In conversation with Nigel Clark, Professional Services Marketing Leader and Author.
ABOUT THE GUEST
In this episode, Gary speaks with Nigel Clark. Nigel leads Marketing globally for SLR Consulting – an international leader of environmental and advisory solutions. They help clients of all shapes and size achieve their sustainability goals. He is an experienced strategy, marketing, communications and client development leader.
Nigel has a wealth of experience and holds nothing back in this episode. He shares thoughts and ideas relevant to anyone in the professional services sector.
In Nigel’s world of consulting, it is common practice for most time and effort to be spent ahead of a bid for a job. It can be an extremely competitive process, even if you have a pre-existing relationship with the client.
SLR Consulting have a formal client programme. They think about specific clients they want to develop a relationship with and try to make this a two-way process. They then have set people in the team who are designated to client relationship management. This ensures they are confident and comfortable in what they are doing.
It can be useful in larger companies or bigger projects to have dedicated salespeople. These would still be people with a technical background as they need to have context and an understanding of the clients’ needs. This would mean other individuals would then focus on specialising on delivering different aspects of the project.
“The vast majority of our time and effort is ahead of bid not after the bid”
“You can’t expect somebody to sell and deliver that type of project”
“I’m very confident at saying I’m not the person you need to speak to and develop this. But I have a colleague that can”
In conversation with Amanda Geyman – Director of Strategic Growth for WSP UK – what it takes to make a good salesperson.
ABOUT THE GUEST
In this episode, Gary is joined by Amanda Geyman – Director of Strategic Growth for WSP UK. She has 20 years’ experience in business development, marketing and customer experience. Their conversation covers a lot of ground from lockdown challenges to Amanda’s take on best practice business development in the Engineering Consultancy industry.
An insightful episode that explores client management and the positive and negative impact of the pandemic. It covers how differentiating yourself and your business will creating lasting success and asks what it really takes to be a good salesperson and why you have to differentiate yourself.
When you are under pressure it is important that you are focused. Target your energy on things of particular importance to the business. This was no more prevalent than in Amanda’s workplace during the pandemic.
Empathy and understanding of clients is of key importance. Being able to check in and show some extra support and care through this time.
The pandemic drove technology and virtual capabilities forward. This meant that Amanda and her team focused heavily on building and supporting their virtual coaching platforms.
Businesses are working in a completely different way to how they were operating pre-pandemic. With the UK Covid restrictions being lifted, many companies are still being cautious.
Amanda believes that human connection is vital in business. That connection is extremely important to the human experience so it’s imperative we remember that.
Sometimes virtual meetings and calls can become very task focused. You can lose the time and mind space to be spontaneous and creative.
There are myths and misconceptions around what it takes to be a good sales person. Amanda believes you need to take an interest in your client. Truly listen, because asking the right questions and delivering on your promises is what actually makes you a good salesperson.
“You have to dial up your ability and your flexibility”
“It fast-tracked a lot of things for a lot of people in order to be able to do business”
“Spending time with people in person develops trust”
“There’s this misperception of what selling is. That it’s something done by extroverted people who loves going to networking events and talking to strangers”
“Most clients don’t want to be sold to, that want to talk to people who get what their situation is”
Want more information on what it really takes to be a good salesperson and why you have to differentiate yourself? Try these valuable resources below:
An organisation’s ability to learn – and translate that learning into action rapidly – is the ultimate competitive advantage. This is according to Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric.And figures from the annual UK L&D Report back that up. They show that top-performing organisations are five times more likely to have positive learning cultures. This echoes the suggestion that a culture of learning is a key component of business success.
If we train our people to excel and they leave, that’s bad. But if we don’t train them and they stay, that’s worse.
We’ve all heard this comment before. So it’s no surprise that organisations of all shapes and sizes run training courses. Topics range from mandatory topics such as health and safety to business skills such as leadership and management.
After all, good companies invest in their people.
Taking Training to the next level
But the best companies take training to another level – and create new, powerful and sustainable habits. They avoid the trap of trying to achieve a quick fix – the so-called ‘sheep-dip’ approach – which all too often leads to the cry of “training doesn’t work”. Too many organisations are reactive and use training as a sticking plaster when they see a problem.
When done well, a learning development plan should be thought through and congruent with the strategy and direction of the company.
You need to consider what skills are required to take your organisation where it wants to go.
In this episode, Gary is joined by Alison J Coates, founder member of Re\vo. She is a GENOS certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner and Life Coach. She also holds an MA in Industrial Psychology. Alison has 25 years of experience in business change management consultancy and project management.
Throughout the episode, Gary and Alison explore the world of emotional intelligence. They focus on the impact it has on business development, sales and training.
Alison runs a suite of different programmes to help businesses and employees with emotional intelligence. After assessing clients & employees they then offer coaching, both one on one and in group settings and training.
The clients Gary works with generally have a skill based profession and mindset. As they have progressed in their careers they have then had to try and learn how to sell to work with clients. This can often be overwhelming and scary. Alison believes having the confidence to make intelligent emotional decisions can help with this.
Somebody who is good at selling is usually just someone who is good at listening. It doesn’t matter your background or skills, because if you can listen and build relationships, you can sell.
Listening is a skill that can be learnt. It can be improved and perfected. There are varying ways to do this. Alison’s favourite way is to recognise and own our own distractions. One way to do this is to try and to maintain eye contact when the other person is speaking.
Having an awareness of self is the first building block to emotional intelligence and growth.
There is a common myth that to be a good salesperson you need to be an extrovert. But this is simply not the case. Often introverts have a high level of authenticity and emotional intelligence. These are great skills for selling.
“When we understand that our emotions drive our decisions and in our performance we can reverse engineer them. So we can then really start to appreciate how important emotions are in any decision-making process”
“Asking a good question demonstrates your level of credibility”
3 Essential business development tips for professional & engineering firms post-pandemic
How can professional services firms best transition from survival to growth mode?
The past 18 months has seen many professional and engineering services firms batten down the hatches as the pandemic took a grip on our lives and the economy. Thankfully, many of these organisations are now moving from survival mode into growth mode. And, while this is hugely encouraging, there are a few essential things to consider to ensure you maximise opportunities so that the growth is as effective as possible.
So, how can professional and engineering services firms maximise business development opportunities in this post-pandemic era?
A recent McKinsey article tells us that growth comes from both short and long-term initiatives – quick wins and strategic transformation. It also asserts that execution triumphs over analysing and that measurement is a source of competitive advantage. Working with professional services and engineering firms since 2004, I have seen the economy rollercoaster in action and the impact that upturns and downturns have on organisations.
Put people first – nurture client-facing staff
Professional service based businesses have two fundamental assets: people and time. Sure, the people are providing expertise, and it’s true that more companies are now offering technology-based innovations, but at their core these businesses measure their income in terms of the numbers of hours their people invoice. What this means is that in strong markets the biggest problem is resourcing, and when times are tough the biggest problem is too much overhead. The response? Reduce the overhead. But the first to go are usually those who are lower down on the utilisation spreadsheet. Unfortunately this can (and in my experience often does) include work winners.
I have been in the world of business development and client relationship management for my entire career so inevitably I see this through a particular lens. I accept that when market conditions dictate that the flow of work is reduced to a trickle, clients are in their own ‘lockdown’ and it is difficult to keep paying expensive salaries because the return on that investment can’t be realised any time soon. However, we have now reached an economic turning point. This means it is time to put the foot down on the accelerator. And I’ve seen first-hand that the best way to move from survival mode to growth mode is to nurture client facing people and actively engage them in a three-part strategy:
Client-facing people are often the work winners and connectors in engineering firms
Get focussed on where the opportunities are
Have more face to face BD meetings
Measure the effectiveness
Lets have a look at each of these steps:
Whilst we don’t want to be struck down with ‘analysis paralysis’ we also don’t want to waste useful time, effort and energy. This is not the time to be going after the wrong type of work. Here three quick questions to help get you focussed:
Is the market strong for this kind of work?
What is our reputation like for this type of work?
Do we already have relationships with decision makers?
If you can answer a solid YES to each of these it is probably worth putting a business development plan together. These plans needn’t be overly complicated but should focus on getting in front of target clients through referral, or valuable content marketing.
Face to face BD meetings
Even when selling into the public sector – who almost always buy through a tender process – nothing beats getting in front of clients, both existing and new. People (still) buy from people and so your people need to be better than the people from other organisations. And by ‘better’ I don’t mean better technically, I mean better at motivating clients to buy!
These meetings provide fantastic opportunities, if not immediately then often at some point in the future. For more information on how to ensure these meetings will maximise the opportunity please see our Effective BD Meetings guide.
Measure the effectiveness of business development activity
It has been said that it is difficult to measure selling activity. Certainly it’s challenging to look at the numbers and work out what income was due to what particular marketing/BD activity, as well as considering if it was simply down to market conditions. However, that approach is trying to measure the output. I have found that it is much easier and more effective to measure the inputs. For example count:
Number of meetings with decision makers
Introductions made to colleagues with other expertise (see our valuable Cross Selling post here)
Referrals from clients to others in their network
Opportunities identified at meetings
Follow up meetings with other stakeholders
As firms lift the shutters and head back out into the market, professional service based businesses need to identify and maximise every business development opportunity. Those who are ready, willing and able to spread the BD load to many (if not all) client-facing people will certainly reap the rewards.