Two new books of interest to aspiring rainmakers and managers of profession service firms came out this summer.
The first is The Integration Imperative by Suzanne C. Lowe [Professional Services Books, 1990]. It deals with what I believe will be the single biggest issue in business development at professional services firms in coming years, the integration of sales and marketing. Professional service firms are well behind traditional product firms in this area. This results, I suspect, from two major causes. First, selling was a forbidden word in the professions for many years and still is at a few firms. If you can’t talk about it, you can’t manage it.
Second, marketing has been a poorly defined term in the professions, in part, because it was often used as a euphemism for selling. When not referring to selling, marketing has been used vaguely to refer to a collection of activities, including public relations, advertising, running seminars and the like. This is a far cry from the sophisticated understanding of marketing found at product companies where the term refers to the selection and positioning of products in carefully selected markets and the way a company goes about taking those products to the markets.
Professional firms which successfully integrate sales and marketing will have a big advantage. Some already do. Lowe has sought out a number of these firms and studied what they have done.
The book is divided into three parts. The first covers why integration of marketing and sales is important and the second provides guidance on how to do it. These are both well worth reading and studying. Still, it is the third part that I found most interesting. I am a sucker for case studies, and Lowe has outdone herself in this section by providing detailed studies of eleven firms across the professions.
The second book, Winning the Professional Services Sale by Michael W. McLaughlin [Wiley, 2009], neatly complements the first by providing an in-depth look at how professionals should handle a sales meeting. It covers both the strategy and tactics of face-to-face selling from how to prepare, draw out the client’s needs, deal with surprises, prepare proposals, present, negotiate and set up the second sale. McLaughlin also addresses critical subjects that are infrequently written about, such as when to walk away from a sale.
McLaughlin provides practical advice that is clearly based on a lot of personal experience. For example, early in the first chapter he states that in a sales meeting every client has three burning questions of a professional:
• Do you really understand what we need?
• Can you do what you claim?
• Will you work well with us?
Anyone who has sold professional services knows that these are the fundamental questions.
Though I may not agree with everything McLaughlin says, his arguments are well worth reading and a valuable check on opinions that all of us hold about selling. This book is a good choice for anyone learning to sell professionals services and also for those interested in refreshing and sharpening established skills.