September 25, 2008

What solicitors, architects and engineers can teach others about sales and marketing

Business development in the professional services arena requires a lot more than just selling. It requires demonstrating expertise, establishing credibility and building profile. In fact in many professions the traditional approach to selling runs counter to these objectives.

So don't talk to an architect, engineer of accountant about sales, or even marketing. Ask them about the types of projects they want to be doing, how many projects they have got and how many more are needed. Ask them about their last and best projects and how they can win, or attract, more of the same.

In an increasingly brash world, there is a certain understated modesty surrounding many of the long standing professions and selling does not fit with it. I worked with Irelands largest professional body representing accountants about a decade ago and quickly learned that practice development, as opposed to marketing or selling were the terms to use.

Ask a real professional to sell himself, or herself and they will reel at the thought, but give them an opportunity to showcase their expertise (a tender, a seminar, an award, etc) and they will gladly accept. They know that the most effective way to do the former is to do the latter well.

The best sales people we know, don't really think of themselves as sales people and certainly don't act like salespeople are traditionally supposed to act. They consider themselves as experts, consultants and problem solvers as opposed to sellers.

They don't brag, they don't bluff and they rarely make exaggerated promises. They value expertise, reputation and character above all else and that is what attracts people to them and their businesses, or professional practices.

In this day and age most people are happy to talk to an expert, but would run a mile from a sales person. The difference is that one wants to get you to part with your money, while the other can credibly help you. So, which one are you?

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