(Updated 17 October 2009)
Selling anything requires trust, you need to trust the brand, the salesman or (preferably) both.
Why do you buy stuff? This is a digression from the focus of selling professional service but bear with me, when did you last buy a car? Who did you trust, the brand or the car dealer? Probably the brand (Q for JH: is there an interesting (i.e. boring) fact about why people buy cars?). Yes, but trust and relationship makes a difference; I bought a new car recently and although I liked my german brand, I really detested the dealer – he was arrogant and did not provide me with any kind of service. I moved to another brand where, frankly, the salesman didn’t really matter for the first sale but again, will probably influence my subsequent purchase..
With Professional Services; it is probably the other way around. Unless you work for the big brand consultants (you know who I mean) your brand may mean little and it is probably up to you to close the deal; and deliver; and do some more work.
In the current environment, selling consultancy services is a tough, tough game; you are a discretionary spend and it is times like this that the relationships developed during happier times need to be leveraged. Those of you with no regard for the success or well being of your clients; you will be the first ones to suffer.
Talking to clients about why they choose consultants is very enlightening and its easy, builds trust and reduces your selling costs…. Those clients that have talked about why they choose consultants, it often comes down to relationship; knowing the consultant (“i don’t care who they work for”) and believing that the person they choose will simply deliver…..
OK, so what is the trust ladder?
The trust ladder is something you climb with everyone you meet and there are milestones that enable you to progress from level 0 – the ‘who the hell are you?’ level to level 5 – the ‘will you be my best man?’ level…
Lets try and label the levels:
0 – cold call
1 – you meet someone for the first time through a common 3rd party, your conversation with a stranger moves onto common territory
2 – the idea of potential work is openly discussed
3 – work is done and completed ok
4 – work is done and completed very well
5 – valued client who can openly criticise but will probably still give you work
Labels are difficult and can mean different things to different people….
Jim is the MD of The Message Business
, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.