Anda di halaman 1dari 15

a Trusted Advisor.com article Charles H.

Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

Relevant Resources The best sales thinking in industry at large is well researched, based
on sound marketing principles, and has proven successful for many
Article:
businesses. Buying, it says, is a linear process of problem definition,
Competitive Disadvantage:
alternatives generation, and criteria-based selection. Selling is a
New Sales Strategies for
distinct discipline, consisting of helping the buyer by clarifying
New Business Models
information, answering questions and offering implications. The
Article: whole process is highly rational.
Do a Sales Job on Yourself

Blog Post: This approach to selling is taught in the best business schools,
Hostage Negotiation trained by the best training firms, and written in the best-selling
- Lessons for Selling, business books. Faced with this successful industrial model of sales,
Customer Service and many of us in the professions have come to believe that our clients
Business Relationships must buy this wayand that we should sell this way.

Yet many of us have that nagging feeling in the belly telling us that
it just doesnt seem to work like that. Most of us deny that feeling
because we think it means we are doing a bad job of selling. It
doesnt occur to us that the model itself may be wrong!

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
2

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

T he truth is, selling professional services


is different from other selling. It is more
psychological and more personal. The profes-
are for large amounts, with high risk-return
ratios, and high levels of uncertainty about
results. Both buyer and seller position the
sional services sale is by no means an irratio- seller as an expert. Combined, these factors
nal processbut neither can it be described in are a recipe for complex psychodynamics.
rational terms alone. The dataour belly, in To begin with, selling and the professions
this caseare right. It is the Industrial Sales tend to attract different personalities. Most
Paradigm that is at fault. sales people are extroverts, are happy to meet
The truth There are barriers to seeing new people, tend to focus at the general level,
things this way. The Industrial and are impatient with details. The typical
is, selling
Sales Paradigm has been inter- service professional is much more cautious
professional nalized not only by trainers and precise. Selling thus at puts us at odds
services is and business schools, but also with ourselves from the outset.
by senior partners and even our Because the seller and deliverer are usually
different from
clients! Yet if firms continue to one and the same, we cannot avoid one very
other selling. use an ill-fitting model, they are uncomfortable factwe must sell ourselves.
passing up chances for massive This flies in the face of our natural reluctance
improvements in efficiency and effective- to hype ourselves. We want to be seen (and
nessnot to mention continuing to foster to see ourselves) as client-focused, not self-
discomfort within their organizations. obsessed. We want to be appreciated for our
talents, without having to boast or beg.
How Things Really Work Worse, if I am selling myself, and the client
Those of us who sell professional services doesnt buy, then it feels like the client is per-
face several challenges. We are (usually) simul- sonally rejecting me. I do not have the luxury
taneously the seller and the deliverer. The of selling a distinct product, or a separate
buyer buys us as well as the service. Our sales team. I am the product; I will be personally

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
3

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

accountable for a successful project outcome. relationsand we know it. If the client buys
If the client doesnt buy, then the client must based on relationships, then it feels like either
believe there is something wrong with me. It a) we are in the wrong job (because it requires
all feels very personalbecause it is! a skill level we have not achieved), or b) we are
Thus, we must do something we dont enjoy doing the right job wrong (because what we
doing (selling), something that offends our are good at isnt working). Either way, were
sense of modesty (hyping ourselves) and may uncomfortable.
feel vaguely unethical, and that then exposes Selling professional services also fuels
us to personal rejection as a result self-doubt. Few professionals, deep down,
Few of having done it! think they are worth their billing rates. Joe
It gets worse yet. Not only the consultant compares himself to Bill the
professionals, deep
must we sell our capabilities computer salesman. Bill asks the customer to
down, think they and ourselves, but clients spend $1M on a computer system. Joe asks the
are worth their buy our personal characteris- client to buy Joe himself, at an hourly rate that
tics as much as our technical works out to more than 3 times Joes salary.
billing rates.
skills. They buy our character, Joe imagines the following:
interpersonal skills and judgment, not just Gosh, how can we be charging 3x my salary,
our degrees and content knowledge. This is its not fair to the client;
something professionals really dont want Oh no, every hour I work will be under a
to believe. Professionals are the least likely microscopeI cant screw up;
to believe that their selling success rests on Omigod, Im not worth 3x my salaryI
personal characteristics. We want to believe myself wouldnt pay it!
clients buy our expertise and content. If a customer sees Bills worked-up quote
Most people do what they are good at. Most sheet, Bill may feel embarrassed. But if Joes
professionals are better at abstract intellec- client sees Joes billing rates and project-
tual conceptual work than at interpersonal pricing plan, Joe feels not just embarrassed,

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
4

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

but ashamed. Unless he is completely at ease credentials, tight budgets, deliverable defini-
about his billing rate (and most people arent), tions, references, timelines, milestones. Do
hes likely to feel complicit in some elabo- not admit ignorance. Deny uncertainty, and
rately disguised misrepresentation. seek control.
Finally, clients themselves complicate Thus client and professional uncon-
matters. Imagine yourself as a client about sciously conspire to not talk about the very
to commit your company to half real psychological aspects of the buying pro-
Dont talk a million in professional fees for, cess, and instead to talk about content and
say, a marketing strategy study. expertise. Since this avoids the real issues,
about trust;
Count the ways in which you each party is stressed and in denial. The
dont talk about as the client would be nervous. end result is a vicious circle. Each partys
concerns and Its a lot of money. The risk/ fears lead them to objective criteria and
benefit ratio can be high, and process discussions, in turn reinforcing the
fears; always ask
results can vary considerably. others view that such issues are key. This
the consultant The professional knows more is a dance of denialeveryone pretending
technical than you do. Failure is probably that a complex emotional process is purely
very public. rational and about content expertise. Its
questions, ones
How does a client manage all not. Its messyprecisely because it is not
that make you that nervousness? Many turn about numbers or qualifications or processes,
sound smart. to tangible, expertise-based but about people.
content. Dont talk about trust;
dont talk about concerns and fears; always The Traditional Sales Model
ask the consultant technical questions, ones The leading sales models characterize buy-
that make you sound smart. Repeat the pro- ing as a special form of rational decision-mak-
fessionals expertise and credentials to oth- ing or problem solving. They use a several-
ers within the organization. Press for team step Sales Call model, such as Fig. 1.

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
5

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

Figure 1. Traditional Sales Call Model about selling; even see it as antithetical to
establish uncover explore propose
professionalism. What salespeople view as
solutions close
credentials needs implications
best practices feel to many professionals like
This is a selling paradigm with three unspo- manipulation.
ken but critical assumptions: This is not a trivial issue. The biggest chal-
the seller aspires to sell better, lenge facing sellers of professional services
the buyer follows a rational process, and is to incorporate selling into their view of
selling is different from professionalism. Until consultants embrace
The biggest delivering. as part of their professional obligation the
All three are untrue in the persuasive pointing out of opportunities for
challenge
case of professional services. improvement to their clients, they will view
facing sellers Assumption 1. The Seller selling techniques as a necessary evil at best,
of professional Aspires to Sell Better and a con job at worst.
One leading sales training Assumption 2. The Buying Process is
services is to
program organizes its pro- Rational
incorporate selling gram around research on high- Consider these quotes, from books and
into their view of performing salespeople. Each materials of leading sales models:
module of the training repeats Buying is a special case of decision-
professionalism.
the mantrahigh-performing making.
salespeople are characterized by Selling is a series of business transactions
The assumed, unspoken message is Sand of in which you are a problem solver.
course you aspire to being a high-performing Customers are always looking for
salesperson too. results.
But professional services folk are not sales- One leading model explicitly describes buy-
people. Most aspire to content excellence well ing as a subset of cognitive decision-making,
ahead of sales expertise. Many are ambivalent as shown in Figure 2 below:

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
6

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

Figure 2. One Leading Model of Buying Figure 3. How Clients Really buy
Decision-Making Professional Services.

Continue to
understand explore select Work the Issue

In this model, the first step is to understand


the situation and the needs; the second step
to define and explore solutions and implica- Acknowledge Assess Trust
an Issue
tions. The last step evaluates and
Selling is a selects.
But in the fog-sculpting,
distinct part of a
abstract world of profes-
business process. sional services, there is much Screen on
Qualifications
more. The decision to hire a
professional services firm opens the door to Buyers progressively come to acknowledge
uncertainty, success, failure, advancement, an issue. They initially screen on qualifica-
fear, status, reputation, and riskfor buyer tions, but then assess trust iteratively, based
and seller alike. on continued exposure to the way the consul-
Smart clients dont just compare and con- tant addresses the particular issue facing the
trast. Smart clients know that they, and the firm client. Rational thinking is important, but as
they hire, will never have enough data, time a subset of a larger process of trust creation.
or moneythat they must deal with risk and It is not the beginning and the end of buying,
uncertainty for high stakes. What they want, merely a part of the middle.
above all, is an advisor who can be trusted, in Assumption 3. Selling is Different from
all respects, in the face of high levels of uncer- Delivering
tainty. What they do is shown in Figure 3. In industry, selling is distinct. Sales careers

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
7

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

happen in dedicated sales organizations. The Alternative: Trust-


Selling is a distinct part of a business process. Based Selling
After the Sale Event, the customer relation- We need a new paradigm for selling pro-
ship is turned over to others. Title to product fessional services. Buying (or choosing not to
passes to the customer at the Sale. Sales are buy) isnt just a rational exercise in problem
closed with complex contracts. solvingits a response to a perceived risk.
For us, it is less distinct. The seller usually The risk in buying professional services is very
is the doer (or supervises doing). personal. The product is intangible, the stakes
Professional Selling organizations are rela- are high, the product being bought is partly
tively rare. Contracts are easily people, the range of outcomes is wide and
services are an
cancelable, and title doesnt pass. unclear, and the seller has command of techni-
extreme case of The Industrial Sales Paradigm is cal expertise that the buyer does not. There is
sample-based unnecessary and misleading. pure financial and business riskbut there is
The truth isthe best selling great emotional and political risk as well.
selling; a test-
is great delivery. Trust builds Trust-based selling is a different paradigm.
drive is worth through real interactions of real It puts rational decision-making in the broader
a thousand people working real issues in context of trust creation. It treats buyers and
real time. Professional services sellers as individuals. It is also experiential;
brochures.
are an extreme case of sample- since trust is best created through interac-
based selling; a test-drive is worth tions between real individuals on real issues,
a thousand brochures. The challenge is to it naturally integrates delivery work into the
see selling as an inseparably integrated part selling process, rather than isolating and sepa-
of delivery, not to isolate it as a distinct pro- rating the two.
cess. Rather than adopting new sales prac- The good news isprofessional services
tices, we should be adapting current delivery selling is not only good for our clients, but a lot
practices. easier and more natural than many of us fear.

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
8

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

The Components of Trust Sales that are largely rational in nature


Trust is a factor in all buying, not just of should focus heavily on credibility and reli-
professional services. But what is trust? Trust ability. Sales that have more non-rational
is not one-dimensional; it has four compo- issues at stake should put more emphasis on
nents* . And the right mix of components for intimacy and self-orientation. Table 1 assesses
professional services is not the same as for several characteristics of professional services
other businesses. sales against the two kinds of trust component.
C = credibilityhas to do with words; I It suggests that the non-rational trust compo-
can trust what he says about nents are uniformly critical to many charac-
R = reliabilityhas to do with actions: I teristics of the professional services sale.
can trust that hell do

Table 1. Sale Characteristics by Trust Component


Components of Rational: Non-Rational:
I = intimacyhas to do with safety: I can Trust Credibility, Intimacy, low
Components impor- Reliability Self-Orienta-
trust talking with him about tance given: tion
S = self-orientationhas to do with focus: I Highly complex Low High
can trust that hes focused on me (a low level sales process
Problem definition Low High
of self-orientation enhances trust; a high level shifting through-
of self-orientation destroys trust). out sale
Two of these factors are largely rational in Seller has highly High High
specialized exper-
naturecredibility and reliability. They are tise
assessed through things like accreditation, ref- High level of per- Low High
sonal risk to the
erences, track records and credentials. The
buyer
other twointimacy and self-orientationhave High level of un- High High
largely to do with non-rational aspects. They certainty of benefit
ti buyer
are assessed experientially, based on things like
Highly complex Low High
ease of communication, a sense of shared under- product or service
offering
standing, or an ability to see perspectives.

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
9

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

The Industrial Sales Paradigm stresses the telling in socially acceptable terms; reduce risk
rational components. Many professional ser- by taking risksarticulate a point of view;
vices firms still share this paradigm, and the create by giving away.
single most common failing in the selling of Envision an alternative reality, including
professional services is the overemphasis of win-win specific descriptions of outcomes
the rational components of trust at the expense and results, including emotional and political
of the non-rational components of trust. states; clarify benefitsmake clear whats at
stake; be tangible about future states.
The Process of Trust Commit to actionable next steps that imply
Creation significant commitment and movement on
How does trust develop in sales? Figure 4 the part of each party.
shows the five-step process. The model will work for purely rational
Figure 4. Trust Development Process sales, but its power lies in integrating non-
(ELFEC)* rational elementsfears, self-doubts, politics,
dysfunctional relationships, and so on. The
engage listen frame envision commit
underscored words give some flavor of the
Engage the client in an open discussion non-rational component. (A fuller descrip-
about issues that are key to the client; tion of the model includes a set of mindsets,
Listen to what is important and real to techniques and tools).
the client; listen at three levelsget the data, At the beginning of the process, credibility
affirm the importance of that data to the cli- and reliabilitythe rational skillsare key.
ent, and demonstrate you recognize it; earn the It is in the middle three stepslisten, frame,
right to engage in a true dialogue. envisionthat non-rational elements become
Frame the true root issue, without the lan- critical. Trust-based selling thus puts more
guage of blame, via caveats, problem state- emphasis on the middle three stepsthose
ments and hypotheses; pursue radical truth- critical to building the non-rational trust

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
10

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

components so key to professional services of the trust modellisten, frame, envision


sales. These same three middle stepsListen, are in essence how professionals deliver. They
Frame and Envisionalso describe the profes- engage in an iterative process of needs assess-
sional services delivery process. ment, problem definition, and exploration of
Table 1. Trust Creation Process: Effect implications. An immediate benefit of putting
on Trust Equation Components trust creation at the heart of a sales model is
Rational
its intuitive familiarity to consultative pro-
fessionals from their delivery work. Done
properly, this process transcends win-win
labels to become truly collaborative. And it is
in this process that trust grows.
There is a welcome and comforting mes-
sage here for services professionals. The criti-
Non-Rational

Engage Listen Frame Envision Commit cal sales talents are ones the professional is
already familiar with. The trick is not to adopt
Linking Sales and Delivery new sales skills, but to adapt existing delivery
Most firms sell by describing now what it skills. The best selling is doing.
will feel like to work together in the future.
They focus on qualifications, credibility, refer- Trust-Based Selling in
ences, degrees and expertise. This is counter- Action
productive. For abstract and high risk services, Personal interaction is at the heart of selling
there is no substitute for sampling the real professional services. While both the buy-
thingreal-time work on a real issue by real ing process and the selling process contain
people. activities outside that interaction, the suc-
This is done best by beginning delivery dur- cess or failure of most sales depends on what
ing the sales process. The middle three steps happens in person. That is where trust-based

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
11

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

selling focuses. It uses principles, mindsets, consonance


and tools. These are described in more detail 10.Sample MindsetExcellent Selling
elsewherefollowing are summaries. Resembles Excellent Delivery.
Trust-based selling is based on three For all the reasons discussed in this article,
principles: the temptation in a selling situation is to stress
1. Focus on the clientclient focus is a self- credentials and focus on the rational. That
willed psychological state; temptation is exactly wrong. The challenge is
2.Maximize truthtake risks to to focus on issues, including non-rational ones.
Dare to be advance the relationship, have That means being comfortable with saying
a point of view; you dont know, being willing to articulate a
greatassume
3.Go beyond win-win to true point of view on the spot, and being willing
the optimum is collaboration. to ask emotionally difficult questions.
possible In addition to the three prin- One way to do that is to cultivate a mind-
ciples, trust-based selling uses set of operating in delivery mode. This can
seven mindsets: be done by acting as if the assignment
4. Take early personal risks to reduce systemic were already sold, focusing on what must
business risk be done.
5. Dare to be greatassume the optimum is Finally, trust-based selling uses thirteen
possible tools:
6. Excellent selling resembles excellent 1. Offer up a point of view about issues, and
delivery about options, that galvanizes reactions
7. Problem definition drives problem 2. Tell more truth by Naming It and Claiming
solution Itradical truth-telling in socially accept-
8. Envision a better realitypaint detailed able termseschew avoidance
pictures of end-states and benefits 3. Lead by example; be candid about your own
9. We not me always assume goal zero-base of knowledge

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
12

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

4. Lead options discussions not by asking observations.


why, but why not? Sample ToolName It and Claim It:
5. When youre not sure, give hypotheses Radical Truth-telling in Socially Acceptable
instead of hedging; advance the cause Terms.
6. To show what its like to work together, This tool is useful for discussing difficult
work on real issues together situations, elephant-in-the-parlor issues, and
Trust- 7.Dont go to action steps before emotionally charged discussions of points of
exploring in great detail the view. Its precise formulation is list as many
based selling
potential end-state benefits caveats as are necessary to slightly overcom-
doesnt directly 8.Value creation lies in improv- pensate for the statement, then make the
contradict of ing the problem statement, not in statement in completely blame-free terms.
giving answers For example, I may be misreading some-
many traditional
9.When problems are sticky, thing here, and forgive me for being direct,
industry selling seek the higher level problem but I sensed you were unconvinced by that
skills and statement last discussion; is that right?

toolsbut it 10.Eliminate ego; frame without


blame Trust-Based Selling:
does rebalance 11.Use 3-level listening to earn Differing Emphases
emphases. the right to move to sugges- Trust-based selling doesnt directly contra-
tionsget the data, get the sig- dict of many traditional industry selling skills
nificance, and acknowledge both and toolsbut it does rebalance emphases.
12. At all times use a shared agenda to Here are some.
begin meetings, calls, conferences and Problem definition refinement is more impor-
interactions tant in trust-based sales. This is because of
13. Use the language of trustavoid the the levels of uncertainty, and the hesitance
verb to be and stick to your own of both parties to acknowledge it. If either

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
13

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

client or consultant pretends they know Bringing Trust into the


more than they really do, they will not be Process
trusted by the other. What can be done to enhance trust-based
So-called high-gain questions are less selling? Certainly professionals can be trained
important in trust-based sales. High-gain in the trust-based sales approach. Meantime,
questions clarify implications and connec- there are some immediate things firms can do
tionsimportant, but functioning mainly to enhance the level of trust-based selling that
in the rational realm alone. happens with existing models and processes.
Collaborative mindsets and skill- 1. Get honest. Be candidespecially with mid-
So-called sets are more important in trust- levels in the firm who are beginning to take
based sales. Success in delivery on selling responsibilityabout the psycho-
high-gain
depends on cooperation, and logical complexities involved. Dont pre-
questions are success in sales depends on tend its all about smarts and techniques.
less important in the ability to demonstrate other- 2. Ask clients. Ask clients before, during and
orientation. after the sales process for their input; dont
trust-based sales.
Closing and objection-handling force their answers to fit your questions;
techniques are less important for trust-based listen to what they say.
sales. Closing is the natural outcome of a col- 3. Dont jump to solutions. Outlaw use of
laborative agreement on what must be done. the phrase what if we until the client
Personal risk-reduction techniques are more assures you youve fully understood the
important for trust-based sales. A talent problem.
for radical truth-telling in socially accept- 4. Revisit Listening 101. And 201. And sign
able terms is what distinguishes successful up for 301.
professional business developers; they can 5. Push the limits of collaboration. If youre
ask key questions that other consultants having a client sales meeting without the
consider too risky. client, ask yourself why.

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
14

Charles H. Green, 2001

Selling Professional Services

6. Role-play. Do less rehearsing and more role-


playing; its interactivejust like trust.
Trust-based selling as a new paradigm is
more tailored to the specific needs of the pro-
fessional services marketplace. Good selling is
too important to be left to a one-size-fits-all
paradigm. The good news is, we as profes-
sionals already know much of what is neces-
sary for successful selling through our good
work on delivery. Its good for our clients,
and its a more natural process than most of
us feared.

* From The Trusted Advisor, by David H. Maister,


Charles H. Green, Robert M. Galford, Free Press,
2000.

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test
15

TQ DIAGNOSTIC TEST SUBSCRIBE

TAKE THE TQ Diagnostic Test and discover your Trust Temperament. If you enjoyed this article
and want more from
Answer 20 simple questions based on the Trust Equation, and you will TrustedAdvisor, please click
discover a powerful tool for business success-your Trust Quotient and here to subscribe to my
your Trust Temperament. These revealing answers will tell what you do mailing list, where you will
that helps people trust you, and the things you can do to improve the way recieve monthly updates
you are perceived. from us. And, of course, well
never share your email with
Your Trust Temperament report will tell you whose trust you are most anyone else.
likely to gain, what about you people are likely to trust, and specific actions
you can take to be as trustworthy, and as trusted, as possible, so you can: This ebook is protected
under the Creative
Increase sales results
Commons license. No
Improve credibility in business commercial use, no
derivative work. Feel free to
Build deeper and more satisfying personal relationships with people
share it, post it, or copy it.
who matter

Invest in yourself now! Take the Trust Quotient diagnostics now and get
your 20+ page personal report now.

deep analysis, big reward, small price.

Take the TQ Diagnostic Test

new are you as trustworthy as you think? take the tq diagnostic test