In conversation with a professional services recruitment consultant recently he mentioned that many technically qualified individuals ask him to find them roles with no selling involved. ‘The thing is David’ he said, ‘all the roles I need to fill have the ability to win business as one of the main requirements’
Of course the reality is that today there is no shortage of technically qualified professionals to provide their services; being a great technician is rarely a differentiator these days. Business development (selling) is now part of the job and clients expect us to be good at it. The 2012 FT Effective Client – Advisor Relationships report highlighted clients demand that firms move from partner centric technical advisers to client centric commercial advisers. There is nothing more commercial and client centric than getting business development right.
We are all in sales
So the worst kept secret in professional service firms is out – we are all in sales. Whether you call it marketing, business development, client development or selling; from the moment you start a phone call, the moment you connect at a networking event or begin a meeting with a client; they know you want to win business. They know you want to sell.
Why is there reluctance by some to accept that selling is part of the professional’s role? Because many professionals still misunderstand what ‘selling’ is really about.
When I ask professionals I work with for a definition of selling their response usually involves words like persuade and convince. When I ask them to describe typical sales people the words they use are usually less than complimentary!
As Charles H Green, author of The Trusted Advisor, said in the foreword for my book ‘The world of sales and the world of marketing have been plagued by the same problem for at least a century. The problem historically facing sales is the tendency to view selling as a method of controlling, manipulating, or otherwise inducing the buyer to do what the seller wants’.
No wonder many professionals assume that professional ethics and integrity somehow need to be suspended if that is what selling is about – and no wonder many professionals try to find roles that keep them as far away from business development as possible!
The actual definition of selling is really simple – ‘the exchange of goods and services for money’. No mention here of ‘persuading’ or ‘convincing’ – or of anything that involves manipulation. In fact it is impossible to build long term client relationships using any form of control or manipulation. Any client who feels an advisor is trying to convince, persuade or manipulate them at best becomes a single transaction – not a client for life who buys and re-buys.
Winning clients for life
Selling isn’t an innate quality that some people who are born with the ‘right’ personality have; it is a process and a set of skills and behaviours that can be learned and developed.
Principled Selling – selling ethically and with integrity is based on five principles.
- 1. Selling is about motivation not manipulation
A core Principled Selling behaviour is to be a master of motivation not manipulation. Principled Selling motivates buyers to want to meet you, to want to do business with you by building trusted relationships long before trying to win business. When motivation is at the heart of how you sell, the whole process of winning business becomes client centric, more natural, more comfortable and more enjoyable for buyers and sellers.
- 2. Profitable relationships require investment
Any relationship personal or business that is going to flourish needs investment – putting effort into the relationship before expecting anything in return.
Knowing the profile of your future dream clients allows you to invest in building relationships with the right audience – sharing free valuable and useful content using the internet and social media, building trusted relationships and attracting the type of client you would love to win.
Get this right and the motivation to want to know more is already coming from the potential client.
- 3. There must be congruency throughout the business development process
Business development and service delivery has to be joined up. Selling messages and selling behaviours have to be congruent with the expectation set by your marketing messages. Delivery of your products or services must be congruent with the promises made through marketing and sales activities.
You also need to act in congruence with your organizations stated values and in congruence with your own values. If there is a mismatch between any of these – when people or organizations are seen as saying one thing but doing another – it becomes impossible to build long term trusted relationships
- 4. Long term relationships depend on being authentic
Being authentic is more than being honest – it implies never attempting to manipulate another person’s perception. For instance – when you listen to a client it is because you are genuinely interested not because you use listening as a technique to seduce them into believing you care.
We all recognize if someone is being insincere – and it damages trust.
- 5. Being human gets results
Being human is about having equal status between buyer and seller – not put you selling hat on and changing your personality when you are out to win business. People still want to do business with people – with other human beings who are genuinely interested in them and who invest time in understanding them and their organisation.
We are all in sales – be proud of it and be good at it.
David Tovey is author of Principled Selling- How to Win More Business Without Selling Your Soul, published by Kogan Page and heads up The Principled Group Ltd. Check out David’s blog www.principledselling.org.