We aren’t ambulance chasers - we’re the ambulance. We have a moral obligation to use our skills to solve client problems.

There’s a strong correlation between experts and an aversion to “selling.”

Add on work doesn’t just happen. Even if you do great work you still have to fight for it.

Being on-site with clients and getting to the level where we be open, spill our unperfected thinking out on the table, and hash ideas back and forth, means we are present at the creation. This how you expand your SOPs, and get non-RFP work.

Being involved in M&A is a great way to get more work. Researching an industry, evaluating potential acquisitions, running analysis on what a client could do with a company once they buy it. Tons of work following - integration, technology, strategy, etc.

Account Planning

Most account planning sessions are a random hodgepodge of ideas. Instead, consider using the following 6 key ways to grow to guide your conversations - from easiest to hardest:

New vs. Existing Work

To sell new work, they have to:

Presumably existing work you’ve checked the first 5 of those boxes already. But it’’s not that simple:

Contacts at client companies can actually have a disincentive to refer. If you did great work it makes them look good. That’s a competitive advantage for them in terms of promotions, etc.

Even though in theory there should be a scale advantage in professional service firms, very often they have difficulty bringing those advantages to bear. That represents an opportunity for smaller firms.

How to find your best opportunities.

Boutique firms tend to be known for a narrow band of expertise, and should focus on on MORE, EXTEND, EXPAND. Stay away from EVOLVE and INNOVATE, as this would be like starting a new firm. You can sometimes win REACH and EVOLVE work if it’s smaller in scope and close enough to your core competencies, because you can move faster than bigger firms.

Use your unique advantages as a boutique firm - culture, adaptability/agility, and storytelling.

Big firms tend to have advantages in technology and global reach.

Structure: are you trying to rely less on travel? Structure by region. Are you trying to expose to multiple industries to develop your team? Structure around travel and cross-functional collaboration. Are you trying to scale the time and talent of a few key experts or leaders? Structure to ensure they get to spend time talking with key customers vs. being bogged down in administrative minutiae.

Growth strategy: organic growth firms do well with EXPAND, EVOLVE, REACH. M&A based growth strategies tend to do better with new and different work because you can buy your way into those offerings.

Abandon the brochure - ask questions. These should be aimed at understanding the client’s overall strategy, the role of the group you’re serving, and how your capabilities might be leveraged to achieve those goals. Be curious.

Questions you should always be able to answer:

Any time you’re doing a project there is going to be a major change management element. It’s crazy not to include it in your SOW, because it won’t be successful if you don’t. It also requires that you meet a lot of people in the client organization. Those are new open doors. And you have to go back and share the results with them. And they’ll see you get results.

Cozy up to their technology - marketing consultants who integrate with the client’s CRM will see more engagement, better results, and deeper relationships. You’re now part of the team.

Do a loss analysis - if you have a good enough relationship with the client you should be able to get an understanding of why you lost a project.

When your existing buyer leaves (whether a new role in the company or a new org):

Stay aware of trends within and between industries. Create a point of view on them. Use that to have touch points with clients - it’s not selling, but it’s opening the aperture. Let them tell you if the point of view is valuable.

Look at existing work and ask what the next logical step is. Limit ancillary services to where you have the “right to expand.”

Allow for limited or appropriate scope creep in projects, if you decide that type of work is exactly where you hope to expand. Earns you a case study for that work.

Leverage the budgeting process. None of your clients like the budgeting process and will welcome the help for free. Gives you the ability to get your work included in next year’s budget.

Don’t just “land and expand.” Weave yourself into the fabric of the world’s great companies.

Focus on delivering great work over expansion - mediocre work closes future opportunities. And those opportunities are hard to earn.

Whenever you do an engagement, always do something extra. Something that wows. The cost of sales doing something extra for free vs. trying to go get another logo is a no brainer.

Find anything the CEO says (YouTube interviews, etc.) - that is strategic stuff that they probably hare having a hard time executing on in reality. Goldmine of opportunities there.

Use SHELIE to wow clients:

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Make sure you scope metrics into your SOW that you know you can hit and create value for your client, so you can overcome objections any other division might throw at you.

Great case studies look like the assignment you hope to do, state the problem solved, include the challenges overcome, include endorsing quotes, and include an ROI claim.

Be their friend. Always be the one to buy celebratory drinks. Not just them, ask them to invite their friends or colleagues.

Remember who the hero is - brag about your client, not about yourself

Take good notes - use your CRM to track conversations. Want to be able to remember the conversation, especially if they brought up a potential pain point.

Whenever you meet someone at your client firm who isn’t your buyer but could be, always follow up. Note that you met them in the CRM. Wait a week and send an email. Not a pitch. “Great to meet you last week. I found what you said about ______ interesting. I just read this article with a tag on this. Here’s the link: _____. Next time I’m in NY, it would be fun to grab a cup of coffee. I’ll reach out next time I’m on a trip your way.”

When you head out, reply to this email chain so they remember the context. AT coffee ask “how’s business? What are you focused on these days?

Use scoping process as an opportunity to ask questions of stakeholders across the client. It’s change management best practice and also gives you an easy way to meet new people in the firm, so you can follow up after you’ve done good work.

Align incentives - “I’d like to get the price down for you next year. If we could bundle you inside a larger set of contracts, it would qualify you for our volume discount. Would you be open to talking through whether that would make sense for you?”

Create peer groups of your clients. Bring them together. This makes you the hub of a source of valuable insight you can draft off of. You aren’t the center of the conversation - they are. But they all associate those interactions with you.

Make sure your asks are things they really value. And strip away anything that makes it hard to say yes. Consider one hour by phone exchanges vs. dinners or in-person summits. Those are of course better but harder to get a yes.