The baby step approach to growing your practice
Try this on…Notice how your body feels and what emotions you experience as you think to yourself, “In order to build my family business advising practice, I need to do more sales calls, increase my conversion rate, and close more business.” (Pause)
Okay, good. Now, try this on…Notice how your body feels and what emotions you are experiencing as you think to yourself, “In order to build my family business advising practice, I have to identify and build some new business relationships and increase connectivity in my existing relationships.” (Pause)
Good job! Was there a difference? Did you experience a sense of dread when you imagined needing to make more sales calls? Was your nose wrinkled up? Yuck! Did your stomach feel tight when you thought about needing to increase your conversion rate and close more sales? Mine did!
How did it feel to imagine building new relationships and increasing connectivity with existing relationships? Whew! I felt my belly relax and I started feeling excited–imagining myself with more thriving relationships and a bigger paycheck!
Granted, not everyone will have this same experience. Some folks are more introverted than I am or might have a personality style where “rules to follow” in the form of a sales process might be comforting. (For those who like checklists, we have a tool for you—Seven Steps for Successful Sales Checklist.) However, maybe we can generally agree that it’s more fun to think about building our practices by building more good quality, mutually beneficial relationships than by selling, per se.
We know from questions that arise during and after our Family Business Advisor Core Training and conversations across our network that even well-trained, highly competent family business advisors find sales a tough nut to crack. After all, subject matter experts aren’t necessarily expert sales people and people who enjoy advising don’t necessarily enjoy selling. Yet, sales can make or break our practice’s ultimate success.
Here at Galliard, we are all about relationships–building collaborative relationships and continuity in service across the network, plus raising the standards of family business advising so that advisors and their family-owned and closely-held business clients will create enduring and mutually beneficial relationships. We even teach skills to help relationships struggling with conflict work better, or as we like to call it—cooling off hot conversations.
But back to sales…long-time GFBAI member and Selfless Sales founder, Gary Kieper, asks us to think about what exactly we are selling. He says: “At the end of the day, we really don’t sell products or services and we really don’t just sell ourselves. I truly believe that selling yourself is important and you have to do that but that’s really not what we do anymore. What we do today is we sell solutions to problems while we build relationships.”
Gary likens the client relationship building process to dating. “I truly believe that if we understood our customers a little bit better and we did a better job of knowing what they’ve been through and where they’re at and what kind of problems they’ve dealt with, we’d truly have better relationships and the sales process would be much, much more simple.”
GFBAI Founder and Board Chair, Lisë Stewart advises us to take a “baby step approach” when establishing a new client relationship and building trust: take one small step together to build trust and to assess the fit in both directions. Lisë advises:
Regardless of the size of the business, to build trust, we’ve got to start out in baby steps. I can’t tell you the number of proposals that I’ve seen from advisors across the nation where they’re big, they’re hefty, weighty and expensive and they get shut down in that initial pitch. They don’t even get a chance to follow through with the first engagement. So start out with a small baby step. Allow your client to test the water to see whether or not you really are the right fit for them. And are they the right fit for you. Can you actually add value to their business and their process?
And, as we seasoned professionals know, adding value, in addition to being trustworthy, is what propels advisors into long-term client relationships—relationships where we go beyond being subject matter experts or even trusted advisors to becoming an indispensable partner. In other words, increasing your Relationship Capital. GFBAI Members Marc Rosen and Judy Bodenhamer, of the Client Experience Institute, talk about this process as “investing in people to exchange relationship currency, accumulate reputation capital, and build professional net worth.”
When we become indispensable partners, not only do we enjoy deeper relationships with our clients, we may also eventually be able to reduce our efforts to identify new potential clients. Instead, enthusiastic clients will refer us and even make introductions. Lisë encourages, “We know that In this business, referrals are our most powerful form of getting business.”
And sometimes, because our work with family businesses is a bit nebulous, we can increase our referrals by teaching our clients how to also be our advocates, as Lisë suggests. “Sometimes helping them to put into words by asking the questions, ‘What did I do for you that was most useful? How can we help to spread the word because this (family-owned businesses) is such an important group to reach?’ Most people when they understand and they believe in your work and they understand that you’re looking for more work and that by passing on your name or your connections, they’re going to be helping other people, they like to enter the party. But you’ve got to make it easy for them and they’ve got to put into words what you did.”
So if cold calls or even warm sales calls put your stomach in knots, try a revision to your process—stop selling and start connecting. Your practice will grow and you’ll find your work is even more rewarding…and probably more fun, too!