Continuing our three-part series and our journey navigating the B2B sales process. We’re now in the home straight – with the third and final part in our mini-series on how to get corporate clients consistently, and in this article I’m focusing on B2B sales presentations and how to persist without being a pest.
Hopefully you’ve already listened to parts 1 and 2? If not then it’s definitely best to do those first before this one. Pop over to The Leveraged Business Podcast website to catch back all three episodes (73, 74, 75) – scroll down to find the episode listing, click the show notes link and you’ll be able to choose where to listen or read as an article if you prefer.
Listen or read, and I’d love to hear any questions, just hit reply or send me a question here.
Because now we’re in the home straight – and in part 3, it’s all about how FOLLOW UP IS FORTUNE.
PREFER TO LISTEN?
Here, in this last instalment, we cover the last two steps of six focusing on presentations (or pitches) and how to be persistent without turning into a pest.
In part 1, we clarified what B2B sales really means, what it is and what it’s not. And we pinpointed some key differences with B2C where you’re marketing and selling direct to consumers as the buyers.
We introduced the six steps to get corporate clients, and emphasised that when you work through them, you’re doing your due diligence, which makes the chances of success shoot up significantly. And we focused on step 1, which is all about positioning yourself in the marketplace, and step 2, building your pipeline of target organisations to reach out to or get in front of.
In part 2, we tackled steps 3 and 4, which are prospecting and proposals.
And in this last instalment, we will look to secure the gig, with presentations and persistence!
Let’s jump right in.
Sometimes the organisation you’re talking with, as a potential client, will want you to present your proposal to a panel or board as part of their selection process. It will form part of their procurement or internal decision-making process, and again if you ask the right questions in the prospecting stage, you’ll know what their process is.
In some industries, there may not even be a proposal step or perhaps it’s a referral or an invitation to tender (an ITT) and you just get contacted or selected and invited to a panel. So you may be going in cold, and the person you had been speaking to may or may not actually be one of the panel deciding this.
Either way, with or without niceties, you go straight in and pitch. And either way, it’s your chance to bring your proposal or your offer to life. Your aim is to give the prospective client confidence that you (a) understand their business, industry and context, and (b) that you’re matching what you propose to their critical needs and the outcome they want.
Part of getting this right is your ability to create:
BELIEF that this is the right approach
URGENCY – that they should act sooner not later, and
CREDIBILITY that you can deliver on the promised results.
Step #5 Presentation (or Pitch)
A presentation, and to an extent any speaking engagement in front of the right audience, is an opportunity to present your offer and have it fit their goals, needs, budget, and timeframe.
As I said, a presentation can be a networking event, or a pitch to a panel. It could be a speaking engagement where you’re selling from the stage.
Before you dive into a presentation or a pitch – and ideally you will have this worked out prior to putting a proposal together if you’re able to do that first too – you want to get clear on what you help the organisation solve. And that’s not necessarily what you help the direct beneficiaries of your service or program with.
Let me explain that a little more.
A common mistake people make in a B2B sales context is to look only at the recipients, the direct beneficiaries of your program or service. When we start writing a proposal, we often lose sight of that bigger picture, the high-level impact that drives decisions strategically within an organisation. Or we start pitching our product not the outcomes it achieves.
So from the outset of a proposal or a presentation or pitch, remember:
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CUSTOMER.
If it’s the organisation who’s the customer – the buyer – not the recipients or participants, then your pitch needs to be all about what the client wants and needs.
That might mean you want to consider WHO is on the panel or in the audience, what are their roles and interests, and anyone NOT on the panel who is where the final sign off will happen. Whoever is part of the decision-making group too, make sure you’re clear on, and addressing, what’s their stake in the proposal.
And what I know is you really MUST start with the customer experience, with the result – the benefits, the impact that they’re looking for, and work back to the product of how it helps them get that, or at least move a significant way towards it – so they end up better off in some way than before they worked with you.
While a huge part of the B2B process is about building lasting relationships, another key part is about being valuable to them, in the sense of insights, experience and knowledge about what’s going on in their industry. The thought leadership piece can be very important to some organisations and this is also where you can differentiate yourself and avoid being a commodity, one of many that can deliver a standard training or service.
So a crucial part of your initial due diligence, and indeed your business development or BD time more broadly, should be horizon scanning: researching the market, noticing what’s happening, seeing emerging trends.
And when you do that, you will ensure your services are both relevant AND timely to potential clients. Take your research and map it against what might be going on for them? Often, they’re in some kind of transition or wanting help with change. Paint the before and after picture so they can visualise the result of your work together.
Another angle you might use to frame your pitch is to think about: “What are the occasions when clients typically need my services or when they’re likely to have budget and time to do the work?”
For instance, my own consulting is predominantly in non-profit sectors, and a lot in education where there’s a clear academic calendar. Sometimes consultants say to me, well nothing happens in the holidays but we know that in the long summer holidays is when most staff have time to do development and evaluation.
And around Christmas/New year is typically when they’re about to start with curriculum planning and want help with market research or cross-team process improvement.
What about your industry and the organisations you work with – is it seasonal in some way, or tied to financial planning cycles or professional development/ training needs review. Is it one-time or a recurring need? Do departments have a budget dump around year-end or carry over grants where they’d have more leeway for discretionary funding decisions)
Asking specific questions gives you specific answers. The more information and context you can glean ahead of a presentation, the more your audience will lean in and the more solidly your proposal will land.
Step #6 – Persistence (and why follow up is fortune, so why don’t we do it)
The 6th P is Persistence. Sometimes we can do and say all the right things, or so we think … and you just don’t get the gig. Perhaps you’ve reframed it or pivoted the offer, and still it doesn’t land.
One thing this teaches us that we may be doing wrong is:
You can’t start with a product and then try to figure out how you’re going to sell it.
You can create the best ‘offer’ in the world wrapped around the thing you do – but the hardest thing is how that fits into a cohesive larger vision that’s going to allow you to sell a 50k or 100k engagement.
Now admittedly, you could be pitching against some very excellent competitors. But more often than not, in our experience what we learn from feedback when you’re not selected, it’s because you’re nearly always missing some vital information that weakened their confidence that you understand the brief. So it brings into question whether you can deliver what they want.
Asking questions and asking a panel or prospect what else they need to know from you – helps you fill any gaps before they dismiss you out of hand. And you can also do this AFTER the meeting. Maybe you know that moment that you’re out of a meeting or presentation, and suddenly think of something you should have or could have added.
A huge reason why follow up is so critical, it’s not just that you want to know why they didn’t pick you. You want to find out if there are gaps in what they know, understand and believe about you and your proposal.
And, even n before a decision has been made, you want to be making sure the next contact point is established, a follow up meeting is scheduled or the process of ‘what happens now’ is clear.
I’ve talked previously about the importance of Persistence in a couple of episodes exploring the success mindset. Sometimes we can be a little defeatist if we don’t hear back immediately. But it can really pay to not wait around, to get in touch to help fill any unanswered questions as a panel is deliberating.
Turning consulting into marketing
One thing I want to emphasise, and comes up in client coaching sessions, is how to turn your consulting expertise into your marketing prowess.
That due diligence you do for a proposal or a presentation, that preparatory work, will pay dividends in how well your proposals and presentations turn into profits. And, naturally, once you’re working with a client, you’ve an inside viewpoint, which can really give you an advantage for future proposals.
And you can use all that research, analysis and consultation work to build more powerful marketing outreach and messaging. Because it’s grounded in reality. It’s connected to your client’s real-world experience of the environment they are currently operating in. You will find it is crazy effective.
B2B marketing follows the same general principles as any marketing. You still need to get clear on the ideal client, position yourself and what you offer as a match to their most pressing needs. And you’re still marketing to the emotional triggers that we have as human beings. But you also have to think specifically about the pain points and needs at the organisational level as well as the people you deliver to ‘on the ground’.
In B2B, the relevance, credibility and urgency varies depending on who you’re addressing in the organisation. The needs of an individual – the people you would be working with directly in the organisation when delivering your program, course or service – can be different to the needs of their manager, the director of HR or OD, the CEO or a Finance or Strategic lead. Concerns about cost-benefits, meeting their targets, how resources are spent come into play.
When hiring consultants, coaches or other experts, they are obligated to manage risk and ensure value for money, they need to make sure they choose wisely, get the best people in for the work that needs to be done. And this is why, you need to dig through several layers of impact to what you deliver, several stakeholders.
And from your perspective, once you have identified there is a NEED, you want to make sure the person you’re talking to has the authority to make the decision, has the budget to pay for what they need and in a timeframe that’s worth having detailed conversation about it.
Now I mentioned at the start there is a 7th dimension to this path to success. It’s not a step, it’s a way to broaden your capacity and ability to say yes to opportunities that may seem unfeasible, due to lack of time, skills or connections.
The 7th dimension
This seventh dimension of all this is another P – Partnership. I won’t say too much here, because partnerships or joint ventures is a whole topic in itself. Needless to say, it’s a great way to get corporate clients if you want to go for much bigger contracts.
Here’s where you have an opportunity to create a proposal that brings in more than just yourself. If you’re a sole trader, you may not think to do this, but it’s how you can accommodate a bigger scope or a short timeframe to deliver if you’re already maxed out yourself.
PARTNERSHIPS – and this is a way for you to offer things that you couldn’t deliver on your own by working in association with others, so you or they can go after bigger clients than you can as a solo provider or small firm, and you’re able to tap into other people’s networks and clients, adding skills and expertise to their proposals or pitches. So it can work both ways.
If there’s a time constraint on delivering what the client wants and as one person, you’re already committed, overloaded or you need two of you to do it in time – a partnership with another consultant or coach can work well.
If you don’t have all the skills to deliver every element of what the client needs, a partnership with someone who does can enable you to throw your hat in the ring.
Six steps – so what are you waiting for?
There is a greater need than ever for external consultants, experts and coaches like you. Because of the turmoil in the market, organisations of all shapes and sizes regularly hire outside specialists and pay premium fees for their services, training, keynote speeches, and more.
Yet how do you position yourself to become one of the “fortunate” professionals who consistently get corporate clients and build lucrative B2B businesses? You follow these six steps.
Even if you’ve never done it before or are just starting your business, there’s no reason you can’t be successful in this arena. And once you have one, the sky’s the limit for scaling.
So, get laser-focused on what’s the important goal here, your client list is THE priority! And it starts with getting your first client, then 2nd and 3rd …Each one drives the flywheel to get corporate clients consistently: generate contacts, scope out proposals, and follow up consistently. Those are the steps.
If you’re wanting to build a client list that’s strategic and uniquely yours, you need to be consistently building your pipeline with the right organisations, getting in front of the right people and putting the right proposals together. Finding your voice, finding your brand position is vital.
This is the only way you will get corporate clients and end up with a steady flow of opportunities coming your way, where you can pick and choose the ones that fit the client list you want to end up with!
So that pipeline building helps you to be very targeted and very intentional about what you go after. If you get to the point where you’re positioned really, really well, this is what we found, is people will come to you.
When you become the hunted, not the hunter, it’s a wonderful position to be in because you haven’t got a hustle, you haven’t got a pitch, you haven’t got to sell yourself. What you have to do is just your normal consulting and have conversations about whether or not you can meet someone’s needs.
Once you have your brand positioning pulling in interest, when your ideal clients are finding you, being referred to you and making contact with you directly, you end up having more opportunities than you have time to deliver.
At this stage, you will need to start moving towards a scaling strategy that enables you to bring on more people or to deliver in a different way. And this is where we also talk a lot about online programs, online group programs, and online courses. Because they allow you to leverage some of the stuff that you are doing one-on-one that you really don’t need to be doing in that kind of way. It frees you up then to focus on the very high-level stuff that only you can do.
In my book, Leveraged Consulting in the Digital Age, we dive in deeper into business design that enables the major leverage points in your brand, marketing, sales and delivery. Available via http://leveragedconsultingbook.com.