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Opening doors and getting new business – The art of soft selling

I had a great meeting with an old client of mine this week, where amongst chat of rugby and motorbikes, we discussed why it is that so many professional consultants don’t like to business develop.

Interestingly, we both felt exactly the same way and came to the same conclusions. Good consultants are good consultants. They are technically excellent, they provide their clients with fantastic advice, great candidates and an efficient service. They solve their client’s problems. That is what they train for and that is what they aspire to. To be excellent in their field.

What they aren’t taught and trained to do is to sell themselves. Well, certainly not often well enough anyway. Odd in a sales role, isn’t it.

In all my years in professional recruitment I can’t actually remember a client of mine asking me for a candidate who couldn’t bring in new business. They all want rainmakers. And, I am yet to meet a professional who doesn’t want to be a rainmaker. Our clients want them, so shouldn’t we be rainmakers ourselves?

There is a fear amongst many that if you move a conversation from small talk towards sales, then you will be seen as less that professional. Dread the thought that you might be seen as salesy!

We are professionals, not salespeople

The thinking is this: “We are professionals, we are not salespeople.” Not true. We all sell ourselves, and we do it all of the time, we just don’t think about it that way.

None of us like to be sold to. We don’t like to be pushed, we like to collect the facts and make an informed decision. The second hand car salesmen of the past have a lot to answer for.

I believe that selling is part and parcel of a professional consultants role. Meeting potential new clients, presenting yourself in the very best light, persuading them that we are the right business partner for them, transacting their business and ultimately being paid, is all a sales cycle.

We can dress up the language in whatever way we like to make it more acceptable to us, but at the end of the day it is just sales.

Soft selling

Soft Sales (or consultative sales) is not about talking and endless boasting about how good you, your firm or your service is. Consultative sales is about listening and understanding the needs of your client or prospective client. It is about formulating a sensible and cost effective solution that your client will want, and will want to buy from you.

Once you appreciate this, and then learn a soft selling process, you will be amazed at how easy it is, and how natural it feels. It must feel natural if it going to feel professional to both you and your client.

Sales really isn’t complicated. Meeting more clients, winning their business, developing those relationships and leveraging on them to do it all again is easy. But like so many things, its only easy when you know how.

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