The professional services challenge
If you are a management consultant, venture capitalist, lawyer, accountant, IT firm, executive coach or any other service professional, you face the same challenge: How do you balance execution and client acquisition?
And, if you’re good at what you do, you in all likelihood are a better practitioner than salesperson. It’s the love of your craft that got you into the business, not your love for sales. How are you supposed to build a relationship business with cold-calling techniques? There has to be a better way!
The initial dead end
We recently worked with an executive coach who was having challenges in scaling his practice. His clients love him, but direct referrals alone couldn’t grow his business quickly enough.
The coach – I’ll call him Jim – spoke with Prialto about having us call target lists he was generating from his professional networks, but we advised him that the approach he’d outlined would not work. Three months later Jim came back to us: “Eric,” he said, I have a very professional productivity assistant (“PA”). She’s great. But I’ve NOT gotten one meeting arranged by her in three months. This is not working for me, and I need to change something.”
The problem wasn’t that cold calls don’t work, but that the premise for the calls was wrong. Jim’s PA was essentially making “cold calls” to strangers, and asking them to meet and talk with Jim about his practice. While nicely worded, it was clear to these strangers that Jim would be coming to talk about himself and to pitch work.
Unsurprisingly, they had no interest. To cap it off, Jim himself didn’t enjoy direct selling.
From a chore to a passionate calling
We advised Jim to find something that he enjoyed in his work and focus his meetings and outreach around this instead. Jim had a passion for the problems that executives face and the more he learned about them the more valuable he became to his larger customer base.
Jim started a simple blog about these issues. His first postings were based on his, current clients. With their permission, he took a few thorny subjects he had helped clients on, scrubbed the personal information, and wrote about them in a clean direct format.
His PA then began calling the same list that had been ignoring Jim’s meeting requests and asking if Jim could interview them for his blog. Jim, the PA explained, wanted to hear about one key challenge and what they’d done to overcome them.
A constant flow of meetings
Literally within days of this tactical change, Jim was getting receptive meetings with people in his target market. Most importantly, the meetings were enjoyable for both parties. Jim got to learn about a subject he found intrinsically interesting, up –close executive issues. The people he met with got to talk about almost everyone’s favorite subject: Themselves.
These first couple of meetings, turned into a constant and predictable flow of appointments. Over several months, several of the executives that Jim interviewed asked more about what he did when he was not interviewing for and writing his blog. And a few of these curious executives became clients.
What’s critical is that this was no ruse. Jim was not pretending to want to interview these folks. Jim truly enjoyed the subject. He was passionate about it and this came through.
By being genuinely interested in these executives, they became interested in working with him.