Fix Problems, Don’t Sell Services


The ROI Hunters had the opportunity to speak with a new fledgling service provider.  (We use service provider for a reason here and not company.)  They shared with us their frustrations in acquiring new clients.  A very large portion of their non-billable hours were involved in seeking new clients.  Their success rate was very poor, to their standards.  We decided to take a few moments and analyze this problem for our up-and-coming competitor, after all, sometimes Hunting ROI requires we build relationships with other Hunters.

Improve vs. Educate

It became clear after the first 5 minutes, they were trying to sell services and spending all their time selling their abilities to prospective clients.   They were hoping for that epiphany to occur as the prospective clients absorbs the abilities-sales-pitch, that this new agency before them held the key to their future success.  The prospective client was expected to quickly sign a multi-year contract to ensure that these bright young geniuses would not be snatched away by their competitors.  They were simply there to educate, and hoped this would translate into a new client.  I won’t say this is impossible, but I would say this story would be equivalent to winning the lottery, with a very, very, small jackpot.

Some Ugly Scenarios

Let’s face it, we all want our clients and prospects to perk up and get excited each time we walk in the room, as if they were completely lost since the last time we left their presence.   We expect them to drop everything and give us their undivided attention, as if the remainder of their day/week/month/year depended on the very next syllable that came out of our mouth.  This is hardly ever the case, and often depends on your ability to show them a solution to a problem they have shared with you.

The ROI Hunters have come to believe that if a prospect can figure out that your agency can help them solve a problem, it is just as likely to occur in the 30-second elevator pitch as in a 30-minute presentation.  So why waste 29 minutes and 30 seconds, time is valuable after all. The prospective client’s time is even more valuable.  Let me describe two possible scenarios that play out with this abilities-sales-pitch story:

Scenario One

Five minutes into the sales pitch, the client, easily assessing that this will likely be a waste of time, becomes very nervous.  A hint of panic is expressed on his face as he realized that he did not demand or create an agenda at the beginning of the meeting.  Unless he becomes creative, he will waist value time listing to a dead-ender presentation.  He stops the meeting and says, “This is very exciting stuff, give me a moment so I can tell my assistant to hold all calls and possibly push my next hour’s meeting to this afternoon.”  As your head swells with this feedback, he steps out the door and flashes the 10 minute signal to his assistant, who understands that she has 9 minutes to wrap up what she’s working on so she can come in and interrupt your meeting, explaining some emergency needs your prospective client’s attention, immediately!  He apologizes, and states that he has your presentation, and will be contacting you to set up a follow-up.  You never hear from him again.

Scenario Two

Five minutes into the sales pitch, the client, easily assessing that this will likely be a waste of time, moves into position to dissemble and disrupt your plans to sell your services.  The questions as first seem innocent enough, but you begin to wonder why the prospect is challenging you to provide facts and figures to backup your claims.  He enjoys playing ‘devil’s advocate’ with you, and even states as much, and that this role is how he handles all his meetings. Realizing that you are being kept from getting to your points you become frustrated as time is now playing against you.  But, at the first sign of your frustration, the prospect politely stops the meeting, claiming that he has heard enough, but doesn’t think the timing is right, or states that he has to many conflicting points of view to move any future.  He thanks you for you time.  You asked if you can leave your presentation and offer to return and help decipher the conflicting messages, and he agrees.  You never hear from him again.

Add Value – Solve Problems

Our recommendations to this fledgling service provider was to identify the problems they can help their clients with, and then create 30-second elevator pitches for each.  Let’s face reality, for every agency like yours, there are 10 more waiting in the lobby to take any money you leave on the table for them.  You can still keep the 30 minute presentations in your back pocket and pull it out when needed.  But in this case, needed means that the prospect has shown genuine interest in the elevator pitch and wants to learn more.

After all, if the Hunters of ROI cannot add value, why bother with the Hunt.  Good Hunting.

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  1. #1 by Cristina Favreau on June 30, 2008 - 11:05 am

    “If a prospect can figure out that your agency can help them solve a problem, it is just as likely to occur in the 30-second elevator pitch as in a 30-minute presentation.”

    Tim, I couldn’t agree more with you on this point.

    If your 30-second intro elicits acknowledgement, it’s a sure sign you need to rework it. You’ll know your intro is answering the all important “what’s in it for me?” when your audience asks questions (“How do you do that?” “Can you help us?”, etc).

    In my experience, you can’t have one without the other. That is, it’s your benefits-based 30-second intro that will open the way to a ‘these-are-the-solutions-we-offer’ sales conversation.

    Thanks for sharing how you helped your client “get” where they were going wrong.

  2. #2 by BigBan on August 16, 2008 - 9:58 pm

    Oh, Thanks! Really interesting. Greets.

  3. #3 by Tim Rueb on August 17, 2008 - 10:50 am

    Thanks for the comments.

  4. #4 by csprestoninc on July 27, 2010 - 4:27 am

    Here is a similar topic related to whether you want to take on a client in the first place:

    http://cspreston.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/pass-on-a-potential-client/

    Thanks,

    Brett Miller
    dev@customsoftwarebypreston.com
    http://www.customsoftwarebypreston.com

    • #5 by Tim Rueb on July 27, 2010 - 3:16 pm

      Brett, Thanks for stopping by. Thanks also for adding to the discussion.

      Good Hunting.

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