Professional service firms and the way they obtain business has changed dramatically. Architects, engineers, accountants and lawyers are realizing, like it or not, their staff needs to become very good at rainmaking.
Who would've guessed a few years ago that everyone would own a cell phone and a desktop computer? Well, who would've guessed then that professional service firms needed to learn how to sell?
Many professional service providers doubt their ability to sell when, in fact, they possess some natural skills needed in sales.
They're generally good, critical thinkers and have the ability to learn and apply concepts quickly. A group of litigators proved this to me during a workshop in which we were developing customized, 30-second commercials. They quickly grasped the concept of mastering a 30-second commercial.
It certainly changed my perception of the profile necessary for success in sales. Let's take a look at the top three myths of sales and professional service providers to see if we can bust some myths.
Myth No. 1: I'm not an extrovert.
Good. Where do most companies invest their sales training dollars? In teaching their sales team to be quiet and listen. Many professional service providers are introverts who don't need to be the center of a conversation and often are good listeners.
Use this to your advantage during a sales call by allowing the prospect to talk, enabling you to gather information. Your prospect will think you're one of the best conversationalists he/she has ever met.
Myth No. 2: I'm not good at small talk.
Small talk is like anything else in life; it can be learned. Engineers, lawyers, accountants and architects are good at learning. Professional service providers are good at learning process, and small talk is nothing more than a process of focusing on the other individual and asking questions about them or their business.
For example: Where is home? What brought you to Colorado? How did you get started in your business? What's the biggest change you've seen in your industry? These four questions aren't hard to memorize. If you can memorize the Pledge Of Allegiance in grade school, you can memorize a few questions as an adult.
Myth No. 3: I don't have time to market. I'm too busy executing.
My standard answer is, "Do you eat breakfast or lunch?" A lot of good business can be conducted while breaking bread. You can meet with referral partners, existing clients or potential clients. You have at least 10 opportunities per week to build and grow relationships.
Now here is the exciting part. Because most professional service providers don't like this business-development stuff, they'll procrastinate and find excuses not to make contacts. Some firms even stick their head in the sand, hoping the competition will join them and decide not to improve their selling skills.
The smart firms are capitalizing on this denial mindset and gaining a competitive advantage by creating an environment that is enthusiastic about business development.
So just how do you create a sales culture among non-selling professionals?
Talk about the myths of selling.
Have your team review its providers of service, both personal and professional. Are any of their providers fast-talking, slick and manipulative? I'm guessing these providers are smart, caring, hard-working and deliver great service. Remind your team those providers are the salespeople your firm is going to copy and emulate.
Give your team resources. If you want to get better at writing, you take a writing class. If you want to get in better shape, you attend a fitness class. Remember, professionals are good at learning process. So give them something to learn.
Talk about the new reality.
The reality is that the good ol' days are gone, and the new laws of recognition and reward are here. You may be the best engineer in your profession. However, if no one recognizes your work, it'll never be rewarded.
Discuss with your staff that other professions have been affected by the new reality of sales. The Internet has forced many companies to change their sales approach. Companies with no Web presence have had to learn the Internet marketing and e-commerce game.
Technology demands that companies in research and development invent new products and deliver them to the market quicker than ever. No one has to like the new reality of sales, but everyone needs to accept it. The reality is that business will continue to change, with or without your firm.
Professional service firms that are serious about staying ahead of the selling curve may need to take a look at their hiring strategies, compensation programs and organizational structure. Some firms are even hiring full-time salespeople to bring in projects and new clients.
Don't let your firm get caught up in the myths of professional service providers and sales. Professional and sales is not an oxymoron.