Carleen Mackay writes for www.ework.com – a Ms.Money partner.
As an independent professional, knowing how and when organizations “buy” talent can help you land the best projects faster than ever. In today’s world, independent professionals are most successful when they demonstrate that their contribution is one that their potential client cannot afford to be without. When you link the value of your services to your client’s business values, you:
- Distinguish your credentials from the competition.
- Equate investment in you with making a business investment.
- Reduce or eliminate “cost” as a major barrier.
- Increase your self-confidence.
Even if you occasionally depend on good luck, opportunistic timing, your previous experience or reputation, or a friend’s third-party reference to land key projects, you will be worth more if you can learn to link your services to business values and high needs.
Establishing Your Link to Business Values
What do I mean by “business values?” Business values motivate organizations. Most organizations are motivated by (1) making money, (2) saving money, and (3) beating the competition for market share. Simply stated, you need to link your contribution to one or more of these business values. Your chances of landing that perfect project dramatically increase if you can prove that by engaging your services, the organization can:
- Increase revenue.
- Save money (consider time as money).
- Achieve a competitive edge.
Establishing Your Link to High Business Need While organizations routinely hire part-time or project help, independent professionals are especially valuable during times of high business need, as in the following examples:
- During rapid expansion.
- During new product introduction.
- During merger and acquisition.
- During turnaround, downsizing, or shutdown.
- When key employees are not available for a task or project.
- When time is the issue.
Read on to find out how to link your solution to an organization’s values and high needs.
Discover What Your Client Needs
When you first meet the prospective client, you are in the discovery phase. The best way to discover your client’s needs is to ask probing questions. For example, ask, “What are you trying to achieve?” Or, “What is the business objective?” Resist the impulse to talk too much (i.e., “sell”), instead focus on gaining information.
Diagnose the Problem
If you omit the step of diagnosing the client’s problem (even if you are confident that you understand their problem and have the perfect solution), you have overlooked the most important aspect of the business discussion. You have not listened. There is a story that each person needs to tell and to have heard. Failure to engage in a diagnosis based on asking probing questions and listening actively often results in the client’s perception that you don’t have all the facts or that you didn’t bother to “hear them out.” Good questions include: “What are your biggest issues and concerns?” Or, “What keeps you up at night?” Or, “What does success look like to you?”
Confirm Your Understanding
Confirm your understanding of their business values and high needs. A good way to do this is to say something as simple as: “Let me reconfirm my impressions of your needs and concerns.” Then restate in your own words what you have heard from them. Ask: “Am I on track?” Or, “Do you have any other information to add?” When you are confident that you understand their needs, add: “Thank you for your insights. I’m confident that I can solve your problem.” This is the moment in time when the emphasis of the discussion switches from the client to you.
Emphasize the Solution
Conclude by emphasizing how your services, experience, and qualifications can solve their business problems. This is the time to quantify and qualify the value you provide using the language of business. Remember to demonstrate that you are uniquely equipped to do one or more of the following:
- Add to their bottom line
- Significantly save money
- Improve profitability
- Provide payback for an investment in you
- Increase their ability to compete
- Link time savings to cost savings
And, finally, offer to summarize in writing your understanding of their needs and your ability to contribute. This written summary reconfirms and strengthens their impression that you are the most qualified person to solve their problem. E-mail this summary within 24 hours of your meeting. You might also want to follow up by sending a clean, hard copy of the summary via standard mail.