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Talking about your product or solution creates obstacles to getting business. Talking about your prospect's business problem creates a path to a hiring decision. Unless you're completely in the wrong market, enough of those hiring decisions will go your way.

A consultant friend recently bemoaned

  • the difficulty of articulating his value;
  • explaining to potential clients why they need him;
  • "giving away the store," i.e., revealing too much of his solution in the course of trying to make the sale; and
  • having clients steal his solution and do it themselves.

I suspect that there are a number of lawyers reading this, nodding their heads, thinking, "Yeah, what he said." It's happened to everyone.

It doesn't happen for the reasons we might think. The good news: the real reasons are completely controllable.

My friend was looking at this through the wrong lens. No service provider has absolute value. Your value is relative to the economic impact of the problem you solve.

If you solve a problem to which the buyer imputes, say, $1 million economic impact, you're worth more than someone who's solving a $50k problem. The skill is managing the probing interaction that enables the buyer(s) to recognize and quantify specific economic impact. It's not complicated; I've taught 7000 lawyers to do it. You can do it, too. If my friend described a common experience for you, you're struggling needlessly.  

To address this, he resolved to shift from a service- to a product focus. As he put it, "I can sell a thing or idea infinitely better than I can sell my experience/skills."

Switching to a product approach won't help. Because "things" are tangible, it might be easier for him to extol a product's virtues, but that won't help him make a sale because it doesn't address the perceived-value problem.  

  • Exploring the problem's business impact is the path to the sale. 
  • Initiating a discussion of the product/solution's merit is a self-created obstacle to the sale. 

To get hired, behave exactly as you will after you get hired, when your entire focus will be helping your new client understand his problem, its impact, risks, context, etc., en route to outlining solution options. Do that up front. Not only do buyers prefer it, but, gee, aren't you already good at that?

Mike O'Horo

To master the process of getting prospects to define the economic impact of your expertise relative to their problem, go to RainmakerVT and buy the Cost of Doing Nothing simulation, through which you'll learn how to help a prospect translate a business problem into its business ramifications and consequences, including the economic ones that lead to you being recognized as a return on investment instead of a cost.

Another consequence of product-centric thinking is the difficulty of getting a decision of any kind, which perpetuates your need to expend time and energy nurturing a false opportunity. That's why getting a decision -- even "no" -- is the most critical aspect to master. Step 3 of RainmakerVT's proven decision process is Stakeholder Alignment: Adding Value by Helping Buyers Make a Good Decision.