Sometimes really smart people are not good at, or are downright afraid of, ‘Selling’.

Sometimes really smart people are not good at, or are downright afraid of, ‘Selling’.

For many years it was my responsibility to sell ‘solutions’ – information, various technology platforms, software etc. More recently, it has occured to me that the ‘solution’ I am selling is people.

Really smart people.

When you work in professional services, the Partners are the product or solution. In my experience, some of them were quite comfortable ‘rain-making’ and doing the work required to build an opportunity funnel, manage relationships and what was required to secure an engagement. But many weren’t comfortable with, or good at, these activities at all.

Which is why many firms have someone responsible for business development. One example that comes to mind was early in my tenure at KPMG. I had set an intro meeting for a Senior Partner to meet with a well known local firm. On the day of the meeting the Senior Partner was grabbing several brochures. I asked why and he essentially said ‘to tell the person we were meeting with about our areas of expertise’. I reminded them that for first meeting, the only items you bring are a pen, notebook and a list of relevant questions about their organization. The initial meeting is all about developing a relationship and gaining insight. Insight that will guide your next meeting and the company-specific recommendations you might suggest.

There is a tendency to want to tell your prospect how great or how smart you are and why they should want to work with you. Even tho you might know very little about their organization and/or what their challenges and opportunities are.

This condition is known as premature presentation.

Remember, telling is not selling. Selling is asking intelligent questions and listening. Listening for areas where you can help their organization. Or if you can’t help them, referring them to someone who can. So my key message here: Less talk, more LISTEN.

Today I find myself once again working with really really smart people. In my role with the Envision Group, I am working with a team of people with PhD’s, Masters Degrees and in many cases 30+ years of industry experience working with some of the largest organizations across North America. I engage with them to learn about their respective areas of expertise, what they are passionate about and who they are looking to work with. Armed with this information, I work with them to develop a business development strategy.

Regardless of their backgrounds, I am once again hearing similar themes:

“I am not very effective until I get in front of a white board”

“I find Business Development work to be really daunting”

“I am terrified of ‘cold calling”

“I am a good relationship person, but not good at prospecting or the ask (aka close).”

Does any of this sound familiar?

This was further reinforced in a conversation I had with someone who represents a local sector group. She explained to me that many people in the industry have PhD’s and are highly intelligent – but  they don’t really know how to ‘sell’.

All of this reinforces for me the value of what business development professionals do for organizations. You can have the greatest product or solution, or the smartest engineers, software developers, scientists etc., but if you don’t have a sound marketing AND business development strategy, and qualified people to execute it, you will likely find yourself asking at some point why you are not growing at the rate you assumed you would.

Selling, or my preferred term of Business Development, requires Capacity (time) and Capability (skill, experience, training) to be effective. Without both of these, it will be a struggle to grow at the rate you want to.

So, if you or someone you know needs marketing or business development help, I know someone.

Additionally, if you or someone you know is interested in attending a training workshop on marketing and/or  business development, I also know someone.

Scott Donald Business Development Solutions