Selling in the Consulting World – tackling the issues consultants currently face as they embrace the business development arena. Each month Lars Tewes, MD of SBR Consulting shares a challenge / issue he is working on with his clients, and looks at how it is being addressed.
Client Sales Challenge of the Month: Have we confused attempting to add value to our clients by “cross-selling” instead of providing a truly “integrated” approach?
In the current climate, working with your existing clients and retaining them through continually adding value is essential. This article addresses why integrating your services within a client may not be happening quite as you wish and I will recommend 4 ways to ensure an integrated approach can happen, and how you can influence it.
Our definition of an “integrated approach” is whereby the client has a strong understanding of all your services early on in the sales process and so they know how you can partner with them long-term. Of course there are some situations where it is more appropriate to initially focus on one key area of need and prove your value there first however, this is not an excuse to not make time to help the key decision makers know about your full portfolio.
The definition of “Cross-selling” is introducing another part of the business when there is a known need. This is a healthy thing to do but is probably not achieved as often as one would like. More upsetting is the number of times a consultant hears that they have lost out to a competitor and the client contact says something to you like, “You should have told us, we didn’t know you could help in that area,” or, “We see you as a real partner in “x” services since that is where your strengths lie. We did not think of you for “y” services”. This can be infuriating, especially if your firm are experts in “y” services but the client just did not know (and whose fault is that?).
Depending on your business model, you will know which method is more common for you, “integrated” or “cross-selling”. The question to continually ask yourself is, “Are you seeing the revenue that you expect to come in from clients in your space?” You know the correct answer so if it is “no” then one or more of the following are the potential reasons:
- Integrated selling is not a natural part of your sales strategy
The Heads of each service/offering often do not lead the way on this. They are technical experts in their field, and so lead and chase business that fits their natural skillset, as opposed to leading with another part of the group. For example: accounting firms leading with the Audit function when either consulting or advisory services may be the real need; engineering firms leading with the buildings and infrastructure group when one of the consulting workstreams may be more applicable to build the relationship; marketing firms leading with their core marketing service when a newer technological offering may be more enticing from the client’s perspective and add the competitive advantage required.
- Trust in the other teams/individuals within the business
Often not spoken about out loud when discussing integrated selling in internal meetings, is that many are concerned about the ability and trustworthiness of some of their peers to add value. This is a harsh statement but I have lost count of the number of times I have heard this comment during training over the years. People, especially analytical/technical specialists, do not want to ruin “their” relationship by passing it over to someone else.
- Worried about being seen as too pushy or “salesy”
Many are mistaken into thinking that if they share the bigger picture of how their firm can add value in other areas the prospect will think they have moved into sales mode. However, when done correctly, it should have the exact opposite effect on the prospect and show that you care about providing the right solution at the right time for their business.
- Not part of an individuals targets and objectives
Although there is a huge benefit to the firm for integrated selling and cross selling to take place, in lots of cases, the individuals may not have real motivation to make it happen. I’m not talking solely about monetary motivation but there needs to be at least some driver that shows that they were instrumental in securing the win. There are numerous ways a firm can do this without breaking the bank.
So how can you ensure that your business creates an integrated sales approach? Here are 4 ways to make this happen:
1. Decide it is part of the Board’s / Directors’ overall strategy.
It can no longer be just hearsay or lip service. Communicate this at every possible opportunity. Build in drivers to encourage the right behaviours to make this happen.
2. Make time for the Directors and Client Directors to meet and share key accounts and strategies
In a society where companies are spending £000’s of pounds on ways to touch the prospects, it is amazing how little time is spent internally on some of the easier and more natural wins.
3. Have the confidence to approach a client as an integrated provider not just about your particular expertise
Be aware that timing is important and needs to be considered based on the stage the prospect is in their buying cycle, however do not allow this to become the excuse that stops you from ever picking up the phone. Suggest a meeting to discuss how you could add even more value. You might be surprised how many take you up on this.
4. Remember that you need to be building relationships with all the decision makers
This strategy forces you to build the right relationships, not just with you internal champion who knows you for only one thing, but now with the 3 key decision makers; the Money, the Authority and the Need (M.A.N.)
In conclusion, decide that when you talk about integrated solutions to your internal team you really mean it. Then allow time to collaborate, debate and work together for the greater vision of the firm. Add motivational drivers that encourage this. The current economic environment means this has to become a major area of focus if you are going to future-proof your business.
Guest Post by Lars Tewes