By: Lisa Nirell
In 2001, I was in charge of the worldwide account team who called on Microsoft, and was preparing for my first presentation to 18 top executives at their Redmond headquarters office.
This was the biggest account of my 20 year consulting career. Even though I was fully prepared for that presentation, I walked out of that meeting feeling that something was wrong.
That's because most of these people hardly knew our company�we had NO credibility with them--we had not yet earned the right to tell them about how they were ineffectively investing their dollars with us!
Within two days, the Microsoft executives asked my boss to fire me from the account. And he did.
What I realized in that moment was that I HAD to change my life and my business focus QUICKLY. I needed to view "marketing" in a whole new way.
Not only the marketing of our $11M business�but the marketing plan for my life.
As a result of this "career defining moment," I resigned, launched my new business, and was profitable – all within 90 days.
Ever since that time, I have been compelled to share these five key questions that minimize similar marketing and planning mistakes for other seasoned professional services firms.
When you regularly ask these questions, you will attract more enjoyable clients, build dedicated teams, and, most importantly, you will be energized.
1. What percentage of our team can clearly explain what we do? How many can recite our company's "elevator statement" from memory? In the last 2 years, I spoke to over 17,000 business owners. And I did an informal survey. I asked them: "If you walked casually around your office and asked your team 'in 30 seconds or less, what do we do?, what percentage would answer that question CORRECTLY and CONSISTENTLY? What do you think I heard?
The honest people responded with "10%." Imagine the untapped potential in the 90% of your team!
Alan Weiss, author of "Million Dollar Consulting" and 17 other business best sellers, reminds us that "Language controls discussion, discussion controls the relationship, and relationship controls the business." A strong, clear description of what you do that takes 30 seconds or less is your gateway to a meaningful discussion. In the action groups we lead, we call it your "audio logo."
2. What are our top three lead generation methods? How well have we documented these plans in our company?
According to a $1M study by the New Client Marketing Institute, the five most effective methods are, from least to most effective, are:
4. Community and civic involvement
3. How-to articles in client-oriented press
2. Speeches at client industry meetings
1. Small-scale seminars
If you are a professional services firm, think about what methods you are using. If you are investing thousands in brochures, advertising, and expensive client appreciation luncheons, you are probably wasting money.
3. How effectively have we defined and aligned our selling and marketing systems?
Many small businesses treat marketing planning as an art form. Worse yet, they abdicate the responsibility to an outside firm.
Here's an example: One of our community banking clients wasted $60,000 on advertising to keep up with their competitors. They saw no results. After they started working with our team, they cancelled several ad contracts and diverted those funds towards defining a marketing system. Their managers were lacking any process that would later become their common approach to attracting profitable clients. Within just 60 days, their confidence and clarity about whom they serve soared.
You are responsible for defining your marketing communication and sales process. Period. Outside marketing firms should teach you how to fish�not drop you off at the dock and take over the helm! Leave the outsourcing for your IT support and bookkeeping.
The clarity and quality of your lead generation, sales and service approach dictate your sales success – or failure. When you align these activities, selling becomes A LOT easier, marketing becomes more enjoyable, and the buyer feels more confident about what you do.
4. What thoughts stop us from attracting all the business we want?
There are two major roadblocks to growth in an entrepreneurial venture��lack of planning, and our limiting thoughts. The most COMMON limiting thoughts I hear from seasoned professionals are:
* Marketing is tacky, and I'm a (CPA, engineer, attorney, etc.)...I can't do that.
"I tried that 8 years ago and THAT WON'T WORK!"
"Marketing/Planning is for people who aren't busy enough."
"Marketing is too expensive."
"My services are too hard to explain." (in other words, "I'm too arrogant to explain what we do.")
"When I obtain this other advanced degree/certification, then I'll be ready to market." (affectionately called the "I'm not smart enough yet" mindset)
When working with clients, we use Byron Katie's process to help their plan succeed. Go to www.thework.com to learn how to break yourself free from limiting thoughts about marketing.
In addition, Sharon Begley's new best selling book, "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain" supports the importance of conditioning our thoughts. Dozens of new, cutting edge scientific studies prove that our marketing mindset defines our marketing reality.
5. What daily rituals help me to stay focused and energized?
Jeld-Wen Development, Inc. is a model company practicing healthy company rituals. According to CEO Jerry Andres, "Our ongoing management meetings are guided by the culture we have created. Our values and our culture enable us to be the first choice of customers seeking the highest value in real estate and service."
Jeld-Wen Development has achieved their profitability targets for several consecutive quarters because they do not waiver from their company celebrations and cultural norms. They continue to command market share – even in a highly competitive, declining real estate market.
You have now learned the Five Focused Questions� to help you identify business energy drainers. What will you do differently now to transform your next 'career-defining' client meeting?