Some of my most pleasant memories as a child are of playing with wood building blocks. Once I mastered the basics of stacking one block on another, my goal was always to build as high as I possibly could. Being the quick learner that I am, I soon discovered that the stronger the foundation, the higher each stage of my skyscraper could be. Sacrificing width for height (I only had so many blocks) would result in skyscraper collapse.
When we stack our blocks one on top of the other, we create and move up the Service Relationship Hierarchy. Each subsequent step up the hierarchy needs to be broader than the one above it in order for you to be successful in selling your services.
Let's take a look at how the concept of the Service Relationship Hierarchy might appear in practice.
Consider this scenario:
You had initial discussions with a new prospect. During conversations, you uncovered a number of needs for which you would be the perfect service provider. In fact, you have been so good at uncovering needs, this could be one of the biggest clients you have ever landed.
Even though you haven't had what you feel is enough interaction with the prospect, the needs are so clear and compelling that you craft your proposal (outlining your incredible solutions) and construct a strong case for the value that your solution will provide. In total, the proposal is for $125,000 – a huge win for you, especially for a first project with a client.
You send the prospect the proposal and…voila…you do not get the job. You are certain of their needs. You are confident of your solution and value-added. What happened?
When you think about it, you already know the answer. You were right about the needs, solutions, and value. But you were also right about this being such a BIG win so early in the relationship. In essence, you were providing too much too early for such a new relationship. You had asked to be the “trusted advisor” to the tune of a $125,000 commitment at a point when you were just building an initial amount of trust with the prospect.
Now consider an alternative:
The need set is the same: $125,000 in services will be just right. You realize the client isn't ready to drop this much money on you to start, so you break the project into phases so you can prove the concept and prove that you are a top-notch and dependable service provider. Phase 1 is $25,000 – much more palatable for a new relationship. You close the deal and then succeed with flying colors in your delivery of Phase 1. Demonstrating you are reliable and competent by delivering a successful Phase 1.
The need is still the same (or possibly even greater now that you know the client so much better by performing Phase 1). However, you have now built the necessary trust in the process of delivering on your promise. This is the time to propose the solution and the value to meet the entire need your client has articulated.
As much fun as it was seeing my wooden blocks collapse as a child, the collapse of a service relationship I have worked so hard to build is no fun at all.
Think of the how you can build each relationship with your building blocks of trust, need, solution, and value. Your success in making both the most and the largest sales will grow as you develop your ability to satisfy the Service Relationship Hierarchy with current and prospective clients.
About the Author:
John Doerr is Co-President of Wellesley Hills Group. He is also the Founder of RainToday.com and co-author of the book Professional Services Marketing (Wiley, 2009).
Reprinted with permission of the Wellesley Hills Group, 2010.