What's the fastest way to sell something? Offer people what they already want.
That was the topic of our latest post. When you identify existing demand for a given offering or service in your space, you reduce market risk and shorten the sales cycle.
There's no need to educate or diagnose problems. Prospects are already convinced that a change must be made, and there's urgency in the process. Things move fast.
While this is certainly positive, relying on existing demand also comes with huge disadvantages:
- You're too late for the party: It's more difficult to earn trust, differentiate, and sell value;
- You must wait for an invitation or hang out with the wrong crowd: It puts your business in reactive mode, drives you towards bad fit clients, and risks diluting your positioning and reputation.
Too Late To The Party
When you are selling expertise, waiting for high urgency signals to start conversations can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is in the shorter sales cycle, as mentioned. The curse is the limited (or lack of) time for trust-building.
If there's a firm with a previous relationship with the buyer, it has the lead.
Even though the power of personal referrals has been decreasing in B2B over the last decade, you're still selling to people. When you wait for companies to raise their hands to start communicating, you're often too late to the party.
That's not all: Even when you do have the "inside track", tapping into existing demand hurts your ability to sell value.
When every consulting firm in your space targets the same job openings and RFPs, it gets more and more difficult for you to convince prospects to commit time to proper discovery.
We've all been there before. The prospect has an exigent face in front of you, and says "here's what we want, and here's what we need to know about you." They are often self-diagnosed, and looking for a list of deliverables and prices to compare you with someone else. The probative conversation is missing.
If you find yourself in a super competitive fish pond, with other consultants pressuring down fees, it's time to get out. That is not the game you want to be playing.
Will You Keep Waiting, Or Change Your Crowd?
Another disadvantage of targeting existing demand is an obvious one: You might not be able to find it. And this leads consultants who don't know how to create demand to pursue prospects who are clearly a bad fit.
Let's say you help enterprise SaaS companies reduce their churn. After looking for existing demand, you see that there are no job openings, RFPs, opportunities on marketplaces, or any other sign of interest. Most of your dream clients seem to have other priorities at the moment.
A common response might be for you to move away from your niche, or start offering whatever service they need. "Early-stage startup looking for generic marketing support? We need work, let's send a proposal."
Slowly but surely, your brand and positioning get diluted:
- By changing your messaging to try to please different industries, verticals, and client profiles, companies start to see you as a less credible generalist;
- The lack of a cohesive client portfolio, specific and useful content, and a clear methodology will make it harder for you to charge premium fees.
- By selling more and more services outside your core competencies, prospects start to doubt your ability to deliver consistent results.
What did you expect? That's what happens when you do anything for anyone, in whichever way they want to.
In this example, the solo marketing consultant had enough flexibility to react to the lack of interest in his services. But many consulting firms - and maybe you and your team - do not have the capabilities or can't quickly pivot to a new niche and offering.
If that's your case, relying on existing demand can put your business in big trouble.
The alternative is to learn how to proactively create interest for you and your offerings. I'll write about it tomorrow.