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  • Writer's pictureJoel Alpert

Subtext Sales Secrets To Winning New Business For Consultants, from Jim Weber

Breakfast meetings can be a wake-up call, especially when the presenter and attendees are experienced and masterful at their crafts. When Jim Weber of ITB Partners presented his perspective on selling consulting services, even the most experienced among us sat up and took notice. (This post combines Jim Weber’s presentation, and with his endorsement, some framing with my own perspective.)

Anyone who is a good consultant wants to do a good job, and differentiate their services for their prospects and clients… that’s natural. Sometimes, however, we can miss the point — which is making the connection to our client, and understanding their world fully, through their eyes.

We sometimes miss some of the subtext of the business or sales conversation

hich may be about the client’s unstated needs. So good consultants must be connected to their client. They must value the client interests. And the context of selling consulting services must be reframed to focus on the client’s interests.

And it must be framed within the context of coordinating the thinking and efforts of sales and marketing teams. (Okay, there, I said it! And one of my own biggest victories was by doing just that... I can tell you about it.)

There’s also an additional bit of healthy schizophrenia involved — while you must understand the client need, you must also ensure that your own consultant’s assessment adds up.

Here’s the link to the original video, as Jim Weber presents Selling Consulting Services:

Here are some takeaways from that talk on sales secrets

Inside Your Prospects Head

At just about any company, the person hiring you will want to know two essential questions — “Do You Understand My Problem?” and “Will You Make Me Look Good?” If you can’t get past these questions, all the great work you might do… might not happen. Other key questions will likely include “Can You Work Within Our Culture?” While the culture may be cool, calm, and collected…or mad as a March hare, most clients expect No Drama.

You Are In Front of Viable Prospect

A key step in developing the plan is making sure there can be a plan. Is the prospect qualified? Are they just fishing around, or do they have a defined need? Are they looking to you to define this need? Do they have a budget available to pay for the project?

To understand and frame your client’s expectations you can ask: “What’s important around here?” This will help you determine if they are looking for a certain type of program response, or profitability, other KPIs or “soft” goals.

Sizing Up The Project And Expectations

Asking the right questions here may make the difference. You may ask “What have you done” in regard to the project, and this will offer insights into the client’s approach, plus success or failure at that endeavor.

And you will want to know “how” they executed the project — “How did you execute that?” will also tell a lot. The consultant can check out expectations by asking a question such as “If we found new ways of thinking through this issue, would you be open to that?”

Your Goal – Close The Deal!

When discerning the client’s needs, and their framing of it, you’ll want to Validate The Client’s Diagnosis. This step is key for producing later success.

You’ll also want to understand the company culture, and how your work and style fits into it. Then, essentially, you will be validating your fit for the work.

The Presumptive Close

I presume there are all kinds of “presumptive close” styles, but part of the subtext of the selling conversation will be to continue building the relationship. You’ll want to demonstrate what it’s like to work with you, and your Closing Strategy conversations are the beginning of your work.

How To Scare Off Your Prospect

Sometimes we can scare off the prospect by identifying all their landmines. And we suggest solutions. I take this one personally, I do it often — my rationale, likely yours, too — is to help the client, direct the conversation, and to provide value even in that initial selling process.

While those insights might be correct, the client just wanted to solve a particular problem. Other times, in the spirit of being a hero and showing how much we know, we can come up with a premature diagnosis – which is not fully informed, and off-target. We can also be too surgical in our technical techniques and conversation — even if it’s right, it just doesn’t build rapport.

A Successful Sales Close

While a consultant needs to map the terrain, and understand where the client is at, if all the questions asked serve the consultant… then you might as well hire yourself. Jim reports that some consultants were “dying” when they focused on the mechanics of their job. But-but-but when they switched to issues that were important to the prospect… they arose like Pegasus. That’s a way better end result!

Another interesting bit of perspective from the meeting and discussion, regarding agenda and expectations, was the insight to “assume the worst going in” to a meeting. That doesn’t mean being a pessimist, it means that we live in a fast-paced world, and everyone may not be prepared for the meeting, or you might not expect the unexpected — so you may need to set expectations and guide the agenda.

Jim’s presentation had us focus on being connected. Valuing the prospects interests. Playing their role. Not just understanding what they say they want, and selling the value of your services… but absolutely ensuring we meet their interests. Sounds good to me!

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Would you like to see the narrated .ppt presentation? Here’s the link, as Jim Weber presents Selling Consulting Services:

Joel Alpert of MarketPower is a branding and marketing consultant who has developed branding, strategic thinking, direct marketing and more, for Fortune 500... SMB... and one person consultancies, in just about every conceivable category of business.

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