One of my favorite passages from "The Trusted Advisor" is the following:
"To make anyone believe something about you, you must demonstrate, not assert. What you claim about yourself, your colleagues, or your firm will always be received skeptically, if it is listened to at all."
I wish I'd internalized that message when I started my own consulting practice. The main goal of any relationship-building initiative is to create opportunities to demonstrate how you can help. Show, don't tell.
It's impossible to assess how well we put our prospects first without changing perspective and looking from a distance. Here's a simple exercise for you by David Maister.
How do you successfully demonstrate (not just assert):
- That you have listened to what the client has said?
- That you appreciate the importance that the client assigns to what they have been saying?
- That you understand the unique aspects of his/her situation?
- That you understand his/her business?
- That you are going to be comfortable, supportive person to work with?
- That you will be able to make a unique contribution?
- That you can be trusted to keep your word?
- That you have experience in dealing with his/her kind of problem?
Remember: We're not looking for words, but actions.
Don't feel guilty if you don't know how to answer all the questions. Even the most seasoned consulting partners I've met don't have them. But you can use those points as a compass.
Before any meeting with a client or prospect, ask yourself: Which of those things do I want them to believe about me and my firm by the end of the meeting?
Pick two or three, and reverse-engineer it. Figure out how you are going to demonstrate them. Be prepared to demonstrate them.
For example, if you want to show you know how to do your homework, you could say:
"I read the article you wrote for Inc. Magazine last month and saw how you've doubled your marketing staff last year. What I'd love to learn more about is how you are ensuring they quickly integrate with the company's culture and comply with existing processes - especially in the hybrid work model you adopt."
These kinds of questions show you know how to research, value your prospect's time, and know how to talk business.
Demonstrating that you care is a win-win. Do it more.