Wasting your energy – misdirected selling and ROI

I am quite a fan of David Maister, author of “The Trusted Advisor”.  One of his ideas which particularly impressed me is about how we target the wrong people when selling our services.  In professional services, we can divide the world into clients and non-clients and people who are and are not aware of their needs.  The greatest return on investment comes from clients who are aware of needs.  It’s an easy sell to them – we already have a good working relationship, they have some measure of trust in our ability and they have already identified a need for some particular offering from us.

The next easiest category is clients who are not aware of their needs.  Again, the trusting relationship is established and, if we work diligently to understand their business or the market forces which may affect their business, then it’s reasonable to propose work which can be really useful to our clients.

The third area for work on a diminishing scale of return on investment is with non-clients aware of a particular need.  Now we enter the world of bids, competition and beauty parades.  The tendering process is long, expensive and painful.  It may yield nothing, and time spent on it is non-billable and an overhead.  It cuts into time when we could be doing chargeable work.

Finally, the area of least likely return is the non-client with no established needs.  These are the cold prospects, and warming them up is hideously time-consuming and expensive.  They are on our wish-list – organisations we want as clients but to whom we have nothing material to offer.

The paradox is that most organisations spend most of their non-billable (hugely expensive) time chasing categories three and four, instead of focusing their energies on categories one and two.  And that focus is about moving up the relationship ladder, from the lowest category, acknowledgment, through understanding, acceptance, respect, trust and finally to bond.  If we take the time to develop our established relationships, we use our energy more productively, selling appropriately and getting a better, cheaper and quicker return on our investment.

If you’d like to talk about management or leadership development, soft skills training, business strategy or organisational development, please do give me a call on +44 161 929 4145 or email me at david@davidcotton.co.uk.

I look forward to hearing from you.