In our recent webinar, “Inside the Buyer’s Brain: How to Turn Insights into Action,” we dove deep into the issue of misalignments between buyers and sellers of professional services. The recently released book, Inside the Buyer’s Brain, looks at the same topic in greater depth and is available for a free download.

Here are 3 main insights discussed in the webinar:

1. Relevance Gap
Many firms present their value proposition and differentiators as a foregone conclusion – without asking their own clients or prospects what is most important to them. Understanding the key issues and priorities of target audiences goes a long way in helping firms talk about their services in a way that is relevant to their buyers. For example, “We have great people.” While this may be true, it doesn’t address how the firm can help its clients solve their challenges. Thus, the relevancy to key issues and priorities is not answered for the client.

How can a firm close the relevancy gap?

  • Specialize in particular industries
  • Change services or bundle them by issue
  • Talk about services differently

2. Blind Spots
According to Hinge research, buyers and sellers often mistake the most important selection criteria. Buyers of professional services identify a good reputation as the top selection criteria, where sellers identify cost/terms at the to. This is a sure way for sellers to race to the bottom on cost by not focusing on their own reputation and past performance.

Another example of a blind spot is a seller’s focus on overpaying and cost overruns. Buyers are more focused on working with a provider who avoids breaking promises and does what they said they would do.

At the end of the day, buyers are focusing on:

  • Good reputation
  • Existing relationships
  • Expertise/past performance

Sellers, on the other hand, are missing opportunities by focusing on:

  • Expertise/specialization
  • Expertise/past performance
  • Existing relationships

One sure way to identify blind spots between buyers and sellers is to conduct frequent research of external target audiences. External research provides firms with a quantitative view into what’s important to clients.

3. Winners vs. Runners-Up
Our study was part of a larger study involving four other professional services industry groups. The overall study included 822 Buyers and 533 Sellers. The larger study, conducted with RAIN Group, looked at 700 complex B-to-B sales where buyers were responsible for $3.1 billion in annual purchases. The focus was on sales winners vs. runners-up.

Winners were such for three primary reasons:

  • Educated buyers with new ideas and/or perspectives
  • Collaborated with buyers
  • Persuaded buyers that they would achieve results

There were other significant differences between what winners and runners-up did:

  • Understanding of my needs
  • Connected with me personally
  • Helped buyers avoid potential pitfalls

With all this said, in professional services, referrals are an underused way to get new business. During the webinar, we also focused on a three-step strategy to increase referrals.

  1. Promote your best clients for experience-based referrals.
  • Identify highest referral potential
  • Get permission
  • Ask for referrals if appropriate
  • Do a case study on clients and promote it
  • Bonus: Make a video case study
  • Include them on a featured client list
  • Feature them on a panel at an event
  1. Articulate your area of expertise for specialization-based referrals.
  • Create home pages for each industry
  • Develop a specialization-based conference
  • Conduct client or influencer interviews
  • Publish a specialization-based blog
  • Do a specialization-based research study
  • Partner with specialization specific firms
  1. Make it easy for prospects and non-clients to make reputation-based referrals through content marketing.
  • Wide distribution of content
  • White papers
  • Webinars and Speaking Engagements
  • Research studies
  • Videos
  • Books and Guides
  • Blog posts
  • Articles
  • Consultations
  • Publish a signature piece

As you build your firm’s brand, the key is to truly understand your clients, prospects and influencers. They will help you understand your edge and establish a more solid brand.

Check out Inside the Buyer's Brain (it's free!) for more tips on knowing your buyers.

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