How many times have you loaded up the charter boat, got a client excited about a grand vision, gone to sea, and returned home with no catch? When customers have large complex problems, presenting them with large complex stories doesn’t help. It’s the worst thing you could do.
In the services business, if a customer is giving you air-time, the reality is they know they need help and direction from an outside source. By presenting a vision of the destination, without illuminating the path, you’re skipping the opportunity to create focus. If you can’t create focus at the onset, what kind of mess are you going to create in an actual engagement? This is why a lot of high level strategy engagements require massive ‘remediation’ efforts in the aftermath – all style and no substance.
Customers are going to pay for outside services if you can make complex problems simple, and provide results in dramatically reduced times. This is where the ‘smartest guy in the room’ can accomplish negative selling, by weaving a complex tale of end-results, yet leave the customer without any idea of how to get there or tangible next steps. Free advice, which usually is worth every penny and is exactly what drives good services opportunities into the ground.
You have to make it easy for the customer to contract and make decisions. People no longer have time and won’t make the time for a complex services sell. The business world and people’s personal lives are moving too fast and are too chaotic for 1985 style ‘how can I help you, and what can you pay me’ consulting services. That model is not only worn, but it’s dying a slow painful death.
Bottom line, if you spend hours with a customer giving free advice and don’t identify focused initiatives and next steps, you’re wasting everyone’s time and worse you’re delaying the opportunity to get work done. So what’s the alternative?
1) Lead with a clear position on the industry and technology.
2) Take a clear stand: even if you run the risk of alienating 20% of your potential prospects, the other 80% may be better clients anyhow since their looking for outside help, versus a debate. Tire-kicking is non-productive.
3) Play it straight and practical, and focus on getting things done.
4) Make progress real-time. Create focus, lead with results instead of theory.