Business Development Training: Services reaching Maturity?

Are you seeing more competition for each engagement?
Is it harder for you to get a decent price for your services?
Are the Purchasing Dept involved in getting you to drop your price?
Are longtime clients putting out RFPs for “your” work?

Maybe it’s time to recognise that your services have reached the Maturity stage or commodity stage of their Cycle.  It will get more and more difficult to make money on that particular work.
You’ll begin to see lower-cost competitors, off-shoring, or begin to lose to in-house teams as the mystery goes out of your services. The symptoms above are reliable indicators that it’s time to begin reducing your dependence on that work and find new problems to solve

One of the big factors that causes price pressure in mature categories is decreased risk. The first time a company tackles a problem the perceived risk is high. They want to get it done right, and quickly, so they’re less sensitive to cost and place greater value on external expertise as a way to reduce risk.

After something has been done a number of times, the risk of getting it done right goes way down, so the perceived value of the service declines,and the client no longer feel the need to pay expensive external consultants.

When risk and business impact declines, so does your access to key people. While the top people pay attention to unfamiliar matters with potentially high stakes, once the risk goes down, they delegate downward and move on to emerging issues that have greater risk and impact. They’ll still like and respect you, but it you’re associated with issues that are no longer relevant to them, neither are you. This is why when your problem matures, you need to be associated with a different business problem within the same industry.

To avoid suddenly realizing that you’re in a tough spot such as described in the opening paragraph, become an industry expert, knowledgeable about your clients. Challenges and opportunities, and keep yourself well informed so you can recognize the early signs that the problem that drives demand for your service is maturing and declining in significance. If you know what’s going on in the industry, you’ll know which problems to shift your association toward.

Always invest in emerging issues, preferably in robust, growing industries.

Relationship Management in Projects

Want a thriving business?
We suggest you might focus on developing relationship management and project management soft skills 

We often think that project management involves huge teams completing complex pieces of work with a project manager at the helm controlling everything.

The truth is that almost all tasks we complete in business are projects.
Projects can be small as a few members of staff updating a company website or as large as hundreds employees in a computer company launching a new tablet.

Another common misconception is that projects must have an external customer.
Giving a presentation to a group of colleagues or writing a report for your boss are examples of projects with an internal customer.

Today our jobs are more challenging than ever. We have a constantly growing list of tasks to complete.
As a result, an increasing number of people are finding themselves in the project manager role.
This role is to develop relationships of trust with the players in the project

So what can we learn from the world of project managers that can help us successfully deliver results for our businesses?

Defining the Project Scope

Firstly, the project manager must define the scope of the project. Projects have definite time, cost and quality requirements.
The project manager needs to know what the customer wants.
Then the PM must find the right people with the best skills to complete the project to the time, cost and quality requirements.

Building Strong Relationships

Building strong relationships are vital for successful project management.
Although project managers are responsible for delivering work, they don’t necessarily complete it themselves. They need help from other people with different specialisms.
In the case of an advertising campaign, the project manager will oversee work from several different specialists, including market researchers, graphic designers and copywriters.

In most cases, junior managers who coordinate project don’t have authority over these specialists.
They can’t demand that other team members complete tasks. Indeed in large multi-national companies the PM might never meet the people they are working with.
Therefore, PMs need to build high trust relationships so they can rely on other team members to complete important project work.
Achieving Results with the Strength Deployment Inventory

The Strength Deployment Inventory is a life inventory based on relationship awareness theory.
It helps project managers build effective relationships with other team members and succeed in business.
The SDI allows project managers to achieve business goals by understanding others perspectives and resolving conflicts that affect relationships.

PMs and Client facing managers learn to identify what gives them a sense of self-worth and what’s important to them in their relationships with others. The SDI teaches project managers how to connect quickly and easily with other team members. By understanding others motivational value systems, project managers can learn to avoid conflict, coordinate other team members’ work and complete projects successfully.

Developing Relationship and Project Management Skills

Rainmaker Project Management Soft Skill Training teaches project managers the skills they need to motivate their teams.
PMs learn and practice the Strength Deployment Inventory in a safe environment.
Participants gain practical experience by working with a team of business actors who play the part of difficult and demanding clients

Workshops are tailored-made to delegates’ needs. Rainmaker offers three levels of project management training.
Programme highlights include conflict and relationship management, questioning and listening skills and how to turbo charge projects.

Efficient project management leads to a more engaged and productive workforce, enabling companies to win new customers and increase profitability.

Ask us for more details about how Rainmaker Project Management and Relationship Management Soft Skills Training can help you achieve real results in your business.

Business Development Training: Focus on your “Home” Dept? Maybe not

Services Deliverers who aim to be Rainmakers usually think that what they really, really want is a relationship with the key person in their “Home Department”. Accountants probably want to pitch to the FD, IT consultants the CIO, Surveyors the Facilities Director, Lawyers, Head of Legal.

Most consider it to be a success to be able to pick up the phone and chat to them.

Why do I suggest Rainmakers also pay attention to line-of-business management?

The Home Dept. is typically a trailing indicator of demand for your services, not a leading indicator. You’ll usually find that it was a business change , requirement for new behavior, competitor change, sudden change in performance up or down that created the demand for your services.

IT matters don’t always start as IT matters.
They often derive from someone saying something like “Couldn’t we use technology to cut our costs here / Improve our responsiveness / Flexibility”.
Some readers may be thinking, “What about when IT upgrades their servers. Isn’t that the start of the deal?” For that example maybe. However I suggest that it would be of benefit to understand why the business needs more / better / faster capacity and who in the business originated it.

I think you’ll find that the line-of-business managers, out there in customer facing positions trigger much of demand for your services. They’re the first to be aware of the business issue that may later become an IT issue, or require an IT component to its solution. If you participate in those discussions you’re very likely to know about opportunities or threats before the company’s team know about it.
If you’re part of that early conversation, because you understand it more and can influence the thinking (write the spec) your odds of being chosen to participate in the solution go up a lot.
By the time it’s defined as an IT issue, you enter the game as a vendor begging for a slice of the pie.

I suggest that using a higher level industry or company level issue may well be the key that opens the door for you. You can differentiate by your knowledge of the business issues as well as the great services you deliver.

Business Development Training: Suspects, Prospects, Opportunities…

I thought I’d write a little more about the differences that distinguish
suspects from prospects, prospects from opportunities,
opportunities from deals and deals from clients.

1. SUSPECTS  qualify for the minimum investment from you:
This is someone who, because of their position or membership of a Decision Making Unit (DMU) in a segment that you suspect experiences the (big enough to invest) problem that drives demand for your service.  Or perhaps their circumstances make it likely that they mayexperience this problem in the not too distant future.  Any person who you SUSPECT COULD buy your service is a Suspect.

SUSPECTS progress to be A PROSPECT 

2. If she has made contact with you and she seems to agree that this maybe a problem and you may have a role in it’s solution. A quick definition is that there is a Prospect or Chance that the problem may be discovered or brought out into the open at some point in the future. Your role maybe simply to PROSPECT  (as in prospecting for gold!) with the person to discover the problem

The PROSPECT progresses to an OPPORTUNITY 

3. When she confirms that her company is experiencing your big-enough-to-invest problem. There may well be an opportunity for you to influence or write the initial specification for the desired solution and all that this does to your chances of winning the later deal.

NB**Nothing in the above 3 categories should ever be forecast in any future review of possible business meeting

The OPPORTUNITY progresses to a DEAL

4.  A working definition of a DEAL is where the person or company will “Buy something (that you can supply) from someone in the next business period (month / qtr / yr)”
This is evidenced by the fact that your contact reveals that the Cost of Doing Nothing in her informed opinion is too high to ignore
She concludes that the company must take action to solve the problem
She actively helps you identify and engage the other decision stakeholders
Until all these things happen, please don’t list this as a “DEAL”.
Up until this point you should not invest any major amount of time into your Sales Funnel except to write outline specs for your solutions.

However once at this point your Business Development processes and skills should kick into high gear to close this DEAL.

5. Obviously, a CLIENT is someone who has hired you.

Each of these 5 states in your Sales Funnel have a different value.
Each justifies a different investment level and different actions from you.

If you have comments or questions please get in touch info@rainmaker-coaching.co.uk

Business Development Training: Focus on your “Home” Dept? Maybe not

Services Deliverers who aim to be Rainmakers usually think that what they really, really want is a relationship with the key person in their “Home Department”. Accountants probably want to pitch to the FD, IT consultants the CIO, Surveyors the Facilities Director, Lawyers, Head of Legal.

Most consider it to be a success to be able to pick up the phone and chat to them.

Why do I suggest Rainmakers also pay attention to line-of-business management?

The Home Dept. is typically a trailing indicator of demand for your services, not a leading indicator. You’ll usually find that it was a business change , requirement for new behavior, competitor change, sudden change in performance up or down that created the demand for your services.

IT matters don’t always start as IT matters.
They often derive from someone saying something like “Couldn’t we use technology to cut our costs here / Improve our responsiveness / Flexibility”.
Some readers may be thinking, “What about when IT upgrades their servers. Isn’t that the start of the deal?” For that example maybe. However I suggest that it would be of benefit to understand why the business needs more / better / faster capacity and who in the business originated it.

I think you’ll find that the line-of-business managers, out there in customer facing positions trigger much of demand for your services. They’re the first to be aware of the business issue that may later become an IT issue, or require an IT component to its solution. If you participate in those discussions you’re very likely to know about opportunities or threats before the company’s team know about it.
If you’re part of that early conversation, because you understand it more and can influence the thinking (write the spec) your odds of being chosen to participate in the solution go up a lot.
By the time it’s defined as an IT issue, you enter the game as a vendor begging for a slice of the pie.

I suggest that using a higher level industry or company level issue may well be the key that opens the door for you. You can differentiate by your knowledge of the business issues as well as the great services you deliver.

Sales Training : Why? Why Now? Why You?

I’ve spent many days in Sales Training sessions where the usually very enthusiastic sales trainer
has absolutely insisted that in all major sales you have to meet the M.A.N.

For the uninitiated that does not necessarily mean a male person merely the person
male or female with the Money, Authority (to buy) and the Need . Hence M.A.N.

The trainers are right. When you can, you must meet the M.A.N.

However you now see a caveat to that from me and that’s the “When you can”.

Sometimes in large and medium sized companies the MAN does not want to see you.
Sometimes the people you are dealing with are a little frightened of her themselves and
they may not be sufficiently comfortable with you and your colleagues (you are after all Salespeople!!) to introduce you all to the MAN.

If the MAN’s door isn’t open and you can’t see her,  you now have three alternatives.

  1. Qualify the opportunity out because you will never meet the MAN
  2. Risk making yourself unpopular with your contacts and going straight to the MAN.
  3. Delegating responsibility to your contact and assisting them to sell internally.

 

I have never personally gone for the first option.
Perhaps my sales funnel has never been full enough of prospects you say,
and I have only on a few occasions tried the second option with mixed results.

That therefore leaves us option 3.

If we are going to go for that option we do need to be careful with our assumptions here.
There are many dangerous assumptions that we can make here and they’ll all get us nowhere.

  1. That your prospects have a robust process of building a business case for doing anything different.
    This could be like buying a new product or outsourcing a service or whatever your company does.
  2. That your prospects have a method or criteria for choosing between possible suppliers
  3. That the person you are working with in your prospect is a decent SALES person.
  4. That the person you are spending time with knows the buying process and it’s people

That means that we can take option 3 but we need to do it professionally.
We need to DELEGATE responsibility not ABDICATE responsibility.
Let me explain what I mean.

Abdicating responsibility would be to send a boiler plate proposal that talks about us and not them.
Adding the standard sales blurb about our solutions in general not specifics and a quotation.
Then we can follow up with a phone call or an email a week until we think that they might now be thinking of us as stalkers not sales people…
That would be ABDICATING responsibility …

DELEGATING responsibility to our contact is very different and we make the following assumptions

  1. Assume that they have NOT built a business case for buying your product or service or anything like it.
    This means that you will have to build a business case using their numbers, which you will have to help to dig out,
    for both potential costs and potential business benefits.
    This exercise will have to answer the WHY? And The WHY NOW? questions
    A cynical and suspicious Finance Director, who will be part of the decision making process
    somewhere along the lines, will want these answered.
  2. Assume that the person we are working with is NOT a sales person.
    They have never been on a sales training workshop and may not have presented their ideas before.
    That means we need to give them a PowerPoint based presentation not a WORD document
    This will be more useful if they are going to present their idea to someone.
    Your quotation is important but the quantified benefits are much more important and the references need to be in there too.
    You need to ask your contact to find out what the buying process is and who is involved.
    Tailoring the presentation that your contact will make to make sure the messages resonate with all in the process will exercise your sales skills.
  3. Assume this presentation must also have enough detail on WHY YOU?
    to make it obvious to an uninvolved person that you are the right choice.
    Probably best to use their logos on the slide deck rather than make it in your corporate colours that could appear biased ?

A final thought … If marketing knew that this was how the majority of your sales completed would they build you some different tools to use on your journey with the prospects??

Business Skills: Follow ups vs Stalking? 5 tips

I had a phone conversation with someone seeking a new job and I’m working with them to help them do that.

It was about his job search and it  went something like this:
Candidate: I wrote to him last week and still haven’t heard back. It’s so frustrating.
Me: Why not follow up and check in?
Candidate: But I don’t want to appear a stalker !!.

His fear is understandable.
No one wants to be considered a stalker by a professional contact.
That’s especially when you want a job, meeting,a yes to an order, or something else very important from that person.

Let’s get serious though for a minute…
The average business person certainly one who can hire people and approve  orders can get > two hundred emails a day.
Pretty tough to respond to all of them, and if things fall off the bottom of that screen…
Then it’s natural for them to fall to the bottom of their list.
If you don’t get a response, it does not mean that someone’s ignoring you or finds you a pain

Reframe it to yourself and understand that they want to help you.
Your job is to make it easy for them to help you.
However it just may be that they are just too busy.

Should you follow up? Absolutely.  In fact, it’s your job.

Question is: How often should you do so?

Answer is;  “As many times as it takes.

However please do it the right way.
Be  “pleasantly persistent.”
Here are a few tips on how to (nicely) follow up with that hiring manager, sales lead, or VIP—and get the answer you’re looking for.

Rule 1: Be Overly Polite and Humble

That seems obvious enough, but a lot of people take it personally when they don’t hear back from someone right away.
Resist the urge to get upset or mad.
Never take your feelings out in an email.
Never say something like, “You haven’t responded yet,” or “You ignored my first email.”
Try…  ” I naturally assume that you are up to your neck in Muck and Bullets as usual ” ?

Just maintain an extremely polite tone throughout the entire email thread.
Showing that you’re friendly and that you understand how busy your contact is is a good way to keep him or her interested (and not mad).

Rule 2: Please not Every Day

Sending a follow-up email every day doesn’t show you have determination.
Actually  it shows you don’t respect a person’s time and don’t understand how busy people are at work and play.
A good rule of thumb is to allow a week before following up.
Any sooner, and it might come off as pushy;
If you let too much time pass, you risk the other person forgetting who you are.
Start off with an email every week, and then switch to every couple of weeks.

Rule 3: Ask if You Should Stop Bothering them

If you’ve followed up a few times and still haven’t heard back, it’s worth directly asking if you should stop following up.
After all, you don’t want to waste your time, either.
Try “I know how busy you are and completely understand if you just haven’t had the time to reply.
I don’t want to bombard you with emails if you’re not interested.
I’ve been around long enough to know that a “YES” is Great …
A “NO” is clear but disappointing but actually preferable to
a “POSSIBLY” because that means we can’t move on..
Just let me know if you’d prefer I stop following up.”

Most people respect honesty and don’t want to waste someone’s time, and they’ll at least let you know one way or another.

Rule 4: Stand Out…. But in a Good Way

I once had someone trying to sell me something…
I was vaguely interested in it.
However it was, at that time, nowhere near the top of my priority list.

Every week, he’d send me a new email quickly re-explaining what he sold
However he also copied links to stuff relevant to my job and commented on them.
It made him stand out in a good way, and as a result, we eventually had a call.
The lesson: If done well, a little creativity in your follow up can go a long way.

Rule 5: Change your approach

If you’re not connecting with someone, try changing your approach
Try sending email at different times and days of the week.
Sometimes responses can depend on catching them at the right time.
Try a phone call early in the morning before the gatekeeper has got in or in the evening when they’ve gone home?
Senior people do get in early and stay late I find…

Do Remember this though : If someone does ask you to stop following up… Then you must stop following up.
‘cos that is then STALKING and we don’t do that. Do we?

But until you hear that, it’s your responsibility to keep trying.

Realise that it’s you who are giving away free consulting

How to avoid giving away free consulting.

If you are a consultant, a consultative sales person or a coach, when you meet a prospect for the first time if you are like many people you are desperately trying to bring value.
You want to show that you know your stuff .
You fall into “consulting mode” and start doing the project for free.
You notice that the client is frantically making notes.
They are asking for the things you are showing to be sent by soft copy.
Then you wake up and realise that you are giving away your precious time by delivering  unpaid consulting.

You may have just stepped over the line.
The line between doing what you need to do to sell your services and giving free consulting.

Here are a few tips to bear in mind when your keeness to impress takes over.
They may keep you on the right side of the line, allow to deliver value to your prospects and help you win the projects you want.

Tip #1 :  Watch out for the client open questions …

Like

“What would you do if you were me?”
“What specific steps would you take in what sequence?”
“How would you suggest we overcome this?”

If you start answering those questions with details, you can find yourself  in free consulting land.
Be ready with an answer to those kind of questions … Try
“Right now I don’t know enough about your situation to answer that question…
However the first step we’d take after you decide to employ us is…”

Tip #2: Resist the urge to solve problems early

No one forces consultants to lay out solutions to a client’s problem.
However we all occasionally feel an urge to solve them.
We really enjoy it. It’s who we are and what we do.
However if we do it now …
We just lost track of the real reason for this conversation and that’s clear and simple.

Is there a here project to work on?

We think our willingness to consult will help win the deal.
We also know that whatever we say it’s premature and probably of little value.

Tip #3 Frame and Reframe the problem but don’t solve

Your client brings a tough problem to you. You have to
1. Understand the issue(s)
2. Define the scope of the effort
3. Frame and Re-frame the project to suit your approach
4. Work out with the client the value of resolving the issue.

Discuss these and you’ll demonstrate your fitness to do the work.
Plus, you’ll uncover everything you need to move the project forward to a proposal.
Do this type of project “Re-framing” at no cost.

If clients presses you for alternatives, say something like,
“I want to work with you on this issue, and I have ideas on how we can proceed.
However I don’t know enough yet to give you answers that you and I would be comfortable are the right ones.”

Frame and Re-frame a project for free.
Offer consulting services for a fee.

Tip #4 Define Boundaries and then Stick to them

Watch out for those clients who call (repeatedly) to get additional, unpaid help with a project.
Flattering isn’t it?  You take  it as a sign of trust and a strong relationship?
Easy to want to pitch in and help?
But you can easily cross that line again.

We suggest that you let your clients know they can contact you any time.
Be ready to take their calls or respond to emails.
Think about putting a time limit on “free help” ..
“30 days after we complete the project you can ask us questions for free”
Resist taking on unpaid work that requires extended effort.
You know the kind of work, editing a report or creating a new document, no matter who asks.
Let your clients know politely but firmly that you’re not able to take on such tasks without starting a paid project.

Most will understand the validity of boundaries.
Those who don’t are probably best left to someone else.

We think you can probably never really eliminate all unpaid consulting from your business.
However a good first step is to recognise what you are doing to create the situations where it thrives.

Good Rainmaking

Sales Training – Rainmaking: Socially self concious and reluctant to see Senior Execs?

Are you suffering from a reluctance to spend time with senior executives?

Do you find that you are most comfortable with people who you believe are equal to you?
Does that mean that you can’t go in a see a CEO? A VP Manufacturing?
Stuck with the Network manager? Not worthy to see the CIO?

Do you suffer from the “Impostor Syndrome”?

(Feel that people will find out that you are not as bright as them)

Here are a few suggestions that you may like to try to work through this …
We cover some of this type of topic in our Business Development and Sales Training Workshops
By the way unless you went to “Slough Comprehensive” (Eton Public School to the rest of us) we all go through it. ?

1.  Get over your personal social status hang-ups:

If you tell yourself anything like what’s below here, you’re not just in trouble.
You’ve lost the game before getting on the field.

  • I’m not interesting enough
  • I don’t provide enough value to be worthy of senior executive attention
  • I’ll just be too nervous;
  • I’ll mess up
  • Senior executives’ time is more important than mine
  • Senior executives aren’t my peers
  • Senior executives don’t want to be friends with me
  • I don’t want to be friends with senior executives
  • I shouldn’t talk about, or ask about, anything personal
  • I won’t get through so why bother trying

The greatest barriers to establishing ongoing, rich relationships with senior executives are personal hang ups.
If relationships with top people are what you want, don’t psyche yourself out of your chance.

2.  You are an Equal behave like one:

Don’t come across as inferior to a senior executive.
Don’t come over as being superior or arrogant either. Equal is fine

In order to do this you must have confidence in the value you can offer from a business perspective.
You must have confidence in yourself too.

3.  You need to be relevant to the business of the senior exec:

Find out what’s important to your senior executive.

Read up about issues in the business . Get an annual report, read the chairman’s statement if it’s a plc.
Do you homework at the levels below your executive and make some educated guesses at what may be worrying them and for goodness sake ASK.
How about you go to your Senior execs and get them to tell you what keeps them awake at night?
Be curious and interested.

Don’t just focus on problems. You’ll find people who are looking for business growth, innovation, and competitive advantage.
Executives seek ideas that will be “the next big thing” for their business and their agenda.
Bring these ideas to the table and you’ll be on your way.

4.  Remember senior executives are people just like you.

They have emotions and personal interests.
CEOs have kids, like sports, want to be seen as successful, are passionate about politics.
They want to retire, drink pina coladas and walking in the rain and read detective novels on by the pool.
In my experience if you walk into a meeting looking for 2 areas of common ground you’ll find them.
If you don’t you won’t. and when you do the common ground can last a long time.

5.  Have a good conversation:

Don’t ask questions you should know the answer to if you’d bothered with research.
Don’t go on about anything for too long.
Be Interested first, Listen hard and well. Provide ideas. Be prepared. Know your stuff.
Don’t have more than 6 Powerpoint slides to describe anything.

6.  Be determined:

It might take a while, don’t give up grit your teeth.
Sometimes you will only get there through trusted connections.
Work up through lower-level contacts collecting data as you go.
Sometimes reaching out directly works.
Not mailshots think tailored emails or even a letter.
When did you last get a well written letter in business?
Do it enough and you’ll get through to some execs.

7. Create a reputation as the “Go To” expert in your area.

Create relationships with other executives and influential people and put them together in your presence or not.
Make sure anything you put forth is of the highest quality. All of these signal you’re in the right league.

Sales Training – Rainmaking: Overcoming Inertia

I’d like to venture that given our experience at Sales Training the biggest competitor that keeps beating your sales team is called Inertia.

That’s the force that makes people sit on their hands and do absolutely nothing.

At forecasting time your sales people will be saying something like
“Well it’s not gone away, However she’s been in meetings and her mobile goes to voicemail.”
After the next couple of times they’ve said that… They’ll quietly forget it and take it off of their forecast..

So what can you do to help them?

At your next Sales Training meeting Coach them to get the prospect to answer the “So What?” Question.

We are going to assume that they have gone through a process of getting the prospect to write down their Pains and Problems.
Your people should also have taken them through the “Present State to Desired state exercise” .
The discussions should have been outcome focused not problem focused thinking.
There should now be a decent case for the business to go ahead with what you are proposing.
Both parties in the discussions should have an idea of what it will cost, how long it will take, what risks and who’s going to be involved.

Now you get them to play devil’s advocate
or perhaps you as their manager can attend a joint appointment with them and you play that role?

The questions the devil’s advocate all follow along the lines of getting the prospect to answer the question ‘So What?’ ?
If your problems don’t get resolved, so what?
If you don’t solve these problems what is it that won’t happen?
Will the problems get worse? How quickly?
How will they affect the bottom line of your company,(Division, Department)?
If your outcomes doesn’t become reality soon, so what?
What if the initiative drops by the wayside never to be mentioned again? Will anyone notice?
If the outcomes do become reality, how much better will your competitive position become?

Please stay alert for a “So What” answer that can be personally motivated
(e.g. the client will get promoted to Director if your service works out well)
However more commonly you’ll get more ammunition for your
compelling ( We need to this  now) business case rather than the bland ( I need to do this sometime) business case

Let us know how you get on