Three ways to use the proper power of persuasion

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“I don’t need to persuade anyone.  The quality of what I do is self-evident”

So runs the mantra for a number of professional specialists we have met. Somehow, the world (which includes clients and prospects who may not be able to experience the intangibility of what they offer) will see the light. Of course, most often they don’t.

Either this, or they associate persuasion with a stereotypical vision of the “pushy” sales man or woman – and may then try to “sell” by talking endlessly about themselves or their firm. Neither attitude works or is representative of the proper power of persuasion. This is an art that can be learnt, and which has some underlying basic principles: here are three of them.

Give before you get  A tough one this, in that it involves unravelling years of conditioning for those who have had it drummed into them that hours and minutes are ALWAYS TO BE CHARGED FOR. Most people want to return a favour, so if you give them something they will usually want to give something back. We have heard many variations on this theme when trying to attract new clients. “For the trial piece of work, deliberately, we gave them more than we were paid for; they recognised it, liked our attitude, and they are now a significant and very profitable client 10 years on!”.

Three more Ps  This is about Positive Peer Pressure. Those who do business with the public sector see the power of this one. Some people (in fact, many professionals) are better convinced to do something if others are seen doing it. The more local authorities that you work or have worked for, the more powerful appears your case. And in the private sector, if the firm’s name is associated with successful industry authorities (e.g. market leaders), then you can get a double whammy.

Seek out common ground  People do more business with those they feel they like. A large part of such liking is about the amount of common ground that is established between them. Successful professionals know this: which is why golf, cricket, rugby, football etc. are such common pursuits. Sadly, many do not venture outside of these, their own obvious likes. Successful networkers know that it is possible to establish common ground with just about anyone. But it needs this realisation and then practice to achieve.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other technical specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.

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Three tips to keep your pipeline flowing

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 How many initial contacts do you need to gain one new client?

When asked, the answers of many professionals are often hopelessly optimistic. And they wonder why their Business Development efforts aren’t amounting to much. The fact is that moving prospects in our target markets from initial contact to converted client is usually a lengthy process with several stages, where at any point, we can be screened out: hence, the analogy for the process as a pipeline. In most professional environments, this attrition means that initial contact numbers usually have to be significantly higher than a few (dozen).

Here are three things to address the “pipeline peril” and make it a safer, more productive bet.

Keep your tap on  It isn’t just the length of the pipeline that is important; it is the speed of migration down it. It can take YEARS for some business contacts to result in a trading relationship. The long game approach required to be successful at this sits ill with the short-term, ‘fees, fees, and fees’ focus of many professional lives.

“We are very busy so no-one’s doing any selling at the moment”

Turn off the tap that keeps your contacts flowing and you risk future famine. This requires a contact strategy to maintain profile with potential clients. Do you or your professionals have one?

Count, plan and monitor  How many business development professionals know the number of contacts they have in their pipeline and at which stage they are at with any conviction? In our experience, these experts are few and far between. Because they don’t recognise the dynamics of the pipeline or perhaps take it seriously, they cannot begin to control its flows. Assessing where you are is the first step to deciding what should be done (plan) and doing it (see below), plus then monitoring to ensure that sufficient new client work is being delivered at the other end.

You cannot be serious! …and sure enough, too many of us are not when it comes to planning and doing it. Do we schedule time for business development activity as carefully and in as much detail as the professional work that is done? Most professionals’ Outlook diaries are full of transactional actions and deadlines. But BD ones??!

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other technical specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones. http://www.peoplescope.com.

 

Persuasion Power

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“I don’t need to persuade anyone.  The quality of what I do is self-evident”

So runs the mantra for many technical and professional specialists.  Somehow, the world (which includes clients or prospects who may not be able to experience the intangibility of what they offer) will see the light: of course, quite often they don’t.

Persuasion is an art which can be learnt, and which has some underlying basic principles.  Here are three that can help.

Give before you get  A tough one this, in that it involves unravelling years of conditioning for those who have had it drummed into them that hours and minutes are ALWAYS TO BE CHARGED FOR.  Most people want to return a favour, so if you give them something, they will usually want to give something back.  There are variations on this theme when trying to attract new clients e.g.  “For the trial piece of work, deliberately, we gave them more than we were paid for; they recognised it, liked our attitude, and they are now a significant and very profitable client – 10 years on!”

See 3P…oooh!  So that’s what it’s about…Positive Peer Pressure.  Canny professionals and/or those who do business with the public sector see the power of this one.  Some people (in fact, many professionals) are better convinced to do something if others are seen doing it successfully.  In the public sector, the more local authorities that you are heard to work for, the more powerful is your case.  And in the private sector, if the firm’s name is associated with successful industry authorities (e.g. market leaders), then you can get a double whammy….as long as you use it.

Seek out common ground  People do more business with people that they feel they like.  A large part of such liking is about the amount of common ground that is established between individuals.  Successful professionals know this, which is why sporting activities – soccer, golf, cricket, rugby etc. – are such common pursuits.  Sadly, many do not venture outside of these, their own obvious likes.  Successful networkers know that it is possible to establish common ground with just about anyone.  But it needs this realisation and then practice to achieve.

James Newberry is a coach and trainer who helps professionals and other technical experts exert more influence to do more business….and enjoy it!  Have a look at http://www.peoplescope.com to know more.

How to stand out in an “all the same” world

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“There is absolutely no differentiation in the market at all – you all look the same”*
(*Christopher Digby-Bell, quoted in Legal Week, June 1 2015)

Post-2008, competition in most branches of the professions has never been hotter.  There is no shortage of other providers vying for your clients’ business: it can be difficult to choose from the service offerings and claims made.  You have got to be stand-out to win.  Unfortunately not enough are it seems.  So time for three things to consider that can help you to be singular and make the most positive impact.

Point of Difference…what’s yours?

“I’m a tax adviser….corporate lawyer…..architect….engineer etc.”   A lot of professionals we meet are PoD-free zones.  They find it almost impossible to articulate what their Point of Difference is…what makes them beneficially and attractively different to those who share their basic nomenclature.  So they all tend to look and sound the same to clients.

Why?  For some it’s about “not blowing your own trumpet” as they perceive it; for others it’s the “better mouse trap” syndrome (surely the world will naturally beat a path to the door of my expertise?) or an inability to recognise what they do that is of real value to others.

Almost everyone we have ever met has a PoD in them somewhere.  They just need help in thinking/talking it through, and expressing it punchily in ways that are most relevant to those they seek to attract.

You gotta tell AND show

“You have got to be more business savvy.  When you say you know and understand my business what I want to hear is not only do you understand it but you have real experience of it” (ibid.)

Claims are everywhere – but what clients most often want is EVIDENCE of experience.  Despite their professed focus on the E word (lawyers especially), many professionals are singularly averse when it comes to providing it to clients (“what if I get it wrong/breach confidentiality” etc. etc.).    All it takes is a relevant story told confidently and convincingly (What did they need?  What did you do?  What was achieved? How did you make a difference?).

It’s simple.  Just ditch the excuses and do it.  You will stand out.

 The one where the talk was actually walked…

This is a true story about making a difference and the positive impact gained from not being the same.

Two firms were involved in a pitch to a potential client.  Their Points of Parity (service attributes shared with each other) were equal in number and type.  Both promised outstanding client service and speed of response.  Both produced attractive documents and convincing presentations with real examples of their experience.  During the presentation dialogues, some interesting and unresolved issues were raised by the prospect with both firms.

So who won the day?  Back at their offices, the partners of one firm breathed a collective sigh of relief for their considerable efforts, reviewed their performance and waited for a decision – which they lost.  The other, equally-taxed firm went away and, within two hours, had emailed their advice on the unresolved issues to the client – and they won.

By being the values they claimed to espouse, they were different…and victorious.

Don’t whimper! How to make the right impact

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“This is the way the pitch starts…This is the way the speech ends…Not with a bang but a whimper” (apologies to T. S Eliot)

We get to watch a lot of presenters in action.   And a lot of whimpering.  Presentations that limp into life and stagger along, only to fizzle out leaving no impression behind apart from relief all round.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Here are three tips to give yourself some bang when you’re next asked to step up.

ENERGISE!  No-one gets to go anywhere in ‘Star Trek’ without the transporter.  Every presenter needs their own transporter.  It starts not with a piece of kit but a realisation.  You are responsible for generating all the energy in the room.  Not the audience.  Not the elegance of your content or the splendour of your Powerpoint slides.  You.  This means that a presentation is not a conversation.  Many wish and believe that it should be a cosy chat, act accordingly…and then are surprised when they lack impact.

To perform well, you need to be BIGGER in voice and body to provide that room-filling energy boost.  If it works, the audience will start to contribute their own energy.

If you are someone who is not comfortable “being bigger”, then learn how to do it from an expert.  It can be done and will be worth the investment.

Start (with a bang)…. “This morning ladies and gentlemen I am going to tell you about…” No!  Stop!  The start of a speech or presentation is a vital point – not to be wasted.  You have to get your audience’s attention.  Pull their thoughts away from wherever they are as they sit there.  So make it special.  Tell them a relevant story or anecdote – make it personal if you can.  Give them an ear-catching factoid or opinion.  Give them YOU, not just bland words and phrases, and they will listen.

Finish (with a bang)…. “and so that finishes my look at making widgets.  There is more coffee and tea…”  No! Stop!  Don’t waste the end.  It should be the culmination, the high mark, the pinnacle of your pitch or argument.  Make it so.  They will remember it more than anything else so be challenging, controversial, personal or funny (that doesn’t mean joke-telling).  Keep it simple and give them a ‘call to action’.

All delivered with energy.

Business Development Resolutions Part 2

Last time it was about getting the picture, a mentor or a buddy. There are three more resolutions that will build on this good work to help create a tide of success for you or your professionals’ business development efforts over the coming months. These are not complicated things but, if they are missing, the firm’s individual/collective success and achievement can be oh-too-easily compromised.

Get proactive
“I have a good reputation with the clients/partners who have the gift of work. They know where I am”
This is the better mousetrap fallacy as applied by some practitioners. In this mind-set, believing that they have a better professional gizmo than their neighbours is sufficient for the world to beat a path to their door. Except it won’t be and it doesn’t – as some have found to their cost particularly in the leaner times of the past five years.

Part of this problem is about conditioning. Lawyers, accountants, and other experts can grow up in their firms only ever being fed work and then measured on how well they complete it. By the time they are deemed to be mature, it’s a big ask to then overlay the bit that says “I must now go and win my own”. (NB This is often the point at which the mentors or coaches mentioned in Part 1 can become useful). So early exposure to the skills, practice of, and responsibility for work-winning is vital.

But ultimately, it comes down to a simple realisation for everyone. Assume nothing about what your clients are thinking or about the self-perceived excellence of your mousetrap. Proactivity in finding and delivering ongoing ways to engage with them is the key, particularly with the proliferation of communication media now available to all of us. Plan it and then do it.

Build momentum
So for a number of professionals, BD is not perceptibly a primary business function. If it is treated as a ‘nice to do’, the consequences for achievement and results are usually serious. Witness the plans and activity being happily implemented from Tip 1 by Practitioner A that are dropped the moment a new significant piece of work comes in, only to be taken up again perhaps months later, if at all.

Disappearing off the grid thus, it becomes extremely difficult to build any sort of momentum with clients and contacts that will deliver a stream of new future work opportunities. The solution is partly a management one: that means supervising partners or department heads delivering on their leadership remit by setting specific agendas for Practitioner A and other individuals for whom they are responsible, reviewing progress regularly against what was agreed, and providing guidance, encouragement, or sanctions as appropriate. But it is also about individuals themselves recognising their overweening deal focus (often not easy so more guidance required here) and then applying coping strategies to deal with it…

Take it bite-size
The boom/bust nature of business development implementation described in Tip 2 requires an adjustment. Instead of working flat out just on fee earning punctuated by infrequently large and indigestible ‘chunks’ of business development, allocate a small amount of time each day to BD/marketing (say 15 or 30 minutes) and stick to it. If, as often, this is about communicating with people, the beginning and the end of the day are timely periods that minimally impact on work flow and that offer the best chances of success.

Of course, there will also be BD tasks that require more time to complete but this is a good baseline to establish.