making that happen for your services – you must read How Clients Buy by Tom McMakin and Doug Fletcher (John Wiley & Sons, © 2018, 262 pp.).
And if you’re new here, welcome aboard. This is what we do!
I hope y’all have a great Thanksgiving Day weekend!
The book is for …
How Clients Buy is intended for professional service providers (like us!). Each chapter starts with a background story that illustrates how someone in the professional services field faced and overcame the most common challenges and obstacles when selling services (like ours!).
The authors then dissect those challenges and obstacles and present a variety of practical solutions for professional service providers based on their real-world experience in networking, scoping projects, delivering successful outcomes, wooing prospects, writing articles, public speaking, and relentlessly following up (all things that we do!).
The principal message is …
The principal message of the book can be summed up as follows: We do not sell professional services to clients … clients buy professional services from us. And we should not lose sight of that distinction. Thus, we need to support and encourage clients on their path to discovering us.
About that path …
The authors lay out a seven-step sequential process – they call it a “buying decision journey” – that prospective clients move through when deciding to hire professionals like us:
- They become or are aware of our existence.
- They understand what we do and how we are unique.
- They develop an interest in us or our firm.
- They respect our work and have confidence that we can help them.
- They trust that we have their best interests at heart.
- They have the ability to hire us and can corral the money to pay us.
- They are ready to hire us.
A key insight is that the most successful professional service providers don’t “sell.” Rather, they leverage their knowledge in the ways of how and why clients buy and position themselves in front of clients for the time when they are ready to buy.
The seven steps are a diagnostic tool …
The old school of selling goes like this: If I could only prospect better, pitch better, negotiate better, and close better, I would win more business. But that’s not how professional services are sold – clients hire us when they need our services, not when we need their business.
So, if we are not converting prospects into clients as well as we would like, knowing the buying decision journey allows us to focus on the steps we are skipping and the questions we need to ask so we can improve. For example:
- Aware – How do we ensure that prospects know we exist?
- Understand – How do we best explain our specialty?
- Interest – How do we connect what we do with client priorities and goals?
- Respect – How do we assure clients that we can do what we say we can do?
- Trust – How do we build a relationship characterized by trust?
- Ability – How do we help clients build a case for hiring us?
- Ready – How can we make sure we are there when they need us?
Other useful ideas …
Here are the top tips recommended by accomplished professional service providers for someone trying to build their practice:
- Do great work … because you are the product.
- Be your own chief revenue officer … no matter how big your firm, build your own practice and develop your own client base.
- Build your network … the more people you know the more opportunities you’ll have for building respect and trust. Still, it’s the quality of relationships that make the difference.
- Develop your own style … don’t try to be someone you are not.
- Dedicate time (ideally, every day) for practice development … and have a disciplined approach that incorporates tactics you are good at and enjoy doing.
- Be persistent and positive in the face of all of the potential “No’s” … have someone you can talk to who will continue to encourage you to keep trying.
- Don’t call it selling … instead commit yourself to the idea that your job is to identify a community of clients to which you would like to be of service and then do everything you can to help connect those in that community with warm introductions, smart articles, and peer meetings.
The most valuable thing for me was …
As a BVFLS practitioner and a practice development coach for BVFLS practitioners, How Clients Buy made a lot of sense to me. Why?
First, the authors make a fundamental observation that I’ve been saying for years: We are not taught how to sell the work we do. You know it’s true … I know it’s true. And my feeling was validated.
Second, selling a service is different more difficult than selling a product. And being an expert about something (e.g., a specific BVFLS service) is not enough – we must figure out a way to build a bridge from our expertise to the clients it can help.
Third, I could identify with the predications and trepidations inherent in all seven steps of the client’s buying decision journey because that’s what I feel when I have to hire a professional service provider.
Closing thought …
This book is a great read and a must read. It will give you a set of best practices that will help you build your practice or advance in the practice that employs you.
However, there is a difference between information and implementation. How Clients Buy will give you plenty of information (best practices), but nothing will change until you implement.
And I can help with that!
– If you like what I write about, tell a colleague.
– If something resonates and you want to reach out directly, email me.
– If you think we share common interests, connect with me on LinkedIn.
– If you want a sense of how well your practice is working for you, take this Practice Self Assessment.