Ask. Listen. Do not interrupt.

October 8th, 2010 by Gary Pines

I received this email from one of our program participants that illustrates the benefits of listening and asking questions.  Specific names have been removed to maintain confidentiality but her process and outcome are worth sharing.

Your help in prepping me for my important meeting today with our prospect from XYZ was invaluable.  It was just supposed to be a quick “coffee”, but it went much longer than that, and we had a wide-ranging discussion during which he shared some confidential information about the company and indicated a strong intent to move on with us.

After a few pleasantries, I asked him how things were going.  That question immediately got him going, with him telling me the critical things that were going on at the company and sharing with me the most important issues with which they are dealing.  I guided the discussion with a number of questions.  As the conversation progressed, I began to contribute my experiences or views on an issue, when he seemed to want it — he did enjoy the give-and-take and the harking back to our old company.  However, there were a few times when I was going to talk but shut my mouth quickly, when it became apparent that he had a lot more to say.  I also was very careful to be brief in my comments, something I’m not always good at.

I learned a lot listening to him, and also I felt that he became more and more invested in our conversation and relationship as we went along.  One piece of evidence of this is that at one point he looked at his watch and said he needed to break away.  However, he didn’t, and instead we kept going in a substantive discussion for probably another 15 minutes.

Another piece of evidence is that, early on in our discussion, he talked about getting back with us in six months.  By the end of our meeting, he had changed that to two months. Mentioning that we should be involved upfront in helping them develop their strategy.

This approach to the meeting definitely helped ensure a successful outcome.  I learned a lot about the company and their issues; we built our relationship in this new form (client-consultant vs. co-workers); and we have a next step.  I was not as nervous about the meeting as I might have otherwise been, because I really felt prepared. 

Winning approach: Ask questions. Listen. Do not interrupt. Engage them in a conversation. Allow them to think through their issue. If you want to read about how to change, you can read chapters 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 in Ford Harding’s Rain Making – 2nd Edition book.

Want stronger word of mouth and customers who are less price-sensitive? Survey findings reveal how.

October 2nd, 2010 by Mimi Spangler

Work is flowing. Clients are active. Demand for services is getting everyone back on track and optimistic about the future. This optimism is reflected in replenished marketing budgets for 2011, but not without a catch. Firm leaders want dollars spent on marketing to be accountable with measurable results. While this seems like an obvious request for product sales managers who can track things like brand advocacy, repeat sales, and price sensitivity, professionals continue to struggle with how to align their marketing spend with results.

I was intrigued to read a recent article published by FORBES/Insights in association with George P. Johnson agency, titled, “The New Rules of Engagement – CMO’s Rethink Their Marketing Mix”.  This 11-page article is an easy read survey summary compiled from more than 300 marketing leaders from companies with annual revenues of more than $500 million. At first glance a professional may opt out of relevance for their own firms based on these hefty criteria, but the surveyed CMO’s challenges while greater in scale are similar to those faced by even the sole practitioner.

The findings of the survey show an increased concentration on connecting more deeply with customers through “engagement”. For their study, engagement is defined as the interactions, experiences and context that create and nurture enduring, profitable customer relationships. See the relevance to all of us? The following quotes from the FORBES/Insight article made me reflect on how professionals approach marketing:

1. “25% (of the big guys surveyed) have no specific strategy related to customer engagement.” - Surprisingly high for their size, but this finding doesn’t make me feel so bad that professional service firms follow. While this is a critical strategy for professionals, the approach is often ad hoc and less thoughtful. I conclude that it should be a more substantive effort for professionals.

2. Marketing budgets don’t always align with engagement priorities – The article described how for many of the “Bigs” print and broadcast ads while lowest on the “engagement “ spectrum make up close to a quarter of their marketing budgets. This made me think about where professionals are spending their marketing budgets. Why is travel to conduct face-to-face meetings with clients and prospects discouraged without a hot lead, when firms easily spend thousands on updating their websites and brand image?

3. Experiential events topped the list with 48% rating it as having the highest engagement. – The part left me hanging – -wondering specifically what the “Bigs” equate to experiential events since the other categories covered Live Event Sponsorship, Trade Shows, Webcasts, and Social Networking Sites?????? - – readers please weigh in here and share.

 4. Using an integrated approach that reaches customers across various media may be the most engaging option.” – Confirmation that what we encourage works. More to say here, but will reserve it for a future blog post.

5. Employee engagement translates into a “delighted customer base.” – This statement gave me the longest thoughtful pause. Most of our clients have told us that their staff is really busy. They are working long hours and being pulled in multiple directions due to delivery, new initiatives, and high client demands. With all of these necessary and justifiable distractions, how are firms equipping their staff to over-deliver to clients? Readers weigh in here too if you have thoughts.

Sometimes interesting reads don’t necessarily provide new information, but make you reflect on its relevance to yourself.

Hello Rain Makers. We’re back!

September 24th, 2010 by Mimi Spangler

Fall seemed like the best time to start again.  Hello Rain Makers.  We are back after a hiatus of focusing on client work.  Good thing is that our workload is buzzing along as is the case for most of our clients.  Now for thoughts on keeping up the momentum. . .  blog postes and interviews with clients to come!

 

Fall is a reason to call!

 

The Fall is a great time to reach out to your clients and contacts to set up meetings.  Here are some wording that several of our other clients are using:

 

“How was your summer?  With fall starting I thought it would be a good time to reconnect and touch base.  Are you available for lunch on . . .?”

 

“Somehow this time of year everyone feels re-energized.  I wanted to share with you some things that we completed this summer that may be of interest to you.  Are you available to meet on . . .”

 

“We are already planning our late fall and winter research projects and white papers.  Since I really respect your perspective on things would you be able to meet me for a quick coffee or lunch next week to share some of your thoughts with me on the issues of greatest concern for . . . companies? 

 

Think of a good “reason to call” and use it for several of your contacts that you know you should talk to  but haven’t connected with in a while. 

Rainmaker Resource #11: Construction Marketing Ideas by Mark Buckshon

May 17th, 2010 by Ford Harding

 

 

Readers in the construction professions might well find interesting a new book by prolific blogger, Mark Buckshon.    Drawing on his years of experience in construction-related fields, as well as his background in journalism, Buckshon has put together a readable and comprehensive introduction to marketing construction services.  The book, Construction Marketing Ideas, contains chapters on such subjects as:

 

  • Branding
  • Selection of marketing mix
  • Developing a marketing budget
  • Association marketing
  • Search engine optimization
  • Blogging
  • Advertising
  • Print media
  • Trade shows
  • Public relations
  • Responding to requests for proposal

 

and much more.

YouTube is coming to you, too!

April 19th, 2010 by Mimi Spangler

A few days ago Ford Harding received a unique email from a professional, Ivan Hernandez.  It was unique and interesting because it was our firm’s first and unsolicited YouTube video referencing his book, Rainmaking: Attract New Clients No Matter What Your Field.  As I watched it for the first time I was so pleased for Ford that a virtual stranger would be so moved and inspired by the book’s teachings.  As I watched it the second time I chuckled at how this video, made much like those that I have of my kids at their birthday parties can capture my attention and entertain me in an odd way.  As I watched it the third, and so far, last time, I recalled the business trend moving towards video and YouTube mentioned in a recent AMCF social media workshop that I attended with the who’s who in consulting and led by gurus of McKinsey & Company and Bliss PR.  I guess the world is moving beyond email, in concert with LinkedIn, with Twitter and towards YouTube?  I needed more convincing, so I quickly searched the internet for data on YouTube to convince myself that YouTube has gone beyond being able to showcase music videos and personal teenage snip-its.  It has. 

 

I found a study by Burson-Marsteller that collected social media data from 100 of the largest Fortune 500 global companies.  Here are some of their statistics:  50% of the Fortune Global 100 use YouTube to reach their audience.  Of those, 68% posted 10 videos on YouTube in the past month.  69% of the Fortune Global 100 have YouTube Channels.  What amazed me was the statistics on the channels!  They tracked an average of 38,950 views per channel!  452 average subscribers per channel! And more than half of those with YouTube channels said they get comments from viewers! 

 

That’s inspired me to try an experiment and ask that anyone who is willing to step up to the plate as a YouTuber, share with us another point of view about the book or our Rainmaking programs please do so via a YouTube video and send it to me.  My request has two purposes, first, it will help me answer the question, “Will sharing these videos with you make a difference for us?”  We’ll track it with metrics and share the results with you.  Secondly I’m wading in to YouTube and would love to see a few more relevant ones before I do my own video clips in the market.  Stay tuned for more on YouTube!

 

For those of you that are curious, here is the YouTube video that Ivan sent to Ford:   

http://ivanhernandezonline.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/the-great-book-series-rain-making/

 

By Mimi Spangler, Partner, Harding & Company  (mspangler@hardingco.com)

 

 

Approaches for closing the deal – How to ask

April 15th, 2010 by Gary Pines

Many consultants are uncomfortable asking for the sale.  They have a fear of rejection or say it feels pushy to ask and courteous to wait.  By waiting, what they don’t realize is that they could lose the sale! 

Asking for the sale is a consultant’s right.  You have spent time and energy crafting and presenting a solution to address a client’s need.  You have also flushed out and succinctly addressed specific client concerns.  Your question to the client, “Do you have any other questions?” is answered by the client with, ‘No.”  Now is the time to ask.

You’re on, so here are some approaches for your LAST question: 

·             Needs based: “Since you have agreed that our capabilities and approach meet your needs, can we work with you on this project? 

 

·             Relationship based: “Since we have worked well on past projects together, are you comfortable proceeding with us for this project?

 

·             Fee based: “If we drop our fees 15% do we have a deal?” 

 

·             Assumption based (Assumes that you are starting the project) “Can we schedule the first round of leadership interviews next week?” 

 

·            Next Steps: “Where do we go from here? “

After you ask for the business, you must follow these two sales rules to get a successful outcome:

1. When giving concessions, each additional concession should be smaller so that the client can see the end of the negotiation is near. 

 

2.      After you ask for the business be quiet and listen. Do not say a single word until the client responds – even if it feels like eternity! 

Silence can be golden!

Author:  Gary Pines   (gpines@hardingco.com)

Five Top Ways to Reconnect with an Old – - old – - – old Client

April 7th, 2010 by Mimi Spangler

After you “tweet”, “friend”, “link”, email, or mass mail to gently ease into reconnecting with an old client having some canned conversation initiators can make Step 2 – “The Call” much easier.  Here are five tried and true approaches that have worked for the reluctant caller.  When it’s time to pick up the phone and talk to your contact try these words.  Don’t fake it, find one that’s true to you. 

 

1.        “I was pleased to reconnect with you via LinkedIn; it made me realize that we haven’t talked in a while.  How are you?”  (My earlier blog post titled “Bag LinkedIn. . .” may have been a bit harsh because it certainly has a place like here to break the ice with old contacts!) – - if they accepted your invitation to join your network, they are now anticipating your call.  Don’t let them down!

 

2.        “I just reconnected with (person’s name that you both know) and realized that we haven’t talked in a while.  How are things going for you? “– this is a great reason to call lots of contacts from a past client organization who all worked together at one time!

 

3.       “I just read an article on your firm in (publication) and thought of you.  (Elaborate a bit on the article). . . Just wanted to touch base to say hello and see how you were doing.”if you read the business press, you know you have thought about individuals from your past when you read articles about their companies, so it’s something you’ve kept to yourself but now you can share!

 

4.       “I’m going to the (organization) conference in May and was wondering if you planned on attending.  I thought it might be nice to reconnect with you there for dinner.  Do you plan on going?”- This is one of the best because you are being considerate, thoughtful and may end up with an excuse to avoid the rubber chicken dinner! 

 

5.       “I’m considering writing an article on (topic) and thought of you because I knew you would be a great person to give me a valuable perspective on it.  Could I trouble you to arrange a call to get your point of view on (topic)?” For those of you who have thought about publishing an article, this approach is gold because people are flattered that you think of them to give you advice.  You can collect your research, get valuable market insights and reconnect with an old client!

Bag LinkedIn as a tool for business development – and just pick up the phone!

March 29th, 2010 by Mimi Spangler

In these trying economic times most professionals have had to increase their number of prospects to win a piece of business.  This means digging deeper into your contact lists and calling more people that you haven’t talked to in a while such as old clients and past prospects.  The thought of calling someone just to reconnect with the hopes of generating an opportunity gives angst to many.  The phone handset begins to feel like a 100 pound elephant.  But all is not lost with the new social media.  We have things like LinkedIn that facilitates this act for us.  All we have to do is initiate a standard note and wait to see if they accept our request to join our LinkedIn network!  We ponder if receipt of our LinkedIn request will prompt our old acquaintances to call us if they have a business need. 

 

It arrives!  Your contact has accepted your LinkedIn request!  Time passes and they still haven’t called you.  After a few months go by with lightning speed you feel like you are right back where you started with the angst of calling to reconnect.  In this example LinkedIn served the same purpose as the introduction cover letter so many professionals use as a crutch to help them warm up a call.  In the end, you still have to make the call.  Similar to the intro cover letter, if you wait too long to follow up with a personal call, any benefit you may have received from the “link” diminishes.  An easy example to illustrate how this plays out in human nature is in dating.  If you meet someone, connect and get their number, what is the likelihood of forming a long term relationship if you wait to call that person for six months after you met them? 

 

Most contacts will tell you that if they agree to join your LinkedIn network, they would be pleased to hear from you from time to time.  So if you find yourself feeling good about the number of contacts who agreed to join your LinkedIn network, but feeling frustrated by the lack of leads received from your initiated effort, consider following up the contact acceptance more promptly with a personal call or simply bag the LinkedIn intro note and just pick up the phone. 

 

A speaker that knows how to work it. Part 3 of 3

March 10th, 2010 by Mimi Spangler

If you are not going to follow up with contacts from a conference, don’t go.  You would miss the whole purpose for attending the event!  Upon completion of a presentation a speaker’s goal is to continue the conversation and build stronger relationships.  Speakers can continue the dialog with attendees, clients, prospects and network contacts by: 

 

1.       Following up with attendees who asked specific questions before, during or after their presentation.  (This requires judicious quick note taking on the back of business cards for future reference.)

2.       Contacting clients who attended their presentation to get their thoughts or for a critique on how you did. 

3.       Asking clients and prospects who attended if they had any additional questions regarding the content.

4.       Reaching out to clients or prospects who did NOT attend with relevant materials or information you obtained at a conference that may be of interest. 

5.       Calling and meeting with co-presenters to explore future networking opportunities. 

6.       Publishing the content of your presentation.

 

All of the activities mentioned in this three part series on “A Speaker Who Knows How to Work It” occur outside of the conference.  The conference becomes a means to an end, not the end. 

 

A Speaker Who Knows How to Work It. Part 2 of 3 – The Well Choreographed Dinner

March 4th, 2010 by Mimi Spangler

 

Speakers gain celebrity status at conferences.  Attendees enjoy conversing with the speakers for their knowledge and point of view.  A consulting client shared with me a successful approach his firm uses to maximize the client development opportunities for their conference speakers.  As soon as they are informed that they are a speaker they begin planning a well choreographed dinner!  First they make a reservation for 8 to 12 people at one of the top restaurants at the conference city.  Secondly, they invite a few close clients who love them and who they know will highly recommend their work.  Then they invite another speaker or two whose topics are popular in the market but whose work does not compete with theirs.  Next, they invite some non-competing prospects who can be considered peers to their clients, appreciating that clients love to exchange war stories with their peers.  And lastly, they make sure that the number of people from their office is not overwhelming to the rest of the group, four people maximum.  You can imagine with this make up for dinner that all attendees have a great time  - – - especially their prospects who are now impressed.  Perfect!