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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #4: January, 2004

how to improve the value proposition for prospective buyer.

I thought it might be useful to begin the New Year with a focus on how to improve the value proposition -- and its impact -- for prospective buyer. Herewith, some simple suggestions:

  • State value in terms of the most immediate pragmatic outcome you can discern from the client. In other words, it's probably better to say, "You'll be able to reduce meeting frequency and duration within a month" than, "You'll improve your knowledge quality continually." The former has both immediacy and pragmatic payoff.
  • Never walk in on the defensive. Some consultants are so prepared for objections and rebutting them that they are woefully unprepared in presenting benefits. Sales are based on providing salutary benefit for the buyer, not merely assuaging perceived impediments.
  • If you try to please everyone, you'll wind up pleasing no one. If you're facing a committee or even a small group, determine the real buyer or key influencer among buyers, and make sure he or she is completely content. One strong advocate beats five indifferent listeners any day.
  • Use visuals. I'm not talking, heaven forfend, about a PowerPoint™ "dog and pony show." But some rough diagrams or illustrations on easel sheets or pads will assist those who comprehend better through visual stimuli.
  • Invite the buyer into the diagnostic. Don't be prescriptive, especially early in the relationship. Rather than say, "What I think you need is….," or "I'd recommend….," try "We probably have three ways we can go about this. Which is best for your environment and culture?"
  • Make it clear that no action is also a negative decision. Any problem that exists will worsen, and any opportunity being sought will become more distant (or less unique). If you view "yes," "no," and "not now" as a positive, negative, and neutral, you're wrong. They represent one positive and two negatives.
  • Every buyer has a personal objective behind the business objective, e.g., "improving teamwork" also means that I don't have to continue in the despised role of referee among the departments. Find those personal objectives and appeal to them with your value proposition.
  • Give the buyer some comfort and assurances. Drop into the discussion lines such as, "When we faced this challenge at the Acme corporation, we chose a broad-based response rather than an isolated one, and the result was…." Everyone wants their risks reduced, so cite precedent.
  • Find a "hot button" to press with your value. It may be the stock price, a report in the news, a looming retirement, a recent divestiture, etc. This can create instant relevance.
  • Remember that a buyer who keeps presenting objections (bad timing, no money, culturally unacceptable, etc.) is really saying that he or she does not see sufficient value. It's always about value, because sufficient value creates an ROI that overcomes any amount of objections.

Suggested Reading: Arrogance by Bernard Goldberg. It's a hard-to-deny analysis of leftward bias in the major media, but even more of a lesson on why we (and our clients) shouldn't believe everything we hear nor react to every piece of divergent feedback.

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