Project Management: Scope Creep and how to avoid it

Project Management Soft Skills : Managing Scope Creep

The order was taken a few weeks ago.
The contract is signed, and work has started.
They said there was a little “slack” left after the negotiating / purchasing process so you can over-deliver a little.
The client loves what you and your team are doing for them.
They promises to give you more work in the future.

So, it’s no big deal when they ask you to do “one more thing” for them.
You do it and get back to work.

Then you get another request.

And then another.

All of a sudden the project is off track.

You’ve just started the process of what the suits and the grey hairs call scope creep.

Here are 3 ideas to prevent that from happening.

3 suggestions to help you maintain your boundaries and still have strong client relationships.

As always with Rainmaker only you can decide what works for you in your environment.

First Step: For both your sakes get clarity about what specifically is the request

Sometimes clients are responding to something happening in the wider organisation.
Sometimes they are not clear on what they need and what they really want.
Remember our job is to give them what they have agreed with us they need, not to do everything they ask.

However When you do get a request like this, please don’t say no at first.
Sending an email with all the reasons why it is not included in the scope of the project is not your best plan here.
No one likes to be told no. It feels like rejection.
Not great for client rapport (and more business)
Talk to your client and find out the story behind the request.
Why is it so important and why now?
Clarify exactly what they want you to do.
Actually in practice many times we find requests have been based on false assumptions.

Second Step: Agree the Impact

Many clients don’t mean to take advantage of us.
Something suddenly comes up and they think they need your help.
Because they trust you, they think it’s OK to ask.
In their mind they’re thinking “This will only take a minute.”
You however need you reassure yourself and your client and then come to an agreement.

  1. How much time do you think it will actually take?
  2. If we take that time what will it impact?
  3. Is that all agreed with all concerned?
  4. Probably more importantly…. If you say Yes and deliver it for no charge then you may have established a precedent.
    The precedent is set in the mind of the client that it’s ok to ask and you will agree to do extra tasks for them.
  5. You need to help them understand how the request will impact the project.
    They need to own this part … They can choose their priorities.

Third Step: Give your client an Easy Option or Option of least resistance

Like most people your clients think they know what kind of help they need at the beginning of a project.
Much like any change project, it’s not until they get into the process that other needs are discovered.
At that point, clients feel very vulnerable.
They now know they need extra help, but they don’t know how to get it.
This is why they ask you.

This is your big chance to put the big underpants on the outside of your outfit.
(Think Superman or Wonder Woman) This is when you can save the day.

Remember this is a “surprise” and no one could foresee this.
Work on the assumption that the client is NOT asking for free work.
May be you should communicate that assumption to them?

Have at least two options ready to cover the new development.

Option 1
Should be the one that includes additional investment

Option 2
Is the solution that includes adjusting the scope.
Your aim is to make it easy for the client to get help without having to jump through a lot of budget hoops.
I suggest that when you’ve agreed either of them an email note confirming your agreement should suffice.

Keep Calm and Carry On
I suggest that you try to believe clients do not intend to deliberately take advantage of you.
Sometimes they don’t know where the boundaries are and you may have to help them understand.
When you can take blame out of the situation, you can look for the “yes” instead of starting your conversation with a “no.”
With clarity and compassion, we can deal with the real issues, communicate the impact, and create easy ways to move forward.
Our clients will remember how you helped them and still rave about your work.

If you have difficulty with this maybe take a look at our Project Management Soft skills workshops

Business Development Training -Rainmaking: 10 Questions to start off your client meetings

We have said before that well constructed,  open questions can help us to find out what’s going on for our clients.
They can connect us with buyers, understand their needs and what’s important to them. All of this makes our job of trying to help them a little easier.

On our Business Development Training workshops we give out pages and pages of sample questions for the attendees to start their own library…
We’re not going to do that now but here are a 10 Questions that might start off your collection.

10 Open Questions

  1. Is there a particular reason as to why this particular service or product is not working for you right now?
  2. Many of our clients are reporting problems with areas A, B, and C and asking us to help.
    How are these areas affecting you?
    What do you think about them?
  3. What are your overall goals and objectives for this area?
  4. What obstacles are holding you back from reaching your profit, or other goals?
  5. (If it was your client who asked for the meeting)
    Can you tell me more about the reasons you want to talk with me today?
  6. (Assuming you set the meeting)
    As I said in my email, I’d like to share with you a few ideas that have helped our clients succeed in the X,Y, and Z areas.
    However before I launch into those I’d like to know what else might you like to cover?
    What will make the meeting successful for you?
  7. If you were to make this happen, what would it mean for you personally?
  8. How important to the board of directors is this initiative?
  9. Wave your magic wand and it’s 3 years from now, how will this look different?
  10. Wave your wand again … There were no restrictions on you – money, effort, political issues and so on do not exist
    What would you change?  Can you tell me why you say that?

Sometimes when you have really thought out your questions it can be difficult to not sound contrived. Make sure you use your own words and  wording when you ask these questions.
The words have to feel comfortable to you when they come out of your mouth. Practicing in front of a mirror can help.

If you or your sales team need help with Questioning and Listening to the answers email us on info@rainmaker-coaching.co.uk

Good Rainmaking
Rob

 

Business Development Training -Rainmaking: 7 Rapport gaining Questions

Our recommendation is that before you start to sell yourself, you develop Rapport with your new prospective client.

Rapport is that slightly mysterious feeling when you seem to be getting on really well with someone

We show our Business Development Training workshop attendees techniques to get to Rapport quickly …

We ask them to go into their first meeting with a new person with a mind-set of…
“I have two areas of common ground with this person .
I just don’t know what they are yet and I’d like to find out. ”

Sometimes  one really well thought out open-ended question and your client will share with you all the information you need to find the areas of common ground and begin to help them.

Well thought out, open-ended sales questions help us find out what’s going on in our prospects’ worlds.
They help us connect with buyers personally, understand their needs and what’s important to them, and help them create better futures.

Following are a few open-ended sales questions you can ask.
We think they’ll help you to fill in the picture of your clients’ needs.

One thing you’ll already know about open-ended sales questions:
They don’t need to be complex. Often the basics are all you need.

Sample questions

  1. What’s going on in your business these days?
  2. How have things changed over the last few years / months?
  3. How do you expect them to change in the next few years / months?
  4. What are you up to this weekend?
  5. Where are you from?
  6. It was good to hear the short version of your background at the meeting.
    However I’m interested in the long version. How about we grab a coffee somewhere?
  7. You mentioned you want to retire in a few years. What are you thinking of doing then?

If you are looking to generate rapport you do have to show genuine interest in your prospects.

These short questions will set you on your way.

Good Rainmaking

Rob Biggin

 

Business Development Training -Rainmaking: 7 Rapport gaining Questions

Our recommendation is that before you start to sell yourself, you develop Rapport with your new prospective client.

Rapport is that slightly mysterious feeling when you seem to be getting on really well with someone

We show our Business Development Training workshop attendees techniques to get to Rapport quickly …

We ask them to go into their first meeting with a new person with a mind-set of…
“I have two areas of common ground with this person .
I just don’t know what they are yet and I’d like to find out. ”

Sometimes  one really well thought out open-ended question and your client will share with you all the information you need to find the areas of common ground and begin to help them.

Well thought out, open-ended sales questions help us find out what’s going on in our prospects’ worlds.
They help us connect with buyers personally, understand their needs and what’s important to them, and help them create better futures.

Following are a few open-ended sales questions you can ask.
We think they’ll help you to fill in the picture of your clients’ needs.

One thing you’ll already know about open-ended sales questions:
They don’t need to be complex. Often the basics are all you need.

Sample questions

  1. What’s going on in your business these days?
  2. How have things changed over the last few years / months?
  3. How do you expect them to change in the next few years / months?
  4. What are you up to this weekend?
  5. Where are you from?
  6. It was good to hear the short version of your background at the meeting.
    However I’m interested in the long version. How about we grab a coffee somewhere?
  7. You mentioned you want to retire in a few years. What are you thinking of doing then?

If you are looking to generate rapport you do have to show genuine interest in your prospects.

These short questions will set you on your way.

Good Rainmaking

Rob Biggin

 

Business Development Training -Rainmaking: Cross-Selling? Are you having a laugh?

Cross-Selling in Services Companies? You must be joking?

You have done the expensive bit…

All the research tells you …. Gaining a new customer is 5 to 7 times more expensive than selling to existing clients.

You did all the proposals, you attended all the meetings. All the planning.

You landed the big fish… Now it’s time to expand your foothold.

You start to work through your major account planning processes

All goes really well. Account plans are drawn up.

Then you review progress. The needles of business growth are moving but not much…

There is growth but only in one area of service or product… The one you started with…

Hmmmm what’s the problem?

A case of the Cross-Sell Killer?

What’s that?

In our experience, it comes down to … Your people don’t trust each other.

(Our Business Development Training Workshops can explore this topic as well as others)

OK. That may be over stating it.
However you have a BIG problem. Why?
Because if don’t expand in existing clients you are condemning your company to the high cost of selling.
If you keep LANDING but not EXPANDING your costs will stay high.
You need that “cheaper to get” business from existing clients to improve your profits

Try this test…

Surprise your account leaders

Ask them to try to sell to you another one of your product or services lines..
Expect lots of avoidance and excuses. What you may well find is that they can’t do it…
They …

  1. Don’t know enough about the people in other areas of your business
  2. Don’t understand how the other teams in your company operate
  3. Don’t know what benefits the other services team can bring to clients.
  4. Have no stories of of their thrilled clients to tell.
  5. May have been burned in the past by bringing other people into “their” accounts
  6. Don’t know what problems the other teams solve
  7. Certainly don’t know the good questions to ask to see if your client has these isssues

Those are the reasons, consciously or not, they avoid broadening the conversation.

They may even doubt one another’s competence.

Regardless of why, you have internal issues that you need to deal with.
You can have lots of account planning meetings but the other services won’t grow.

This is not a skill issue. Rarely is it a value delivery or capability issue.
Most companies say that they trust each other to collaborate.

Make no mistake this lack of cross-selling is a silent, chronic wet blanket dampening strategic account management success.

What do you do about it?

There’s no one answer. You have to know what’s going on and why before you can solve it.

Try asking yourself and your team these questions:

  1. Is there a lack of trust here at our company?
  2. What are the reasons we are not cross-selling?
    1. Lack of knowledge of all of our capabilities?
    2. Lack of knowledge about how other divisions make a difference?
    3. People don’t know each other well enough to trust each other?
    4. Actual quality issues that, as a company, you need to solve?
    5. You’ve solved previous quality issues but people don’t know that yet?

Once you have some answers, you can start solving the problems.
It just may be the key to unlocking major revenue growth in your accounts.

If you need our help with Cross-selling issues contact us on 0333 444 1955 or info@rainmaker-coaching.co.uk

Business Development Training: Avoiding The Trap-Door Question

So what’s a trap door question, you’re asking yourself.

This occurs at the start of a meeting with a new person in a new client.

They may well be a little uncomfortable and unsure as to how to start the meeting.

They say something like …

“Tell us a bit about yourselves”

or  “Tell us about your company and what it does”

or they  may say “Could you give us an overview of your company and it’s services” .

Warning ! Warning! Sounds of Claxons … Lights Flashing …
You are standing on the trap door!!

(we’d cover this and other topics as part of our Business Development Training Workshops)

There are four things you can say in reply to this question.

Tactics 1 and  2 : Open the trap door (and you fall down the hole)

Tactics 3 and 4 : Nail it shut

Tactics 1 and 2

Tactic 1.

This is where you crack your knuckles ,which may have been dragging on the floor, rotate your head on your neck to prepare.  Then you deliver a blistering 30 minute corporate pitch that your colleagues and peers would stand on chairs to applaud.
To be greeted in this case with silence and sounds of shuffling feet and papers.
You may even detect tumbleweed and a chill wind blowing through the room

Tactic 2.

This is where your days of preparation are about to pay off.
You deliver a pitch that absolutely nails exactly what you and your consultants think the clients need in terms of services and products.
You have prepared well and decided exactly what they need and now is the time to tell them.
They gave you a chance and you took it….
Just so you know …   in our training we rather unflatteringly call this the “product vomit”

From the bottom of the pit of despond a few days later when you are not chosen to take part in further discussions…  You may realise at  the time that either of the above answers were WRONG.
They were not wrong from a factual or presentation style or demonstrating that the client was important enough for you to prepare.  They are just WRONG from a timing point of view.
The client is looking for someone who listens to their needs and understands their goals.
Someone who develops rapport with them. Someone to trust.
Not some crazed salesperson who just wants to sell them something after just walking through the door.

When you stare up from the bottom of the pit of despond you can reassure yourself in one way…  As you look around the walls of the pit you’ll see ALL of our initials there.  We’ve all been there , done it and lived to regret it .

Tactics 3 & 4.

Tactic 3. Your elevator Pitch

This is where you have really prepared…
Woodrow Wilson was famously quoted as saying
” If I am to speak for 10 minutes I need a week of preparation.
If it’s 15 minutes I need 3 days
If it’s an hour I’m ready now”

What you need in your repertoire is what lots of people call their “Elevator pitch”.  
The idea is that it last as long as an elevator takes from the ground floor to the penthouse.
In it you say who you work with , what things you do for / with them and have an example of the benefits you deliver, that are relevant to the client in front of you.
It should take you no more than 2 minutes… It will probably take you a few days to craft one if you haven’t done one before.

 

Tactic 4. Asking a Power Question:

The final recommendation is that you ask a question rather than answer the one asked of you.

Try this one.   ” What would you like to know about us?”  And now shut up.

If the answer that comes back is still a little general then probe again.

” Just so I really understand it , I wonder if you could say a little more about why you’re interested in hearing about that”.
Keep going until you’ve got a really good idea as what your new client really wants to hear about.

As you pass the Pit of Despond on your way to the Heights of Success give a thought to the people down there.
You were there once.

Good Rainmaking

 

 

Rainmaker Challenge # 5: Finding the time to Develop Business Revisited.

Services businesses are desperate to turn their people into Business Developers.
This sequence of blogs attempts to help with common issues

Rainmaker Challenge#5:  Finding the time to Develop Business Revisited.

This one is a really common challenge and we thought we’d take it on again.

Again we say everyone has the same 24 hours in the day…
And yet others manage to put more time into Business Development
Business Development like Sales is a numbers game
The more frogs you kiss the higher the chance of a prince or princess
Business Development will not give you opportunities unless you give it time

How can you find more time?

Try this… Sit with a consultants 4 box square on a sheet of paper

Box 1 : What can I stop doing now?

Box 2: What will I start doing now?

Box 3: What can I do less of now?

Box 4: What can I do more of?

At the same time ask yourself …

What networking events are just not working? Is it them or you?
What Business Development activities over the past 3 years have not resulted in work?

Can I combine client time and personal time? What do I and my clients like to do? Theatre, Rugby Cricket?
Do they have small kids too? Could that be something to share?
Can I convince someone to let me do my business development at fun events?

View client time a little differently.
One of our early Rainmakers told us that he viewed meeting clients as meeting new friends… ?
Why? Simply because many of his now best friends he first met as clients.

Can I combine client time and client development time?
Can I give some of my services for free to investigate an interesting and early forming opportunity for a client?
How good would it be to in early as their ideas are forming?

Are there some things that I do that do not seem to add anything to anyone?
Go ask the person why you have to do the work for them?
Is it still valuable to them?

We know one new manager who came into a department and he just asked why they produced 212 reports for people.
He got the team to follow the reports and ask the recipients if they were still needed.
Within 2 months the report load had dwindled to 20 reports.

Rainmaker Challenge # 4: I hate marketing my services

We run Business Development  Training  Coaching and Workshops for services businesses.
This sequence of blogs attempts to help with common issues

Rainmaker Challenge#4: I hate marketing my services

This usually starts with a conversation that goes like…
“I feel like I shouldn’t have to market my services”
“I loathe marketing! I enjoy my relationships with clients and I love the kind of work I do.
I would prefer to spend my time producing high-quality work for my clients and hitting my utilisation numbers
I feel like the time I spend marketing takes me away from doing that.”

Doing great work is necessary, however it is absolutely not sufficient to grow a significant funnel of business.
The days of “do good work and the clients will follow” are gone.
There are too many other companies out there doing good work AND developing business.
Let’s assume you enjoy your relationships with your clients and the work you’re doing.

Reframing Rainmaking or Business Development?

How about you try to reframe the way you regard Business Development  or Marketing?
Can you stop seeing it as taking you away from client service?
Why not see it as a way to spend more time with your clients?
More time spent understanding their goals and challenges?
How about you then view your business development efforts as educating your clients about what you can do and how you can help them achieve their goals and solve their problems?
Doing excellent work and providing excellent client service is certainly not inconsistent with business development.
However our recommendation is that you cannot leave it there.
You need to deepen the relationship on both a professional and personal level, understand their needs and wants, and stay in touch on a regular basis.

Rainmaker Challenge # 3

Services businesses are desperate to turn their people into Business Developers.
Many face common challenges. This sequence of blogs attempts to help with common issues

Rainmaker Challenge#3:
Getting in front of the people with authority to buy services.

This challenge usually starts with a conversation
“I have trouble getting meetings with the people who have the ability to hire me.
How do I get to know these people and how do I get them to know me?”

Our suggestion is that you first start with your personal network.
Who do you already know that knows those decision makers?
Can you ask for introductions at a conference you are both attending?
Can you get one of your contacts to set up a lunch for the three of you?
Can you ask for permission to use a friend’s name when you contact the person?
If there’s no one in your network who knows the target prospect, work out where the persons spends time.
Look for venues where clients, potential clients and referral sources for the type of work that you do tend to congregate.
What organisations do they belong to? What conferences do they attend?
If you have trouble identifying these types of organisations, talk to your librarian and marketing team.
Once you’ve identified these places, show up there.
However do remember, building any funnel or book of business by attending networking events takes a long time.
It is highly unlikely to produce results in the short term, so plan on investing 3-5 years in the process.
(That’s why it’s always best to start with people you already know!)

The Challenges of a Rainmaker… #2

ALL these businesses are desperate to turn their people into Business Developers.
Many face common challenges. This sequence of blogs attempts to help with common issues

Rainmaker Challenge#2:  Finding the time to Develop Business.

This one usually surfaces as       “I have two small children.
Between work demands and family obligations, there’s little time left for business development.
It is very hard to go out to dinners with clients when it means I will miss reading to my kids at bedtime.”

We understand the issue completely, finding time for business development is a challenge most professionals face.
However we do prod you back to one thought … That everyone has the same 24 hours in the day.
Each and everyone of us has things to do. Some take higher priority then others.
This we feel is particularly true for people who have significant care obligations at home.
Clearly people with young children can’t devote as much time to business development as people without.
People with a live at home elderly relative or partner who they care for may find it tough.
We try to may developing business a team effort because as times change so do demands on people’s time.
Those with little time do  you need to make marketing as efficient and effective as possible.
We suggest that anyone with limited time focus on a finite number of “high-potential” prospects.
You also need to employ specific marketing activities that work for you.

However what often helps, is that you get very very clear about why you want to be successful at business development.

  • Will it provide you with a sense of security during the next round of redundancies?
  • Will it get get you away from a difficult client?
  • Will it get you Interesting work? (Whatever that is for you)
  • What about the gains to your family?
  • Will it mean you will make money?
  • Can you use money to pay for school or university fees?
  • Maybe take that trip-of-a-lifetime together?
  • Will it allow you to make a substantial donation to your favorite charity?

Keep your reasons for being successful at business development visible and refer to them often.
Some people we know made a collage of their reasons and keep it handy for the wet Wednesdays when they’re down.
If your reasons are compelling and personal, you’re more likely to find a way to carve out time in your busy schedule to market your services.