Present to Win New Business Development: Interpersonal Competence
I have been asked recently to develop a programme of events by two very different consultancy groups – one in professional services, the other in engineering. In both instances, Interpersonal competence was the key issue. For the technical experts dealing with difficult people was a priority, presenting the consultancy as a credible brand, presentation of self, influencing, persuading, negotiating and rapport leading is central with the purpose of improving customer loyalty and retention.
More Credible by becoming more Human, Entertaining & Humorous
The brief for one group was simple – “Can you help our audit team, consultants, technical staff and accountants to be more human, entertaining and humorous when giving their presentations to clients”. The brief for the ‘Engineering Consultancy was “Can you make the team more influential, and give our clients confidence in the team?”
Would you really employ Uninspiring, Demotivating and Unenthusiastic “Experts?
Further, would you actually implement their recommendations and how inspired would your people be to their presence and their core messages? When asking why this was important, my clients indicated that their professional specialists focused almost entirely on their core skills and projects to the detriment of building long term relationships. Further, it became apparent that this was not enhanced by the ‘specialists’ failing to achieve rapport before producing dry and uninspiring presentations, reinforced by even more formal and clinical meetings to their clients.
Customer Retention is based on Positive and Confident Relationships
One of the consultancy groups circulated feedback questionnaires to their clients and recognised that when asked questions such as “Would you use our services again?” - the answer was less than positive.
When following up on this response, the consultancy found that the clients would prefer to work with a service provider which focused not just on the technical aspects of the project, but also on building a real positive and motivating business relationship. Without this special atmospheric condition in the relationship, it was unlikely that the client would refer their partners and professional colleagues to use the consulting services of these firms.
Clients Take Ages to Win & Seconds to Loose
It takes ten times more resources and energy and six times as much time to win a new client than it does to retain existing clients. Consulting firms, whether they are civil engineers, commercial lawyers, accountants, external auditors, IT professional, and quality and risk managers, have to rely equally on their technical and interpersonal skills. A Failure to do this, to develop a powerful, meaningful rapport with their clients, will result in lower client retention which could put your business at risk.
The Big Challenge: Presentations
The huge challenge is enabling specialist and consultants to rise beyond their technical specialism and hone their interpersonal and their presentation skills. The big challenge to these people is the fear of public speaking. Research on the UK tells us that this is our second greatest fear – the first being spiders. (Death finds its way to number seven in the great fear stakes!)
I have run many workshops over the last two decades and before that in business school lectured and ran workshops on developing sound, and credible relationships with your client base and every time I run a session there are always people who say they are terrified of speaking in public. If this is the case, then are these professional people really maximising the impact they can make with their clients?
You have to be 100% to Give Your Clients 100%
If you are not 100% in terms of your analysis and delivery, just what value are you adding to the client’s business? If you doubt yourself and even your colleagues – and if you deliver a lacklustre presentation, are you really being professional and furthering client retention and profitability for your business?
Who will do the Presentation?
I became aware of this many years ago when I was post grad student. I had held a few student rep roles so was used to standing up and speaking on the hoof. One day my tutor asked a group of us whether we would be interested in speaking to sixty eight potential students for the next academic year. There were no volunteers apart from two of us who raised our hands. My fellow post grad asked when this would take place. The response was, “they are having coffee now – and will be regrouping in ten minutes. – all we want you to do is to tell them how you found the University and the course”.
What’s the worst that can happen?
I stood up and asked, “Can I borrow a flip chart?” When I met the group I introduced myself and asked what they would like to discuss. I wrote on the flipchart – “What are the key issues you would like to discuss to enable you to make the right decision today?” I got loads of responses and then discussed these from my perspective.
Being you, your Authentic Self
There was nothing flashy, I was just myself. I did not realise into later in my lecturing career that being one’s true self is the single biggest thing you can do to appeal to the audience. Your audience know if you are 'really you'. They know if you are being yourself. You see, if you are not, others note this from the incongruence that flows from the spoken word, your tonality and your body language.
If you are putting on a false face, being someone you are not, or displaying a misplaced or over egged ego that you don’t deserve or live up to, your audience always know. You know that they know and that’s what creates fear in you in front of the audience.
A good friend on mine in Marketing once said – “Be you. If you start trying to hide the real you, what happens when they find out you are not who you say you are?”
Stop Mind Reading – it's not a grimace it’s probably Toothache
You have to do it. FEAR is an acronym lonely for False Evidence Appearing Real. Stop focusing on the one person in the audience who has an unfortunate expression on their face. It’s probably indigestion – and nothing to do with you or your presentation. Delete his or her presence from your attention and focus on the ones who are smiling, nodding, making notes. Stop trying to read the minds of others – that’s not a grimace you see on the guy in the audience – it’s probably a toothache!
Volunteer Yourself out of Fear
The student session was not my first for public speaking. When I was a boy I spoke at Church, and then in my Cycling Club I had a minor position organising entries from our Club into events which required standing up and speaking formally and informally.
That session I ran on the hoof resulted in the tutors asking me if I’d be prepared to run some tutorials, and that resulted in lecturing to large groups of people and my career in Business Education, onwards to what I do now as a consultant. I have to say, creating good impressions and instilling learning, is only partially about IQ and knowledge. Some of my brightest cohorts with PhD’s went on to become highly competent technical specialists, but only as long as they did not have to engage and present to others.
Pitching & Your Business
Let’s talk about how your business could improve its business performance. I assume that you interact with your clients, customers or the general public and those who consume what you have to offer. I also assume that you could always look for more business, for new clients and customers, that you want to retain some of loyal clients, and even win new customers. The secret of how to do so follows.
The Secret to Superb Customer Focus and Growth
I have already made an assumption that you offer services and products of value. If not, you probably would not be trading. It is always good knowing more about what you do but there is a point when the trade-off with technical ability and building client and customer rapport is optimal.
The reality is, most organisations do quite well on their technical level, but under-deliver on building relationships with their clients and customer base. I am saying you do not sacrifice technical for interpersonal competence, I say - build technical proficiency and relationship-building at the same rate.
If you send your technical experts out with minimal training in interpersonal influence, selling and negotiating, they will not succeed. If you tailor presentation skills to your products, service and your unique clients (all are unique and need a different approach) you will be in a much stronger position to transact business and transform your relationship.
Presentations & Consequences
Let’s talk about failure for a minute. Let’s say that the sales pitch your business expert delivers to a client does not win the day. However, the client quickly developed a strong affinity with the style of the expert their powerful presence and ability to interact, speak with wisdom and generate a creative, positive and engaging climate.
Okay, you say, “We still lost”. Well perhaps you did on that occasion. Perhaps your solution was not as good as that on offer from other service providers, but what impression have you created with your client? I wonder if there is more chance of the client thinking, “Well, your solution was not as good as the others on offer but the presenter was really impressive. I want to find out more about what they do. I will certainly add them to my preferred suppliers list. They seem to be a great team to work with, but on this occasion we had to go elsewhere”.
So What Will You Do and How Can you make Presentation & Influencing Skills Work For You Business?
We design and deliver superior influencing and presentation skills training resulting in 1: 1 mentoring and coaching programme over a period of six months. We can train your people in confidence and pitching skills. We can take your analysts, your engineers, accountants, professional service advisors, engineers, actuaries, accountants, recruitment staff, quality and operations staff, procurement people and technical specialists to a higher level of personal and business effectiveness,
Materials and delivery are designed for your special context and the challenges you face in 2011 and 2012. Every action we take with you focuses on building stronger relationships with your clients or customers whether they are internal or external to your business.
We work with you to rehearse pitches and practice until the authentic self picks up and delivers with a high degree of both confidence and competence.
Phil Atkinson 2011 February ©
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