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Friday, December 24, 2010

Give Them What They Need! Are You Reaching Your Audience?

'Your speak with individuals; you sell to organizations; and you live by referrals' – a friend noted in a recent conversation about professional service firms.

Are we meeting the needs of each of these functions in our communications with clients and prospects. ?

I'd say yes when meetings were face-to-face and we were a primary source of information. While speaking in person, we can demonstrate how our service will get the needed results through stories related to concerns we just heard from from the prospect. How best to approach the organization to get an assignment or who else may benefit from our services are just a natural part of the flow of a conversation.

Has this changed as indirect communication has become a more important (or more frequent) part of our contact with others? Has our delivery changed as well?

Clearly the role as an information provider is different now – much of what we provided is available on the internet with just a few clicks; the carefully choreographed metering out of data and information is no longer effective to educate or to sell the prospect.

--But, do we still include this kind of stuff in correspondence and sales materials? Before you answer, think about the boilerplate in a recent proposal or the 'filler' in that thick leave-behind collateral currently in use.

When using the 'new media' should we abandon face-to-face meetings?  No!

-But we must make efficient and effective use of the meeting time. It is no longer a major portion of our meeting to educate – now the focus on what keeps them up at night and how our services will get bring restful sleep..

When I was in the Big Chair (CEO), I was constantly sought out by individuals and firms who wanted to sell me their services. Here's what I found was most useful to me:

  • Don't bring me a solution looking for a problem – learn about my needs and tell me how you can satisfy them – AND show me that you have hands-on, practical experience in doing so;
  • Time is precious – don't spend mine by reading background material or educating me about things I already know;
  • PLEASE don't tell me about your awards and being a member of the million dollar sales league – good for Mom to hear, but it brings nothing useful to my ears;
  • Listen carefully to what I am saying about issues, the market, and my competition, so you can respond specifically to how you can help me – don't spend my 'talk time' framing your next brilliant statement or prepping for line 26 of your prepared sales presentation;
  • Provide me with useful resources that I may draw upon for a deeper understanding and to better assess what help I really need;
  • Tell me stories about other similar or related assignments and how YOU achieved the results my counterpart needed and expected (exceeding the expectations is fine as well – IF true); I am not talking about a brag session highlighting how great you are, more to the point, the stories should make it easy for me to visualize myself as the benefactor of the achieved results;
  • Telling me that you spoke with another person in my organization carries no particular weight – if it was a useful conversation for that person, I probably already know about the conversation; if not, it adds nothing to the conversation if I am the decision maker;
  • It's OK for you to ask my intentions and time frame – HOWEVER, if you offer to do something – get in touch, provide further information, make a referral, or whatever – DO IT in the time frame promised (yes, it is good to set the When for promises);
  • Keep the meeting to the agreed amount of time – if you asked for 30 minutes, you should be shaking hands & saying good bye no later than minute #30 – don't worry, if I want more I'll ask you to continue.

The face-to-face meeting has shifted from an education session to an assessment session – going from the What to the How - are you the right one to do it. And the individual, the organization and the referral will all be satisfied in the process.

Is this how you see it?

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