By Ian Altman, Guest Author

This is the second in a series on helping non-sales staff become powerful players in your overall business development strategy. I think you will find Ian Altman’s insights practical and to the point. I know I do. Enjoy…lwf


My previous post talked about the 5 keys to faster growth for non sales people. We know that in Spiraling Up, the high-growth firms in the study invest in training their non-sales staff on sales skills. Once non-sales people engage with clients, what role should they play, and what information should they gather to qualify opportunities? 

First – Remember to explain to these trusted advisors that their role is to identify opportunities where clients have a need that your company might be able to solve. Trusted advisors should not be expected to “close” deals. Maintain focus on their needs. Too often, professional services firms rush to translate the client's problem into “head count” or “additional hours.” Your clients don't want “hours,” they want to solve a business challenge. So, be sure to focus on their issue, not your billing; 

Second – Don't try to solve the problem on the fly. Rather, try to best understand the client's need or “issue.” Jumping into the solution too early might halt the discussion and that diversion might prevent you from learning their true need. There are other risks in jumping into the solution: The most common mistake is offering a solution that looks strikingly similar to something they already tried without success. Exercise patience and discipline to learn more about the problem including what has and has not worked for them. If your approach is similar to one that already failed, you want to be able to explain why your approach is different than their previously failed attempt; 

Third – Primitive systems taught that qualification was all about 3 things: Need, Budget, and Authority. Though those factors are important, they tend to get us to focus on what we want to know to make a sale and not what our clients need. If we focus on their needs, we maintain our role as trusted advisors instead of someone trying to sell something they may not need. In today's world, the 3 things that matter are Issue, Impact, and Importance:

  • Issue – What is the problem they are trying to solve?
  • Impact – How is their organization impacted by NOT solving the problem? For commercial clients Impact tends to translate to dollars of cost savings or new revenue. In other cases, it might be that not solving the Issue could Impact the client's ability to meet their strategic objectives.
  • Importance – How important is it to the person you are working with to solve the Issue. Just because they have an Issue that appears to have Impact of $5 million per year doesn't make it a top priority. If they have bigger fish to fry, you may need to be sensitive to timing. If it is not on their top 3 list, it probably won't happen.

If the Issue, Impact, and Importance are sufficient, they'll find the money… and they'll be receptive to a discussion about solving that challenge to their organization.