Professional Service Firms

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

DELIVERY OF PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

  • General Principles
  • Responsible Ethics
  • Basic Fundamentals

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS: UNDERSTANDING THE CLIENT’S NEEDS

  • Listening to the Client
  • Listen for Positioning
  • Questions Finding Facts

OFFERING EXPENDED SERVICES

  • When You Don’t Have the Resources
  • Using Process-Orientation
  • Talent and Skills Assessment
  • Marketing Checklist
  • Recognizing Market Opportunities

FEARS AND CONCERNS OF CLIENTS

  • Reducing Client Contracting Anxieties

EDUCATING THE CLIENTS

  • Consultative Selling
  • Controlling the Presentation
  • Making the Sale
  • Body Language

PROFESSIONAL SERVICE PRICING AGREEMENTS

  • Formal Pricing
  • Forms of Pricing Contracts
  • Daily rate
  • Time and Materials
  • Cost Reimbursement Contracts
  • Retainers

INTRODUCTION

As a professional service provider, you are a part of one of the most challenging business industries in the American economy.  This publication will guide you through developing and maintaining a stronger professional service practice.

Most professional service firms are highly competent in solving their client’s technical problems, but many, if not most, need guidance in marketing to win over prospective clients.  More than often it is the lack of successful marketing that is responsible for the failures of professional service firms.

Here we will review the major steps of finding someone who may need your services, possibly want your services, and is most qualified to buy your services.  Our discussion defines a prospective client as anyone or any organization who you might reasonably expect to use or buy your respective services.

The Table of Contents shows where we have separated our review in three areas of marketing.  The first phase, Prospecting is often viewed as the most difficult phase of the selling process.  Secondly, following up is not difficult, but most important.  Responding in an appropriate time frame and manner will lead to a successful last marketing phase.  The final marketing phase is the Closing. This can only occur when the follow-up is fully satisfied to promote a good sale.  And as a bonus, we offer in the summary section an abbreviated definition listing of government contracting terms.

As a professional service firm you have to look to the future, anticipate changes in your market and areas of specialization, and predict new trends. Knowing how to recognize market opportunity demonstrates how to assess future directions and take advantage of those identified opportunities.

Success in offering professional services calls for more than just expertise in your chosen field. To be successful, you must be able to build a strong reputation, publicize your abilities, have prospective clients see the need for your services, and handle contracts.  Most of all, you have to be willing to work for your fee by rendering a valued service.  However, just getting a contract, irrespective of its size, will not guarantee continued success.  Whole success results from delivering consistent and effective ethics and communications to your clients and employees.

From this abbreviated guide, you will comprehend the broad scope and direct relevance to the world of marketing professional services.  We believe you will find our presentation especially useful if you perform management advisory and consulting services.  To make the best use of this guide use it as your workbook to make prospecting, following-up and closing your sales a breeze.  Make notes and use them to develop your written response to prospective clients.

DELIVERY OF PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

 This section includes information on:

  • General Principles
  • Responsible Ethics
  • Basic Fundamentals

Successful professional service firms consistently apply two general principles within all engagements:

l. Truly understand what the client is buying from you, the professional service provider.

ll. Represent yourself to prospective clients correctly and ethically.

Every professional service firm benefits from practicing a sound code of ethics. The willingness of large organizations to secure the support of professional services has developed over the years as a result of obedience to these general concepts and principles.  Each professional service provider has a responsibility to himself or herself, and to the overall professional service industry, to live by the highest standard of ethics and to encourage others to do the same.

RESPONSIBLE ETHICS

Codes of conduct for professional services represent the attitudes, principles, and approaches.  We suggest you include these basic responsibilities to reach an equitable and satisfactory client-provider relationships;

Basic Responsibilities – for professional services cover integrity and objectivity, independence and confidential information.  No matter how competent a professional service firm may be, its improvement recommendations will be of little value if there is a lack of independence.

Integrity and Objectivity

a.) Do not knowingly misrepresent facts & never subordinate judgment to others.

b.) Place the interests of your client ahead of your personal interests and serve that Client with integrity.

c.) lnform the Client of any special relationships, circumstances, or interests that might influence judgment or impair objectivity.

d.) Do not assume the role of management or take any positions that might impair objectivity.

Independence

a.) Take an independent position with the Client, making certain that advice to a Client is based on impartial consideration of all pertinent facts and responsible opinions.

b.) Do not serve an enterprise without independence, accompanied with respect to the client.

c) Do not serve a Client under terms or conditions that might impair objectivity, independence, or integrity. Reserve the right to withdraw, if conditions develop that interfere with the successful conduct of the assignment.

d.) Do not serve two or more competing clients in areas of vital interest without informing each Client.

Confidential Information

a.) Guard as confidential all information concerning the affairs of a client that is gathered during the course of a professional assignment.

b.) Do not take advantage of material or inside information resulting from a professional relationship with a client.

c.) Do not disclose any confidential information obtained in the course of a professional engagement except with the client’s consent.

BASIC FUNDAMENTALS

  • In spite of what your client may tell you, there’s always a problem.
  • No matter how it looks at first, it’s always a people problem.
  • Never forget they are paying you for the process, not the solution.

1. In spite of what your client may tell you. there’s always a problem.

Logic and culture do not match.
The organization’s business culture does not allow clients (managers) to admit, in public, there is a problem that they cannot handle.

Your role is to allow your prospective client to share their problem (project) in private.  Remember to maintain a comfort level by emphasizing you will add improvement but not too much improvement.  Consider that about 10% improvement is acceptable by most managers.  Any improvement over 10% is best credited to the manager. [See the Educating the Client section]

2. No matter how it looks at first, it’s always a people problem.

Technical problem.
Managers cannot admit to managerial problems within their area of responsibility.  People [workers] close to the problem tend to keep repeating the same thing, that’s why professional service firms must advise something different to the process. [See the Offering Expanded Services section]

3. Never forget they are paying you for the process, not solely a solution.

Providing professional services is a paramount process and not necessarily a professional solution.  This does not mean that you milk the client for billable hours.  It means that you work for improvement of the stated mission and mutual understanding of the organization’s needs.

DELIVERING PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

  • Ethical conduct requires that you not misrepresent facts and never subordinate judgment to others.
  • Professional ethics requires that you accept only those engagements which are felt to be beneficial to the client.

Here are the major attributes that have a bearing whole success in the field of professional services:

  • Understanding of people (human relations): the ability to anticipate human reactions to differing situations.
  • Integrity: moral and ethical soundness — fairness and equity”
  • Courage: the strength of mind to encounter disagreement, difficulties, obstructions with spirit and determination to consider them as challenges.
  • Objectivity: the ability to group and represent facts, unbiased by prejudice.
  • Ambition: the desire and motivation to earn full recognition for the attainment of professional status.
  • Problem-solving ability: the degree of mental organization and development that enables one to absorb and relate facts in a logical and orderly fashion.
  • Judgment: the ability and reasoning power to arrive at a wise decision or course of action.
  • Communication: the ability to use both written and verbal skills to convey ideas to others.
  • Psychological maturity: the ability to live life — with its frustrations, adversities and inequities.

EFFECTTVE COMMUNICATION: UNDERSTANDING THE CLIENT’S NEEDS

  • Listening
  • Positioning
  • Questioning

LISTENING TO THE CLIENT

Proficient listening is probably questioning one of the hardest disciplines v to master, but the most important piece of good communication. Effective personal communication is knowing when to talk and knowing when to listen.  You have to know what you are listening for and how it can help you best get new business from clients.

LISTEN FOR POSITIONING

Listening promotes ideas on how to best position your service in the client’s mind.  While listening, look for emotions behind the words–often what a prospective client feels has more impact on the buying decision than what he/she says.

That is why it is particularly smart to pay close attention to the FIRST FIVE MINUTES spent with the client.  Clients always know how to solve their problems, and commonly tell the solution in the first five minutes.  During the listening phase you will receive a flood of facts, but the first five minutes contain the purpose and objective.

To improve your listening abilities try and use the following three listening commandments:

  1. context
  2. content
  3. recall

1.) Listen for context – when conversing with a client use their company environment as the background setting so that any questions stand out prominently. ln other words, you need to contrast information being communicated to you against the particulars of the prospective client’s environment, such as service goals.  This will help train your ear to recognize problems when you hear them.

  • Be objective – Let the client state their program without judgment.  Do not let their delivery affect your views.  Pay attention and don’t interrupt.

2.) Listen for Content – that includes suggestions from clients on the delivery of products and services.  The content will offer the big picture of the client’s expectations.  Do not expect to recall every detail of information.  Stay tuned into context and content, then you can identify similarities and patterns.

  • Listen to the little things – The little bits of information that clients quickly impart to average professional service representatives seem to slip away just as swiftly, but they are the basis of effective listening.  When you start to piece together the bits of information, they start to build a bigger picture that provides you with the whole message.

3.) Listen for Recall – as this is the act of checking your own observations and homework about the client’s environment.  The verbal suggestions volunteered by the client is the foundation for your verbal agreement.  If your observations match those of your prospects, it is time to enact a strategy designed to answer any questions or carry out your plan.

  • Communication Clash – although rare, sometime your observations concerning the context of the environment may not match the specific information imparted by the client.  If so then you have a clash that needs resolution.  You may need to go back and ask more questions. Try to match the little things to make up the foundation for the big picture.

QUESTIONS FOR FINDING FACTS

Questions obtain the information you need to gain access and how to best position your services in the client’s mind.  With the right questions you can qualify your prospective client about their likelihood, ability and authority level for buying your services.

ln gathering facts let the client do most of the talking, because the less you talk, the more you can learn about the prospect’s needs.  When seeking information (power) from clients let this happen as often as possible.  Keep questions simple and not too detailed.  If you interrogate people, you may offend them.  Moreover, your questions may lead them in directions that they deem unimportant, while steering them around or away from what they think is important.

Questions keep the prospect actively involved.  Through thoughtful questioning, you can get a feeling for the client’s personal style, so that you can interact with him/her accordingly.  Questions will make clients feel significant in your selling process and will ensure that they pay attention and

To get to the facts you believe to be important to your marketing efforts, you will use one or a combination of these four types of questions.

  1. General Questions – These are questions designed to get a client to open and discuss their general goals, circumstances and problems.
  2. Specific Questions – These questions obtain concrete, specific information about situations attitudes and needs.
  3. Probing Questions – These questions uncover deep problems, wants & feelings.  They pinpoint critical issues, some of which the customer may not even be aware of.
  4. Leading Questions – These questions will focus the client’s perceptions of wants, help the client articulate them, and prompt the client to make choices.  Leading questions (as feedback) also can verify your understanding of their needs. follow your thought process at the appropriate time.

During the questioning and fact finding portion of your client interview, structure your questions correctly.

  • Use general open-ended question-beginners of who, what, when, where, why and how.  Avoid asking close-ended question such as:

“Have you heard about our service?”

You can stimulate a more informative response with a general open-ended beginner question like;
“What have you heard about our product?”

  • Use caution in asking leading questions. A question like;

Why do you think this equipment is good?”

Might set you up for an incomplete answer,  The prospect might feel cornered and only describe the negative points about the equipment. Try an open-ended question instead, such as;

“What do you think about the equipment?”

Be as objective in your questioning as you expect them to be in their evaluation of your company’s service.

  • Use short sentence structure for your questions.  Long questions can confuse prospective clients.  A question like this will not get the desired results;

“ln order for me to get a complete understanding of your needs and problems, could you describe the various reasons that prompted you to decide the course of action you agreed taking to overcome your obstacles?”

Simply try;

“How did you solve your problem?”

Just remember that clients do not buy because your service is good; they buy because your services are good for them.  Prospects always want to know how they’ll benefit (improve) from a service.  They want to be sure that the benefits they receive will outweigh the price they must pay.  Questions help you understand how the client wants to buy and benefit from the purchase of your services.

SUMMARY ON EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS

  • Make yoursetf invaluable by understanding your prospect’s business.
  • Prior to your prospective client interview, research your prospects’ environment to figure out the areas of motivation that you can help them improve.
  • Ask objective and easy to answer questions.
  • To find facts ask questions always ask questions that encourage elaboration and do not manipulate your prospective client.
  • Win your prospective client over by getting them to talk through the open-ended questions, i.e. ;

What is your prospect doing now?
How can you help them improve?
What is your prospect’s limiting factors?
What are your prospect’s missed opportunities?
Where is the troubling or most challenging area for your prospect?

  • Move from “How can I sell you?” to “How can I help you?
  • Adopt an attitude of receptivity.
  • Listen and read to how your prospect wants to proceed.

PROFESSIONALS WHO TELL INSTEAD OF CONSULTATIVE SELL, WILL FIND THEIR PROSPECTIVE CLIENT’S MIND TENDING TO WANDER.

OFFERING EXPANDED SERVTCES

This section includes information on:

  • Adding Resources
  • Process-oriented Approach
  • Assessing Talents & Skills
  • Identifying Market Opportunities

WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE THE RESOURCES

 Professional service firms sometime have to pass up good opportunities because they don’t have the resources to properly execute the assignment. Perhaps they don’t have the right equipment, the staff, or the necessary facilities.  If a project is actually beyond your capabilities, you can hurt your reputation by taking it on and botching the job.  Some projects are so big that they require a large team of professional service companies.  If you can’t manage or assemble such a team, perhaps you can recommend a leader and work as a team member.  Other projects may call for skills you don’t have.  You can suggest another company who can handle the job or you can team with one and add to the skills you have.

In general, don’t let an opportunity go by for the lack of resources.  These days, you can usually get any kind of business service on a short-term basis at very favorable rates.  Don’t give up related projects because you lack the resources to do the job effectively.  Go out and team, align, assign, manage or rent whatever you need!

USING PROCESS-ORINETATION

Some professional service firms limit their opportunities for success by being only task-oriented rather than process-oriented.  Task- oriented professionals seek out professional service opportunities that are almost identical to tasks that they carried out working for their last employer. Because we all have many potential and realized talents, concentrating on a limited range of tasks can severely limit our opportunities for growth and offering of expanded services.

Process-oriented professional service firms take a much broader view of the marketplace. Instead of looking at their past organizational achievements, they consider all their skills in determining how they can best meet the needs of their clients.  They seek opportunities to apply their skills in whatever ways are valuable to their clients.

Being process-oriented rather than task-oriented requires looking beyond the knowledge and skills you learned in a class or from a book.  The skills that make a difference in delivering professional services often come easily and naturally and may have been evident even in childhood. Process-oriented professionals offer the ability to negotiate, build a consensus, analyze a problem, handle many variables simultaneously, and a variety of other skills that may have nothing to do with formal book learning or training.

Process-oriented professionals are not unreasonably concerned with the specific nature of the task or with the working environment.  They can be comfortable in a factory, a laboratory, or an office, depending on what the job calls for.  Process-oriented professionals are not limited by their past experience.  Indeed, their past experiences serve as a springboard for new opportunities.  Although they may seem to be different specialists to their many different clients, they are actually generalists who are applying a wide variety of skills in meeting each client’s needs.

Just because you are bringing your talent into a new organization, you should not feel hesitant about representing yourself as an authority. As a process-oriented professional you are applying your particular expertise to new problem areas that often call for unfamiliar technology. indeed, the application of technology or knowledge to a new situation is a strong and highly respected talent.

You may represent yourself as problem solver or as someone who produces accomplishments.  In either case, you are bringing two factors to bear on the client’s need: a body of knowledge and your personnel’s ability to apply that knowledge.

The client has neither that knowledge nor that talent.  Uncovering opportunities requires broadening and expanding the range of your services.  A process-oriented approach enables you to offer your companies’ skill and service markets that are less crowded and competitive.

Another distinct advantage to being process-oriented lies in its diversity.  When you are narrowly task-oriented, all of your potential clients tend to be more or less competitive with one another.  Therefore allowing a client to tie you up can withhold your firm from the market.  This makes building a practice more difficult.  Process- oriented professional service firms normally have clients from many different industries or markets. A client’s desire to prevent the professional from serving direct competitors has little or no effect if the practice is process-oriented.

Some professionals have reservations about being process-oriented.  They feel they might be seen as “false prophets” and unmasked by potential clients.  Just remember, managers have the information about most subT’ecfg but do not have the ability [talent] or resources to generate accomplishments or solve problems. your talent is the ingredient that produces results.  Talent for result- producing capability, coupled with hard data, is the marketable service your client wants to buy.

Process-oriented Support – includes some common areas within most organizations where professional services lend themselves to a process-orientation approach.

Administration: office design and planning office management office procedures scheduling data management company communications

Finance and Purchasing: accounting cost control financial planning taxes collection purchasing capital expenditures & investment cost accounting

Plant Operation: plant location, design & management warehouse utilization inventory management production planning quality control shipping and distribution automation and robotics

Human Relations: labor relations wage and salary structure management development attitude surveys training programs health and safety

Management: planning organizational structure strategic business planning feasibility studies management audits public relations business surveys feasibility studies

Marketing: market strategy marketing audits product research & pricing sales forecasting sales training direct mail advertising

We offer the preceding process oriented approach solely as a wake-up call to explore the full potential of marketing opportunities.  Naturally, professional services can approach each type of problem situation offering a blend of approaches, modifying each approach to suit the needs of the engagement.  Options are unlimited, particularly professional service firms may employ a Generalist; Specialist; Content- oriented; Diagnostic; Customized or Packaged-oriented; as well as Process-oriented approach to service their respective client’s needs.

TALENT AND SKILLS ASSESSMENT

One of the first steps in being able to offer expanded services is to match your professional service firm’s skills with an area of need that will benefit the client’s environment.  Your knowledge and skill may come from many different sources — formal education, on the-job training, practical experience, field research, interviews, self-study, and so on.  As long as you have the necessary information to fulfill the client’s need, any of those methods is perfectly acceptable.

To make you more effective in expanding your service capabilities, you must know your talents.  Talents, unlike skills, are not acquired. lnstead, they seem to be with a person from birth.  Talents are natural endowments and involve special abilities or creativity.

Prospective clients have to made aware of your talent to see it as a need.  Because, an unrecognized need is the same as no need.  Some professional services are needed, demanded, and understood even before professional firms are available in the market to deliver such services. lt is far easier to sell your services when the prospective client recognizes the need for them and values them.

Your competitors can learn your skills and can acquire your knowledge, but unless they also have your talents, they cannot compete with you effectively in the marketplace.

Given your skills and talents, you now need to expand your marketing approach with the type of activity you are prepared to perform.  The following is only a fragment of the activities professional service firms perform.

Research:

  • find suppliers
  • find target markets for ideas or products
  • find talent and experts
  • find commercial possibilities for abstract ideas or concepts
  • assess the public mood
  • assess political realities
  • trace problems, ideas, etc., to their source

Analyze:

  • classify data
  • perceive and define cause-and- effect relationships

Synthesize:

  • summarize
  • assess people’s needs
  • extract the essence from large quantities of data

Invent:

  • design educational events
  • improve on others’ ideas
  • update others’ ideas
  • adapt others’ ideas

Communicate:

  • arbitrate disputes
  • negotiate agreements
  • terminate people/projects/processes
  • translate jargon
  • help others express their views
  • help others clarify their goals and values
  • handle difficult people

Predict:

  • plan financial matters
  • predict obsolescence

Recommend:

  • recommend experts
  • recommend suppliers
  • allocate scarce resources

Motivate:

  • sell an idea, program, or course of action to decision makers
  • raise money for nonprofit institutions
  • raise money for business ventures
  • recruit leadership
  • direct creative talent

Evaluate:

  • create commercial possibilities for
  • appraise monetary value abstract ideas or concepts
  • judge people,s effectiveness
  • identify and assess other’s potential
  • analyze communication situations

Marketable Talents of Professional Service firms.

General

  • quickly & easily perceiving & defining cause & effect relationships
  • creating order out of masses of information

Data Handling

  • ordered, systematic manipulation of data
  • classification of data
  • mathematical ability

Management

  • attracting talent or leadership to your firm
  • getting diverse groups to work together
  • directing creative talent
  • building teams

Human Resources

  • alertness in observing human behavior
  • developing rapport and trust
  • bargaining
  • diplomacy
  • confronting others with touchy or difficult personal matters
  • judging people’s effectiveness and/or potential
  • bringing out the creativity in others

Communication

  • public speaking
  • writing
  • thinking quickly on your feet
  • explaining difficult concepts
  • inventing illustrations for principles or ideas
  • hearing and answering questions perceptively

 

MARKETING CHECKLIST

Present Clients

  • Have key clients been identified?
  • Have client retention plans been developed?
  • Has client service planning for expansion of services to key clients been undertaken?
  • Has information about clients been communicated across departments?
  • Have client-centered communications been devised and implemented?
  • Have client-centered communications been developed and implemented?
  • Have present client referrals to potential clients been sought & pursued?
  • Have the causes for losing clients been determined and corrected?

Third Party Referral Sources

  • Have alumni, client alumni, attorneys, bankers, & other key referral source contacts been identified?
  • Has information for establishing, maintaining, & enhancing relationships been implemented?
  • Have all members of the firm been encouraged to participate?

Public Relations / Promotions

  • Have key civic organizations, social groups, & trade associations been identified?
  • Have participation in groups & activities been planned, implemented, & evaluated?
  • Have leadership roles in key organizations been pursued?
  • Have opportunities for speeches and articles been targeted and pursued?
  • Have contacts with the local press been made?

Potential Client

  • Has an ideal potential client profile been defined?
  • Have potential clients been identified and prioritized?
  • Have specific programs for strengthening relationships and “positioning” been implemented?
  • Has the responsibility for maintaining contact and monitoring progress been assigned?
  • Have timely, client-centered proposals been developed?

lssue That Creates the Opportunity

High costs of energy & need to use computers in building design

Cash flow problems resulting from economic downturn

Changes in bankruptcy law & need for creditor relations & financial planning

need to increase motivation & morale of sales staff

Job stress related to air traffic control management

A shift to mobile homes as real estate prices soar

Federal tight credit policy creating need for cash management

Growing interest in buying condominiums to get office space

Need for understanding culture & business practices of foreign countries

Finding defective products & dealing with customers & public relations

Defending or improving children’s  TV programs

Group That ls Affected

Lobbyists & small businesses

 

Small Businesses

Candidates for personal bankruptcy

 

Companies having problems with sales

Air traffic controllers and the FAA

Builders and building managers

Middle-class families looking for housing

Small firms

 

Professionals and small businesses

Firms doing business in other countries

Companies needing to recall products

Corporations sponsoring children’s TV programs

SUMMARY TO OFFERING EXPANDED SERVICES

  • Take advantage of listing your professional service capabilities in multiple North American Industry Classification System or NAICS codes.
  • Network and develop relationships with organizations that may add value in a strategic teaming alliance for responding to broader opportunities.
  • Don’t limit the focus of your market opportunities to the specific projects and work previously completed by your organization—apply a process-oriented approach.
  • Continually research other markets.

ln order to detect your talent, proceed with this general self-evaluation.

  • Examine your list of achievements and note any that came easily.
  • Look over your problem-solving history and note where you exhibited the special vision needed to prevent problems.
  • Evaluate your skills as listed.  Talents wilt reveal themselves if you ask yourself these questions:

a.) What are my skills that have something in common or can be grouped in similar categories?

b.) Which skills do people (clients) especially value?

c.) Where am I the obvious choice?

d.) Which skills do I particularly enjoy using?

EDUCATING THE CLIENT

This section includes BIG information on:

  • Consultative Selling
  • Presentation Control
  • Sales Summary
  • Client Body Language

CONSULTATIVE SELLI NG

 Contemporary selling strategy abstains the hard sell in favor of a client-oriented approach. Rather than cramming or forcing a service on a client, today’s consultative sellers determine the needs of their target markets and then dovetail their service to fit those needs.

This approach serves to custom build your response around the clients’ environment and needs. Emphasis is placed, not on imposing offthe-shelf services on unwilling prospects, but on providing real processes that work to improve and enable clients to directly match your services to the problem areas.

The skill and confidence (talent) with which you handle the presentation will determine the eventual outcome – either a lost opportunity, or a contract and the possibility of additional business.

CONTROLLING THE PRESENTATION

The key to a successful presentation (client interview) is control, which is your ability to exercise subtle restraining or directing influence over your prospect.  The purpose of control is not to overpower the prospect, but to exercise authority.  Without control, your chances of getting the contract are significantly decreased.  In fact, control is the essence of selling, which can be defined as helping the prospect to identify his or her needs and demonstrating that you are in a unique position to satisfy those needs.

Most clients want to speak with you, a professional, because they have a problem.  They may or may not have given the problem much thought, even though they claim to have done so.

Your ability to assess the problem quickly and succinctly will establish you at the outset as an authority, placing you in control of the situation. Don’t wait for your prospective client to tell you when you can start exerting control.  Instead, make controlling statements and requests for information, such as;

“What has been your (prospect’s) experience in working on the problem or solution?”

Focus final questioning around your prospective client’s observations:

  • What question (challenge,) is going to be answered?
  • What situation is going to be changed?
  • What is supposed fo look different after the work?
  • What thing is not going to be happening anymore?

Try to uncover the client’s quantitative vision or desired outcome.  Suppose the client says, “lf we could just get personnel turnover down to 20 percent a year.  It’s at 44 percent right now.”  You now know what is troubling the client and what would prove that the consultation WAS A SUCCCSS.

All these techniques set the stage to moving from a prospective to current client.  You let prospective clients know that you are interested in their situation, that you understand their problems, and that you want to deal with them in a way that has meaning for them.

MAKING THE SALE

Professionals sometime have a hard time getting clients to say “yes.”  The reason is usually that professional service firms are good technicians, but rarely good salespersons.  Taking from Product sales representatives you can do one thing at the appropriate time with the prospective client — ASK FOR THE CONTRACT.

Press their ACTION BUTTON.  Use a statement that helps the prospect overcome their inaction, such as:

“I think we have a good understanding of what needs to be done.  Our firm will start a week from today and I will stop by tomorrow with a letter of agreement for your review and signature.”

With such a statement, you have asked for the contract and made a definite proposal.  The client has either to accept your offer or say no.

Inaction on the professional’s part can be deadly.  It can kill an otherwise lively deal.  If the buying decision has not been made, you want to concentrate your efforts on getting it made in your favor”  If the client has decided to buy your services but for some reason postpones implementation, don’t spend time trying to sell the client any longer.  Concentrate on finding out why the prospect won’t implement.

Usually clients fail to implement because they don’t know how.  They want you and you want them.  They like what you are going to do, but they don’t know the mechanics [process] of getting started.  Many of the people who retain professional services don’t pay for them.  They don’t even write purchase orders.  When they need a widget, they ask for it and someone else writes a purchase order.  So you have to be prepared to implement for them, at the same time easing their embarrassment at not knowing how to implement.  You develop the contract or letter of agreement.  You specify the wording for the purchase order.

Another reason for postponing implementation is a lack of funds. You may have to help them find the funds, maybe a grant, to get the contract. Perhaps you can show them how they can generate the funds internally.  If the funds are in the organization’s coffers, but not available for the project because it doesn’t seem important enough, then you might have to demonstrate that the project has a higher priority than the client thinks.

Some clients fail to implement only because they get cold feet.  Everyone hesitates before making a major purchase. People who buy personal, professional services experience the same last-minute reluctance.  The only thing to do is to reassure the client that the decision is the right one and recall all the benefits of the consultation.

Finally, it will now be necessary to educate your prospective client with a written proposal to show evidence of your level of understanding and approach. Consider the following as a suggested standard format.

Introduction

  • Intro about your service firm [brief, persuasive appraisal]
  • Custom statement expressing your understanding and view of the need or Problem

Discussion/Scope/Objective

  • A discussion of the need or problem exploring the problem and approaches to the solution [pros & cons]

Proposed Program

  • A proposed approach and process to achieve the objective
  • The specific details of the proposed project to provide a solution
  • A description of what you will do and what you will deliver

Experience and Other Qualifications

  • Resumes, facilities, other resources, related past projects and testimonials

Appendix

  • Unrelated, but supportive collateral

Many sales authorities fake careful note of nonverbal communications.  Here are some typical nonverbal signals and what they communicate.

HAND STROKING THE CHIN – l’m thinking about it… I haven’t reached a decision.

SHORT IN AND OUT BREATHS – Frustration and disgust… Get out of here now.

TILTED HEAD – l’m still interested.

CROSSED LEGS – Possibly bored and defensive.

TOUCHING OR RUBBING THE NOSE – I doubt it…I don’t believe you…Doesn’t make sense.

TIGHTLY CLINCHED HANDS – I’m tense… not relaxed… I’m getting hostile.

RUBBING THE EYES – Convince me… I really don’t know… Tell me I should.

CLEARING THROAT – Uncertain and bored and defensive.

PALM TO THE BACK OF THE NECK – Defense… Are you through?  Uncertain and apprehensive.

SITTING ON THE BACK OF THE CHAIR – I’m interested… I’m cooperative.

TUGGING AT EAR – I want to say something… I want to talk.

PUTTING SOMETHING (LIKE A PENCIL) IN THE MOUTH – Give me more information… What’s in it for me?

FINGERS POSITIONED TO MAKE A CHURCH STEEPLE – I’m very sure of what you are saying… Confident

UNBUTTON ING OF COAT/JACKET – I’m opening up to you.  I believe you.

By paying attention to body language you can sharpen your company’s presentation skills.  If you know what your prospective client is thinking about you, team members and your presentation, you are at a definite advantage.

SUMMARY ON EDUCATING YOUR CLIENT

  • Once you get the background information you need to be helpful, you will want to get the prospect’s attention.  Be creative and challenge your prospect’s thinking and make them a promise they cannot ignore.

For cold calling on prospective clients, you should first:

  • Conceptualize and draft an original pitch letter,
  • Develop a response device to make it easy for the prospect to let you know about their operation and/or position,
  • Write a voice-mail message script and practice delivering it with hard-to-reach prospects.
  • Review your sales presentation for unrealistic promises.  When you use CONSULTATIVE selling you will get to know your prospective client’s needs and dovetail your professional services’ presentation to fit those needs.

Know the following about your marketing costs.

  • How much does it cost to Create a Client?
  • How much does it cost to Replace a Client?
  • How much does it cost to Keep a Client?

Close your presentation with a natural conclusion by getting your prospective client to summarize.  A simple question such as;

” …what are the pros and con of our suggested plan of improvements? “

  • Confidence is essential. Practice your skills to control your presentation. Always develop a written agenda and send it in advance to your prospective client to assure buy-in of your in-person and/or telephone presentation meeting(s).
  • The services you offer must be such or must be so structured that your typical client has need of your professional services more than once, from time-to-time.
  • Where and when there is problem in your relations with a client — i.e., a dispute — you must be conciliatory in whatever way is necessary.
  • You must be sure that every client is completely satisfied with you and your services.
  • You must maintain contact with every client after the initial contact or assignment is completed.

 ABOUT THE PRESENTER

 Dean Jones is widely recognized and respected for his work to expand, retain, and attract enterprise to the greater southern California region.  He is a notable business and labor engagement advocate currently operating the Southland Partnership Corporation, a nonprofit economic development corporation.  In this capacity, he serves as the director for the POWER Collaborative Network (P.O.W.E.R. — Promoting Opportunities with Essential Resources), an independent human resources services organization delivering capacity building for workforce service providers in the non-profit sectors.  Under his management, this inter-professional Los Angeles County network sponsors the www.IStartOnMonday.comJobobama.com, JobCollaborative.com, and Joblip.com community social services assistance web sites.

Similarly, he works with the African American Engagement Collaboration that supports better integration processes between small and large corporations.  This collaborative is comprised of the Black Business Association, California Black Chamber of Commerce and National Black Business Council that targets emerging suppliers to enhance their request for proposal responses through improved estimating techniques.  This collaborative manages two web sites; www.TheArtOfBidding.com and BlackSuppliers.com, each offering business tools to encourage, recruit and utilize black-owned and operated enterprises to access and supply products and services to major public and private organizations.

As a Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.), his consulting services have extended best viable practices to a diverse range of major organizations, such as; Blue Cross of California, California Endowment, City of Compton CA, City of Long Beach CA, City of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative, Comerica Bank, First American Title Corporation, GTE, Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles Black Business Expo & Trade Show, Los Angeles Music Center, Los Angeles County Office of Education, Southern California Edison, Verizon Communications, West Coast Expo.

A second generation Angelino and Los Angeles Unified School District graduate, he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration – Accounting from San Jose State University.  He has received a range of recognition and distinction awards for his work in support of socioeconomic programs, including a special recognition from the California State Legislature for his extensive service and contributions to the regulated utility corporation’s supplier diversity programs.