Marketing = Relationships

My approach to marketing your expertise focuses on building relationships and even friendships –  on helping other people. By focusing on building relationships with potential clients, you take the pressure off yourself and them. You show yourself at your best while minimizing rejection and imposition on others. As an academic, it’s logical that you would want to keep in touch with potential clients as sources of information, and that you would occasionally be able to help them.

My approach to marketing your expertise focuses on building relationships and even friendships –  on helping other people. By focusing on building relationships with potential clients, you take the pressure off yourself and them. You show yourself at your best while minimizing rejection and imposition on others. As an academic, it’s logical that you would want to keep in touch with potential clients as sources of information, and that you would occasionally be able to help them.

Long-term business is more about relationships than about what you offer specifically.  Consultants need to be trusted before their expertise will be hired. Many academics have broad knowledge and can help clients in multiple ways. But until you are trusted, mentioning multiple problems you can help with makes you look weak  – a Jack of all trades and master of none.

If you orient your entire consulting business to building relationships and serving clients, you will be more successful. This means you don’t sell your services. Rather, you use your skills to help clients meet their needs.

To improve your relationships with clients, you develop new skills to meet their ongoing needs. This better serves customers and gives you an edge since it’s been estimated that it’s five to ten times more profitable to sell an existing customer a new service than to sell a new customer your first service. And clients much prefer to deal with a consultant they know rather than have to take the time for due diligence on a new consultant.

As discussed elsewhere, one of the keys ways to sell like a consultant is to NOT sell when others can meet client needs better. (See other material on consultative selling.) In brief, true consultants who have their clients’ long-term interests at heart don’t push their own services. They analyze the situation for the clients (or prospects) and recommend what will be best for them. In addition to being non-pushy and professional, this approach builds trust for when you say you can help them.

The relationship-oriented consultant is:

  • the computer consultant who recommends that the prospect doesn’t buy fancy new hardware.
  • the management consultant who mentors new managers so they outgrow his help.
  • the security consultant who gives out free material on how to improve corporate security.
  • the consultant who acts like an inside member of the team, not an outside resource.
  • the consultant in any area who makes referrals to other sources when they can do a better job for a client.

There are many examples outside traditional consulting of people who take a consulting approach to selling:

  • the lawyer who shows you how to avoid expensive litigation.
  • the accountant who recommends a bookkeeper for your needs.
  • Realtors who educate first-time home buyers. They don’t push a particular house, they help you meet your needs.
  • the banker who encourages you to not refinance, even when it cuts the bank’s fees.
  • the stock broker who encourages you to invest for the long term, even though it means lower commissions.

Your best selling is a personal, one-to-one approach. It’s an honest approach that reflects your personality, whether you’re talking one-on-one with people or writing articles that help them understand your field. It is the opposite of mass media commercials hammering at people who don’t want to respond.

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