Business Development for Professional Services practices is different than it is for other types of B2B firms. How so?
Nowhere else is it more important or evident that your customer wants to do business with a real person, that is someone they trust.
While the stages of the Marketing Hourglass are still the same - Know=> Like => Trust => Try => Buy - how you approach them will be slightly different for Professional Services than for other types of firms.
Let's look at how to get started.
How Business Development for Professional Services is Different - Educating and Informing versus Selling
Your approach to business development for professional services will be very different. You don't sell, you educate and assist the business. You don't "Sell", you provide solutions to the customers problems.
- Don't talk about the products you sell; talk about the problems you solve.
- Talk about how the business will work with you as you solve those problems.
- Tell the business what they get, not what you do. Explain the benefit to them of what you do.
What You’ll Need Before You Start
Before you get started on business development for professional services, you'll need to make sure that you have the right tools in place. Somethings that you'll need are:
- Clear Messaging & Defined Ideal Customer Profile - you should have completed these as part of your marketing strategy
- Website, Online Profiles and Listings, CRM, and Email Marketing - you should have completed these as part of establishing your Total Online Presence
- Telephone - number, answering system and voicemail
- Sales support materials - you should have the following prepared, printed and ready for distribution: business cards, individual practitioner bios, company profile, services descriptions/brochures, client testimonials and/or use cases. Note: not having printed materials when you need will lead to lost opportunities, or the risk of being perceived as not being professional. You do not have to spend a lot on printing, but make sure you have hard copies of these materials at the ready when you need them.
The Marketing Hourglass for Professional Services and Financial Firms
While most marketers and sales professionals are familiar with the terms Sales Pipeline, or Marketing Funnel, we prefer the Marketing Hourglass model first espoused by John Jantsch at Duct Tape Marketing. The Marketing Hourglass reminds us that the goal isn't a single sale, it's a relationship that leads to additional sales and referrals. This is the perfect model for business development for professional services and financial firms.
The first stage of the Marketing Hourglass is Know. This is creating awareness of your firm, and familiarity with your services offered. There are 3 ways you will generate new prospects.
- Outreach - You are actively reaching out to prospective clients that you have identified through research. This could be picking up the phone, or sending out letters or emails. Most professional services practitioners find outreach to be difficult, but it doesn't have to be. You could use a third-party firm that specializes in setting up appointments for you.
- You get found organically - Prospects contact you because they have a problem and they have seen information about your firm, you, your content, or the problems you solve. They find your content online, through searches, or see and hear about you at speaking engagements or conferences. For most professional services firms, this is the preferred and most predictable method of generating leads.
- You are referred - Referrals could come from Influencers (Centers of Influence), from previous customers, or from your networking activity. If you've been in business for awhile this could be a great source of leads for your practice, however it takes time to build up a referral base, and referral volumes may not be enough on their own to sustain your practice.
What is your objective in the area of developing relationships with new clients? How many do you want to attract? What industries do they represent? Do you have a sales pipeline?
- Client-specific marketing plans
- Practice group marketing plans
- Individual marketing plans
- Sales pipeline development and implementation
What is your objective related to how often and with whom you will proactively develop relationships with?
- Identifying opportunities for the firm and individual professionals
- Networking programs for practice groups
- Networking training and best practices
Trade and Professional Association Involvement
Every professional should be active in his/her industry association (Professional bodies, Financial Planning Association or Bar Associations) as well as at least one industry-based association attracting prospective clients or referral sources. What is your objective in this area?
- Assess firm’s involvement and ROI with associations
- Create association strategies to become high profile members by pitching
professionals to write articles and speak at upcoming events
Like & Trust
It can take a considerable amount of time to go from Know through Like and Trust until a business is ready to Buy. Be patient and nurture your leads for future business.
Define an objective related to incorporating market research into your practice before meeting with a new prospective client or referral source.
- Big opportunity research on companies and people
Create client dossiers for new business
It's important to understand that there isn't a single formula to Nurturing Prospects. Keep in mind that the objective is to move the prospect through the Like and Trust stages. You must ensure that you establish Rapport with the prospect, and that you build Trust until such time as the prospect is ready to take the relationship further. Your nurture process will likely use a combination of the following, staggered over time.
- Direct contact - via telephone or face-to-face
- Newsletters - sent out via mail or email
- Email marketing / marketing automation - sending the prospect white papers, research studies, articles that you've written, or other content pieces such as infographics, and case studies, or information on government policies and programs that businesses like theirs can utilize
- Seminars or webinars
Try / Buy
What does trial look like for a professional services firm? The Try stage of the Marketing Hourglass could take the form of:
- Market Comparisons
- Participation in a benchmarking study
- Samples of work you've done for similar types of customers
- Providing a Quote
- Finding a "foot-in-the-door" lower value service you can provide so that the prospect establishes a commitment with your firm and gets to know you
Depending on the type of customer you are dealing with, when they are ready to move to the Buy stage of the Marketing Hourglass it could be as simple as you submitting an Engagement Letter to the customer that outlines the scope of work, your committments, pricing proposal, and business terms.
If you are responding to an RFP (Request For Proposal) be prepared. RFP's can be very time consuming, and if managed properly, may lead to lower close rates. What objective do you have in the area of increasing your ability to efficiently respond to requests for information about your services?
- Create a proposal archive
- Develop efficient proposal response processes
- Design professional and visually appealing proposal responses
- Write proposals for new business
- Develop and rehearse proposal presentations
Keeping on Track
Business development can easily go off the rails. You need to implement a system to keep it on track.
- Use a calendar tool. Set aside time every day.
- Schedule activities from your CRM
- Keep your efforts organized and scalable - Build templates that can be customized and reused in the future with other prospects to keep effort minimized
If you implement a business development program for your professional services firm, you can expect to generate more leads, nurture more leads through the Marketing Hourglass, and ultimately convert more leads to customers.
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