Posts Tagged ‘value consulting’

Takeaways from a LinkedIn Seminar–Making the Most of It

August 18, 2011

On the heels of our successful LinkedIn public seminar, we were treated to a glowing write up by one of the attendees.  An experienced internet and social network user, we considered her insights valuable.  She summed up her perspectives in a blog, “LinkedIn—Making the Most of It,” (http://bit.ly/ooQVvS).

I particularly enjoyed the comment that, “It is possible to get fixated on Connections and not see the value of all the layers of information available to every member.”  Very well put, and it addresses a common complaint that LinkedIn is primarily for recruiters and job seekers.  Indeed, she goes on to point out what was shared:  Connections are extremely valuable and important, but it is how you use them that makes the difference.

And so to the main point.  I find it enlightening, every time we discuss LinkedIn as a business development tool, to see what others take away as the greatest piece of information learned.  In this case, it was the ability of LinkedIn—and you, as the personal connection—to help others within your network who may be of benefit to each other.  That’s right.  It’s not about what others can do for you, but how you can help others.  That is a blog all by itself.  For now, take a look at Stringing Words Together and feel free to subscribe to the Good Growth blog and hers.  She is always a good read.

You can subscribe to the Good Growth blog, join our LinkedIn group, Sales Effectiveness (http://linkd.in/ql6C81), and follow Opus Partners’ company page on LinkedIn (http://linkd.in/ozpa8K).  We’re also on Twitter (@GoodGrowth) and have an Opus Partners Fan Page on Facebook (http://on.fb.me/qAFrPj). 


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Value Selling vs. Price Selling

July 28, 2011

I read an article in Inc.com about selling on value vs. price (http://bit.ly/pGk1vd).  It makes some valuable points, though I believe others are missing that are equally important.

The article begins by stating that you need to target your prospects, but I believe this is more than ”researching the potential client to see if they are a good candidate to meet your price needs.”  (I’ve written blogs on the topic of negotiating price and its relationship to value.)  It is important to identify your ideal prospect on multiple levels and ask questions to decide if there’s a fit.  This takes about an hour of time and is worth it.

A key missing piece is—What questions are you asking to clearly identify client needs?  Inc. talks a lot about presenting and “wielding the full weight of your company’s strengths.”  Shouldn’t one of those be asking clarifying questions to ensure you’re on the right track?

For most of us (I’ve been on the giving and receiving ends of these situations), presentations are a bore.  As the prospect, I am sitting with you because I already have done my own research on you and your company, probably checked references, and have a sense of your capabilities.  I have enough confidence to bring you in.

What I want to know is how are you going to learn about me and my company and solve my real needs?  Talking at me is unlikely to achieve this result.

I enjoyed some of the points in the article, including its premise that “selling on value, not price, involves a balance of confidence, personal rapport, and doing your homework.”  Yet it felt a bit outdated.  It focused on selling and presenting.  It only briefly touched on building rapport, which is such a key component to developing long-term business relationships.  Rapport is based on trust, and hopefully is nurtured during the thoughtful exchange before contracts are signed.

Another point to add:  Today’s market is buyer-focused.  It’s become a bit of a cliché.  We call it the buying process, not the selling process.  It’s more than a matter of semantics, don’t you think?  This mentality shifts the focus away from you, your bravado and presentations, and works to identify client needs.

There is also another aspect regarding price that was overlooked.  Assuming the seller has done their homework, you can discuss budget parameters, but it is often good to step back and summarize what you’ve heard throughout your conversations.  In all fairness, each situation is different and the Inc. article points to generalities.  However, if you have the opportunity to send a summarizing document and be sure you’re on track, a brief follow up conversation can be held.  That’s when to discuss price.  A question we have found to be helpful is:  “How does this fit with your budget?”  Simple and direct.

Confidence, another factor mentioned, is certainly important, though it needs to be balanced by recognition that you don’t know everything.  Prospects want to know you’re going to ask questions to learn their specific business challenges and understand their needs, not sell a cookie-cutter solution.

I would offer that this article would be best turned upside down.  Begin with a focus on building rapport with the client and understanding needs and company background.  Begin by incorporating personal touches. (Yes, we believe strongly in the value of personal, hand-written thank you notes.)  Go in knowing that value is long term and that’s what’s important to your business relationship—and growth.  If the first few questions focus on price, than either a) you didn’t do your homework and/or b) you didn’t ask qualifying questions before your meeting.

It is the steps you take to discover and connect that ultimately get you to that all-important meeting.  Hopefully it will be an exchange and not a presentation with you, the salesperson, speaking most of the time.  The 80/20 rule is certainly the topic of another blog.

The prospect already invited you to the party.  Be a gracious, thoughtful guest.

You can subscribe to the Good Growth blog, join our LinkedIn group, Sales Effectiveness (http://linkd.in/ql6C81), and follow Opus Partners’ company page on LinkedIn (http://linkd.in/ozpa8K).  We’re also on Twitter (@GoodGrowth) and have an Opus Partners Fan Page on Facebook (http://on.fb.me/qAFrPj). 

Trust: Why It Matters Most to Business Growth

July 22, 2011

Lately there have been some questionable business practices exposed by the media.  Regardless of the size of the organization, one point is obvious—these companies will have a hard time, if ever, of shaking their reputations as scoundrels.

They have broken the sacred trust bond.

Charles Green, in his book Trust-Based Selling has an equation that we find is a powerful reminder to our clients of the power of trust:

TQ = C + R + I / S

The trust quotient = the level of credibility + reliability + intimacy divided by self-orientation.

Let’s start with the denominator.  Recalll your days of school algebra.  If the bottom number is high, the end result will be smaller.  So, the first important factor is minimizing the “me” orientation of many salespeople.

You need to build a relationship.  If you were out on a date with someone who droned on about themselves, you likely would not go out again.  It is a one-way interaction.  Successful relationships must be two-way and, in the best of these, each party carefully listens to the other to see how they can help each other and give.  Business growth—for you and them—depends on this exchange.

Credibility and reliability are gained by what you ask, your experience and how responsive you are with your actions.  Some of this is hard data.  The final piece, intimacy, is important, reflecting how you share and open yourself up to the person, offering assistance to the new acquaintance and others.  In today’s more transparent environment, it is easier to get a sense of how someone interacts.  Doing a quick search can put information at your fingertips to answer some questions.  Is this person:

  • Too self-promotional?
  • Overly critical?
  • Collaborative?
  • Actively offering advice and insights?

In addition, there are always ways, such as LinkedIn, to determine who knows your contact and do a quick check of credentials, etc.

I would go so far as to say that the TQ equation points to value, which is a key component of trust.  (Value is the subject of a future blog.)  In every instance, where there is someone I trust, it is the result of their providing value to me in one way or another during the developing stages of our relationship.  They assisted me and I them.

People trust those who have gone out of their way to help.  It’s the giving principle.  Trust and value are inextricably linked.  It is in the process of articulating value and developing mutual respect in a relationship that trust is enhanced.

In a previous blog on negotiating, we raised a question in a LinkedIn group:  How well are you articulating value and building trust before negotiating on price?  One response, from Steven Forth, CEO of LeveragePoint Innovations, Inc., said, “I think articulating value, which shows an understanding of your customer’s business, is a good way to build trust.” 

It’s also good for business growth.

How do you give and add value?  What have you done to improve your TQ?

You can subscribe to the Good Growth blog, join our LinkedIn group, Sales Effectiveness (http://linkd.in/ql6C81), and follow Opus Partners’ company page on LinkedIn (http://linkd.in/ozpa8K).  We’re also on Twitter (@GoodGrowth) and have an Opus Partners Fan Page on Facebook (http://on.fb.me/qAFrPj). 


Value Consulting: “Work with Me, Don’t Tell Me What to Do”

March 22, 2011

Good leaders don’t hire consultants to tell them what to do.   And good consultants don’t tell people what to do.

The best consultants ask questions that help the leader see and prioritize issues, and incorporate the executive’s expertise and knowledge of their organization to develop solutions.  Leaders can include, but are certainly not limited to, CEOs, CFOs, Sales VPs, managers, and anyone leading a team from which revenue generation is demanded.

It’s a collaborative process, with the consultant and leader working as partners to address the company’s challenges.    To become a trusted advisor, consultants must demonstrate the value they can bring to solving a business need by raising concerns that will get to the heart of the matter.

I am always stunned and more than a bit perplexed by businessmen who, after 15 minutes of conversation ask, “So what do you think I should do to solve this problem?”    My response (after counting to 10 in my head) is to ask how they know this is the main problem?  Then I point out that while there are several possible solutions to the perceived challenge, as an astute executive he/she likely knows these obvious fixes already.

I proceed to ask 2-3 questions in addition to the one just posed to get them to think and demonstrate that not only do I refuse to take a cookie cutter approach (because it never works), but that I am interested in providing the right solution for specific needs.  My value comes in providing an outside perspective and asking tough questions to unearth the real issues holding a company back from its desired success.  Some sample questions that have worked to jumpstart the thinking process include:

  • What are the reasons you are focusing on this issue now?
  • What is the ideal outcome you would like to achieve?   How will you measure success?
  • How will these changes impact the bottom line?  Revenue?  Costs?

If, as a consultant, I tell you what to do, there’s no ownership, investment or collaboration.   The odds are that once I walk away, whatever advice I’ve shared, training I’ve done, sessions I’ve facilitated, will not be followed through.  And that’s where you are going to see the results that will grow your business.

If, however, I’ve worked with you and you’ve put your thought and brainpower into developing the solution(s), you feel a stronger connection and see the value.   You have engaged in a process of self-realization, recognizing what your company needs to succeed.   Follow through will be something you want to do—not just because someone told you.