In our first blog we covered common missteps to avoid in a wining consulting sales pitch. Here, we’ll explore some practical steps for developing your pitch.
Developing a unique sales pitch that works is a not an easy proposition. Consultants with very technical expertise are often foisted into a position that is equal parts marketer and equal parts salesperson. Those are difficult positions to master on the fly and often require skills and personality traits that might be not be complimentary to your experience. However, your journey to becoming that world-class closer may not be as long as you think. An article by Steve W. Martin in Harvard Business Review, “7 Personality Traits of Top Salespeople”, outlines some pretty identifiable skills for consultants that may just require honing over time.
Changing Your Mindset
The biggest change to get in the door may come from your mindset. There’s no doubt that the most utilized method of new sales for consultants (particularly those in the market we are addressing) is to use referrals. However, that doesn’t mean you become an order taker; use your opening with these referrals to take control of the conversation and follow this process as a guide.
(Note: I’ve spent a large portion of my career with CEB, so I am a Challenger Sale believer and I’ve developed collateral and training at a few organizations with that methodology in mind, including at CEB. The advice that follows is based on that methodology for proper attribution.)
Guide To A Winning Consulting Sales Pitch
1. Identify the problem you are solving
The CEO of Waze, Uri Levine, said it best:“Fall in love with the problem, not the solution, and the rest will follow.” Uri sold Waze to Google in 2014 for $1.1 Billion, in case you needed convincing. Whether you are using a pitch deck or sitting across from a client over drinks, I recommend grounding the conversation on the problem you see for the client or the market. A quick note of caution. Earnestness for your understanding of the problem can often lead to a soliloquy of your thoughts that issue. Keep those data points in your back pocket. The key will be to ask probing questions to lead your client to the problem themselves or to better understand how the problem plays out at their organization. Further, probing questions and active listening are the two toughest skills to master, in my opinion, in any working relationship. You can’t hit someone over the head with the problem you’ve identified. However, you can frame your conversation in a way that the client is more receptive to learn more.
2. Demonstrate how the problem is painful or costly
First, pry an opening in the client’s mind that they may potentially have a problem. This is your chance to create that head-turning moment that changes the nature of your relationship with the client. Take that data out of your back pocket and build your business case. If you are able to identify a problem the client didn’t know they had or didn’t know how bad it was, you will be able to establish that trusted advisor role that will keep clients coming back to you when issues arise. The first tenant of the Challenger pitch is to teach your clients something new about their business in a manner that leads back to your unique difference.
The hardest part of this conversation is the research and data needed to provide the head turning moment. We don’t have an exact science or technique to actually measure the pain in clients (yet). However, consultants I have seen do this well establish a diagnostic for their engagements. They create a standard set of questions to identify problems or gaps in knowledge. They run these diagnostics over time, and each client that participates helps them build a benchmark on those data points and consequently a teaching point for future clients. This is why staking a claim on your value proposition is so important. If you are always chasing a new problem, you will never have the data or teaching points to support future clients or your pitch. It’s also a fundamental reason that consultants use 9Lenses. They can digitize their frameworks, execute, and build that benchmark all on one platform.
3. Build the ideal solution
You’ve now identified the problem for the client and established how it is really painful or costly; the next challenge you have is neither your solution nor your client but the status quo. Forbes outlined the issue succinctly; the competition is not your biggest threat at this stage, it’s overcoming the status quo. If you’ve done your job of quantifying the problem, the ideal solution you build for the client should be clear, prescriptive, and look like you are taking work off the client’s plate. The key here is to build a way forward that demonstrates contrast to the previous or existing state. The client needs to be able to visualize why this ideal solution is better and your materials should reflect that.
There is one important trap to overcome here. The knock I hear against consultants is that they are somehow repackaging a stock solution that is not particular to the customer. The second tenant of the Challenger pitch will serve you well here. Tailor your pitch. Make sure the ideal solution you outline is tailored to the customer. Use data points or descriptions that include phrases and processes you’ve uncovered in your questions or heard directly from your client. While your framework for uncovering the problems may be the same, the solution should be based on the data the client provides. This is true even if your approach to the resolution is something you’ve done before. If you’re a doctor and you’ve diagnosed a particular malady and resolved it successfully in the past, you’ll use the same process for a similar diagnosis in the future. Consultants follow a similar path, but each diagnosis and resolution should be tailored to your patient, err… client.
4. Demonstrate your unique benefits
Now that you have overcome the status quo and your client is in the decision stage of their buying journey, it’s important to demonstrate why you’re best suited to provide the solution at hand. It’s everyone’s favorite time– you’ve now earned the right to talk about yourself (cue Toby Keith or the Alan Parson’s Project). The amount of time required in this stage is directly proportional to your ability to overcome missteps two and three in our first post. If you’ve clearly defined your value and have made your differences clear to the buyer, you’re only a signature away from that new deal and a replicable consulting sales pitch.
This may seem like a long journey to get someone on board with your solution. However, remember two things that will make this process worthwhile:
1) The fastest way to new business is through your current customers. The time spent up-front becoming that trusted advisor will pave the way for new business. This making it easier to acquire the next time.
2) Compounding is an incredibly powerful force. In this case, I don’t mean financial but human compounding. Relationships get more powerful over time. Clients are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt if you’ve demonstrated ability and results in the past. Leverage this for your referrals.
If you’re interested in developing your own diagnostic that you can productize, scale, and build a business around, contact 9Lenses. See for yourself how our cloud-based platform is helping consultants to differentiate with a winning consulting sales pitch.