When professional service providers — folks like accountants, IT consultants, lawyers, architects, engineers, construction workers — work their way into their careers, they do it because they find they have a knack for the process and a passion for providing the service. It’s pretty rare that they get excited about the prospect of selling that service.
So, very often, they try to avoid the need for sales entirely by looking to get hired by a firm. (Ignoring the fact, of course, that they’re going to have to sell themselves to the firm in the first place.) They hope to rely on the business developers to find the work for them while they themselves simply hide out in the office or on the jobsite and blissfully focus on the job that they know how to do.
But the people in charge of business development can’t do all the work. And they recognize that very often, it’s the service professionals who are in exactly the right place at the right time to create possibility for future work.
In short, BD leaders are valuing seller-doers more than ever before, and are looking to do all they can to identify their professionals who are “hiding out” merely doing and get them actively selling.
More and more lately, SagePresence has been helping professional service firms build business by turning their doers into seller-doers, and a couple weeks ago, I spoke to a roomful of business development leaders at the SMPS 2015 Build Business Conference in Los Angeles to share my thoughts about what they can do to inspire their professionals to participate in the BD process.
First, I talked about the vision of the company that they need to paint in the minds of the professionals. It’s different from now, where only a few individuals sing the story of the company, like soloists. It’s a vision of a choir singing beautifully together in harmony, all led by a conductor.
They — the BD leaders — want to direct teams of people. They should be leading the charge, not being the charge.
If you look at any sector of professional firms, you’ll find the “soloists” (often the principals) building relationships, sleuthing out opportunities, and closing deals.
Now look at a smaller selection of companies who are dominating their markets and you’ll find something different, namely many more individuals, at all levels, including the technical and professional staff, participating in networking and business development.
At SMPS, this idea landed really well.
Next, I talked about advice and perspectives to share to professionals that can help them shift their mindset around selling.
Good Work Rarely Sells Itself: Great things make noise… at first. But you can’t just do good work and hide out. You have to stay visible and interact with people. You need to stay in people’s minds for them to remember your good work. You need to perpetually sustain the impression of being a good and valuable professional not just by delivering the service, but by actively interacting with clients.
Selling and Helping are One and the Same: The key to happiness in BD participation is the notion that marketing and business development is an intrinsic part of helping our clients.
Seller-Doers don’t quit their profession to take on Business Development – they develop business intrinsically in the process of doing the work they love.
BD communication is essentially consulting and problem-solving – it’s what your professionals love – finding solutions through consultation.
“What challenge are you facing? What goals do you have? What solution can I deliver?” Have this problem-solving dialogue that reaches beyond the project you’re on, and you’re entering the realm of the seller-doer.
Relying On Others Isn’t a Safe Plan: Seasoned professionals know that relying on the firm to give you the work you love is not a safe plan. Temporarily it gets you the work, but it gives you no control or influence on your career, nor your stability. Seller-doers are valued by their firms much more than merely doers. And when the economy shifts and positions get lost, they are the first to land new positions because they know how to sell themselves.
Seller-doers are a lot like entrepreneurs in that they are willing to embrace “selling” in order to climb inside their career, command their own lives, and participate in powering the ship.
People Don’t Hire Services – They Hire People: Owners put their trust in people. That’s why the interview is so often a key ingredient in AEC sales – prospects are listening for who they can trust, who they can connect with. And the seller-doer wants to be the person who makes that connection. Cultivating these connection skills is crucial for seller-doers.
The Skills Are Simple: They’re not necessarily easy, but they are simple. Networking, consultative conversations, presenting, elevator speaking, and building relationships with leadership are all similar storytelling exercises. If you learn to structure messages and tell stories, you can do all these things.
Joining in BD Helps You Move Up: Technically, doers and seller-doers both know this, but doers are frustrated by it and seller-doers embrace it. The hurdle (which also becomes the key) is that those who enjoy empowerment are the ones who embrace that notion.
SagePresence has often provided inspirational talks with team-members to elevate their excitement around self empowerment, and has also found the benefit of DiSC Profiling or other personality inventories to inspire teams around self-empowerment by injecting self-awareness in an affirming way.
The People Above You Want You to Move Up: Doers often complain that others hold the keys and dangle carrots. What seller-doers recognize is that leadership wants people to move up. I’ve personally spoken to leaders aghast by the fact that nobody seems to want to take over their spot. It worries them to think about the future of the company with no one stepping up to lead.
The buzz in the room at the end of the presentation was absolutely gratifying. I could tell that I had given the BD leaders something they could use and something they were excited to try out on their teams of professionals, to invite them to come out of hiding and participate in a larger game.
What do you think of this? Do you have questions about how to inspire professionals to participate? Ideas about further obstacles they might have? Share your thoughts below! And for additional info about how we help business professionals participate more in the business development process, check these programs out!