I’ve been working with a lot of firms recently helping them to grow their business, some of them through getting better and more successful at winning pitches, some by approaching and winning new prospect clients and some by managing and developing their existing clients. This article is going to focus on the last group and specifically where the firm is providing one or two specialist services to a client but has the desire to provide a much wider range of services. Basically they have been pigeonholed by their clients, they are seen as great at what they provide for the client but not being considered for anything else.
So what are the steps to avoid being pigeonholed by your clients or if you have been already how do you escape it?
Avoiding being pigeonholed in the first place
Firstly everyone within your firm should be aware of the different services that your firm can provide (this sounds obvious but many people we speak to are often unaware of all of their firms services). If you don’t know what services you can provide why should your clients!
Secondly everyone in your firm should have a professional “positioning statement”, that is be able to communicate what the firm does, the markets the firm works in, the key services it provides and what the firm stands for (including the part about what their own team or division does). Again so often individuals are only comfortable speaking about their own expertise. No one needs to be an expert in everything but being aware of the capabilities and being about to articulate them is a must.
Thirdly when approaching a prospect, approach them as a team from across the firm rather than just as an individual, create a campaign that spans a number of services and not just one.
All of the above will help avoid being pigeonholed in the first place but if you have been already, or have only worked with a firm providing one service for a number of years and now want to broaden the services you provide, here are some practical tips for doing just this.
Introducing new services to an existing client
The starting point here is make sure that whatever service you are currently providing is being delivered brilliantly – that is you are definitely meeting, if not exceeding, the client’s expectations and delighting them in every way. To expect them to procure other services from you or referring you to another part of their business without this in place is not realistic. So ensure we are delighting them and the only way to be really sure is to seek client feedback.
For the purposes of the article lets take it that they are delighted with you and the team’s performance so what’s next?
The following three questions are always the next key things to ask yourself, the answers to which will then shape the way forward.
- How are you currently positioned in the client’s mind with regard to your services and capabilities?
- How do you want to be positioned in the client’s mind with regard to your services and capabilities?
- What activities and actions will you take to achieve this?
Let’s assume PACE are working with a client on their key client management programme. If I asked Q1 they would say PACE are great at helping us to manage, protect and develop our existing clients. If I asked Q2 I would want them to say you also help clients win new clients, win pitches and lead best practice business development through both practical process and skills development for example. Now I need to plan how to raise their awareness of the other services we provide. So what are the steps?
The response a lot of teams have at this point is, “well we have really good contacts within the client (which they do from the service line they have been providing), I’m sure if we asked they would be happy for us to present to them the other key services we could provide”. They then go ahead, arrange a meeting, present the other services (ideally by taking key colleagues with them from the other disciplines) and job done! Unfortunately this rarely has the desired effect they are looking for and does not lead to them providing any more services. Better than but similar to sending a brochure!
Why didn’t the sales pitch work? Firstly we may be presenting to the wrong people, we need to find the decision makers and influencers for the new service. This may not be the same people who procure your existing service. So first step identify the right person or people. Then rather than just presenting how great you are maybe spend time really understanding what’s important to them. Remember they could well be and probably are very happy with their current provider, so why would they change, certainly not based on one presentation. We need to motivate them – our definition of Consultative Selling is to build a client’s motivation to buy or an existing client to re-buy. You need to motivate them to meet, motivate them to engage and open up to you and ultimately to motivate them to instruct you and give you a chance to prove yourself.
So what marketing works and what doesn’t and what is a complete waste of time?
Why doesn’t sending a brochure through work? After all it lists all our services, well consider this – how many competitors do you have? How many of them have brochures? How many will be sending them through to the same key people and what happens to them? They end up in the bin – why because they are all the same and don’t add any value to the person receiving them (even if the pictures in them are using a softer font than your competitors or our people are depicted as more approachable as some don’t have ties on).
A presentation as above, of course done to the right people, is much better than a brochure but would it not have been better to spend this time really understanding what was important to them, what they like, dislike, what is of value to them, what are their future plans and what if anything their specific requirements are and then tailoring a presentation to them?
After either the generic presentation or the tailored one we should still not expect them to suddenly switch from their incumbent unless their current provider has dropped the ball. What we can do though is follow up on this first great impression, keep in touch with them and show we care (without coming across as desperate or stalking them). Manage their enthusiasm for you by dropping them relevant, specific articles that are of value to them, invite them to seminars that will be of use and interest, share information, research and market insight with them, introduce them to opportunities or other people. Ultimately develop an on-going activity plan that will build their motivation towards you, so that when either their incumbent does drop the ball, gets complacent or is conflicted out or when they just think it might be time for a change it is YOUR FIRM they are thinking of. This might happen within a few months or might take a few years but if the opportunity is worth it, ask the questions, answer them and create your plan to raise their awareness of your other services, motivate them to want to meet and use your advocates and contacts to refer you, then keep in touch through adding value and being specific, relevant and different from all the others out there.
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