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Over the next several thought pieces, I want to share with you what works today in selling professional services. I want to start by asking you a question. When I use the term “sales person” what image comes to mind for you?
Do you think of a slick huckster who will do or say anything to close a deal? Do you think of someone who lacks integrity and is prone to lying or at least over-promising? Do you envision someone who is not trustworthy and is maybe lacking in scruples?
This is not at all how I think of sales or of selling, especially for professional services. I believe the exact opposite is true. The best sales or business development people I’ve known over the years have very high integrity, are completely trustworthy and hold the respect and admiration of everyone around them. They are great people as well as great sellers.
These are my lessons learned from 25 years of marketing, sales and entrepreneurship. I believe success in selling starts with adopting the right mindset. Let me share with you how character and integrity are crucial to success in selling services.
WHO THIS COUNSEL IS FOR
I want to make sure I don’t waste your time. So I’d like to tell you, right up front, who this counsel is for. Over the last 25 years or so, I’ve been fortunate to serve some very successful professional service organizations. Most of these firms have realized substantial growth in new client acquisition, revenues and profits.
I’ve designed the counsel in these thought pieces on professional services sales for mid-size service firms with 15-150 staff who want to at least double their revenue. These firms have a history of success.
They’re often the best-kept-secret in their industry. Whereas in the past, they’ve been successful accidentally, they are now ready to be successful on purpose.
My counsel is for firms in a number of different professional service industries including:
- Technology consulting
- Financial services – particularly RIAs
- CPA and accounting
- Law firms
- Business consulting
- Management consulting
The ideas I’m about to share are for people who bear sales or business development responsibilities. This might be someone who wants to improve their sales capabilities or someone who is new to business development and service sales. It could also be someone who’s transitioning from a technical role to business development.
The counsel I’ll provide is applicable to nearly any type of service sale. I see very different types of sales engagements, depending on the business model of the organization. For instance, some of our clients only sell in a B2B context, where they are selling services, often managed services, to another business. Other clients engage in what I call the B2HEC sale – the high-end consumer.
This requires a bit of distinction from the start. The B2B sale can be very complex and multi-phased, lasting up to a year or more. The deals are large. This sale usually involves a committee of decision-makers whose concerns have to be addressed in full to win the deal. The B2HEC sale can be much shorter, sometimes resulting in a close in just a single meeting.
So as you progress through what I’m about to share with you, please use what is applicable to your type of sales engagements. Because the B2B sale is often complex, I will share a lot of insights to accelerate your success in this area.
IN THE TRIPLE WIN, THE CLIENT WINS, THE SALES PERSON WINS AND THE DELIVERY TEAM WINS.
THE TRIPLE WIN
I want to introduce in this thought piece the concept of a triple win. This is the sales mindset that I encourage you to adopt. It goes like this. In the triple win, the client wins, the sales person wins and the delivery team wins.
That’s the triple win and it is a direct counterpoint to the lose-win-lose sales mindset that is prevalent today in so many service firms. Let me explain.
In the triple win, the client wins because they are deeply satisfied by a sales process that anticipates their needs from the start. The sales person listens to them carefully, pushes back on ideas that are inappropriate and guides the client toward a service package that is ideal for their goals and budget.
The sales person wins in this model because they have a very high close rate, often a 100% close-rate. They are a hero in their organization and hold the respect of people around them, especially people on the delivery team. The sales person sleeps well at night, knowing that they did the right thing by the client.
In the triple win, the delivery team is delighted to begin serving a new client because the sales person did such a good job on-boarding the client. The business ultimately wins because the client is happy, stays long-term, pays their bills on time and then refers other great clients. These are the benefits of the triple win.
In the lose-win-lose model, by comparison, the client loses, the sales person wins and the delivery team and the business also lose. In this model, the sales person did whatever it took to close a deal and then threw the client over a wall to the delivery team who often has no insight into promises made to the client through the sales process. I’ve known way too many service organizations who employ this sales model. It is a formula for failure.
Here is my thesis to you. If you adopt the win-win-win mindset, your career, your personal compensation and your sense of integrity will all flourish. You will love who you are and what you do. You will like who you see in the mirror.
You will live by a moral code that was around long before you came to be on planet Earth and will be around long after you leave planet Earth. You will be proud of your work and of the way you’ve treated your clients. This is the power of the triple win.
IF YOU ADOPT THE WIN-WIN-WIN MINDSET, YOUR CAREER, INCOME AND INTEGRITY WILL FLOURISH.
HOW TO ADOPT THE TRIPLE WIN MINDSET
The triple win requires you to re-think what it means to sell. In this model, your role is to help clients acquire the best service package for their needs and to ensure that the delivery team can deliver in full against the promises you make.
Here are the outcomes that I consistently see when people adopt the triple win. These people:
1. Drive revenue for their firm and exceed their quota (if they have one)
2. Produce happy long-term clients who refer them and their firm
3. Deliver a great experience through the sales process that makes prospects say wow
4. Set expectations about how the client will be served long-term
5. Produce a deal that the delivery team can seamlessly deliver against
In the triple win mindset, the goal is not to close a deal. The goal is to discover if there is a fit between what the prospect needs and what you do. Think of this like an exploratory journey where you are seeing if you can work together.
This can be really hard when you have business development responsibilities or carry a quota. I get that. But if you take shortcuts and try to push deals forward that you know are not a good fit, this will only hurt your career, your sense of integrity and your company.
A METAPHOR FOR HOW TO SELL PROFESSIONAL SERVICES TODAY
Here is how I think of professional services sales today. This is like a ship passing through a set of locks, like the Panama Canal, to go from a lower body of water to a higher body of water. As the ship passes through the gates, water enters the lock so a ship can gently and steadily rise from a lower to a higher body of water.
Professional services sales is simply about getting a series of gates to fall open so you can proceed toward the end-goal, serving the client very well. In professional service sales, you will likely encounter a series of steps, not a single event, unless you deploy the B2HEC sale. I think of these steps as a sales campaign. In each phase of the campaign, your job is to fill the client with confidence that moving ahead with your firm is in their best interest.
However, it is equally as important to pause forward movement if the prospect is not ready or even to abandon forward movement if the prospect does not fit the ideal client profile. I’ll explain more about these two concepts in a future thought piece.
Be on the lookout for my thought piece where I’ll describe how to align the three teams who are crucial to this process: marketing, sales and delivery. Until then, I’m wishing you the very best of success.
[Part 2 is published here:]
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