Bev Cook, of Simple Marketing Consultancy in Nottingham explains the personal marketing plan concept.
It’s been a almost four years since I stepped into the uncertain territory of self “employmentdom” – and whilst in the past I have only taught the principles of the personal marketing plan (PMP) to many fee earners and marketers in professional services firms. I’ve now found I’m actually having to practice it myself and that actually the skills are transferable and applicable to anyone tasked with winning or retaining customers!
So then, what have I learnt that I can pass on to those who have yet to embrace this all important process?
Three words: planning, conviction and patience.
In itself the PMP is not rocket science. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but the fact that I can get paid to help people develop their own PMP and to then “chivvy” them into carrying out the actions, amazes me, but perhaps this is because at first, without help and support from a kind and supportive mentor, a PMP and the actions involved can be very daunting. Especially if it is something the person has never had to do before and is scared, but quite frankly is probably even more scared to admit it for fear of ridicule by peers! This is when patience is of paramount importance.
My best example of this came in my Grant Thornton days. There I was wandering down a corridor in the Midlands office when a newly promoted senior manager tapped me on the shoulder. “Can I have a word” he said. “I need some help”.
We went into a meeting room where he proceeded to tell me that as a senior manager he was now expected to bring in a six figure sum in new fees. I will confess to you right now, I think he truly thought the so called “fix” to his problem was for me as marketer to get on the phone and magic him up some new business meetings!
This is belief is quite common, so I set about helping to establish this persons understanding of how marketing and sales need to work together to achieve his goal, and that ultimately some of the responsibility for creating opportunities would fall at his door! So I started to ask him some questions. So Fred, I asked, (name changed to protect the innocent!), how do you normally win your work?
I don’t he said, it was passed to me by a partner. And, he said, his voice full of anguish, my work is all non-recurring so I’m going to have to do this every year!
By gum, I thought, this chap really is worried. Hence the word patience!
Rather than to jump immediately to offer what he wanted (marketing to arrange his meetings) I started to ask Fred some more questions.
Ok, Fred, which of the partners do you get along with the best. He named about five, so I asked how often he sat down with them for a coffee and informal chat and discussion about their clients and what work he had been doing in conjunction with them.
“Never” he said. “OK”, I said, “from now on I’d like you to arrange one meeting a month with each of these partners. Your aim to get to know them and their hobbies and interests better, understand their clients and make sure they know what work you do and how you can help them”
So then I asked who else referred work to his department and he named a couple of law firms and banks. I asked him to write these names down and arrange to have coffee or a sandwich lunch with these individuals once a month, and to use his Outlook calendar (or CRM System) to dairy a follow up lunch three months later.
I then asked him how he told people how good he was and how many people he had saved from going jail for not paying their tax. He admitted he had hid his light under a bushel. So we agreed a “keep in touch” programme where he and I would draft an email to be sent monthly to his focused “list” to talk about his work and highlight his successes.
He was now beginning to realise he did have a client list after all. And if he looked after them, even though his assignments were non-recurring, he should get repeat work from this network, and what’s more, he should be able to set a target for each one and therefore know when his pipeline of work referrers and new work needed to be topping up!
So, there’s the planning!
Now for the conviction. Marketers do play a key advisory role in this process, particularly in ensuring the right focus and target markets are approached with appropriate scripts and messaging. Marketing also has to play its role in ensuring a regular flow of enquiries through other marketing activities. But at some point sales has to carry on developing the relationship with the prospect/customer. This is when both the marketer and the fee earner must also show some conviction to ensuring the actions of the PMP are carried through.
The fee earner must also be committed to the process of reviewing their client portfolio and breaking their annual fee target down into four main areas, and be prepared to network to find new contacts:
- fees from recurring clients
- new fees from existing clients either through new services or fee increases
- fees from new clients
- fees from work referrers
If targets are broadly set in each of these areas each quarter, it makes the annual target look much more achievable and far less daunting.
Once the plan is to this stage the marketer can also help develop a promotional strategy to ensure the right clients are invited to the right events. Communications are relevant and issued in a timely manner regarding the issues and services/products that interest them to keep name and awareness levels as high as possible so that if the buying opportunity does arise, there is at least a chance of being contacted to buy from you.
Promotional campaigns aimed at converting the prospects and ensuring they are targeted effectively using direct mail, telemarketing, seminars and advertising can also be implemented, safe in the knowledge the money is being spent in a focused and cost effective manner.
So, all this has been a success and Fred has his first meeting with a prospect. What then?
Again not rocket science, but all too often sales leads are wasted due to a lack of preparation and follow up. This is where the marketer should again step in to ensure they help the fee earner plans and prepares for the meeting. This should involve help to research the business and the people in the meeting. Are there any common contacts that you can approach for background? This is also where maintaining sales statistics is important as it will help to identify training needs. If one fee earner is doing lots of appointments but not converting business there is usually a reason.
When at the meeting there is usually a common process:
– building rapport – getting to know you, common interests,
– the business conversation – finding out about the business and what keeps them awake at night
– how could you help – not a sell, focus on features and benefits your past work or products
– overcoming objections – listening to reasons why won’t buy and overcoming them
– the close – before going to the meeting go with an idea of what “must” be achieved, what you “intend” to achieve and then, what you’d would ideally “like” to achieve.
These “must”, “intend”, and “like” objectives can be as simple as “must start a relationship”, would “like the opportunity to keep in touch”. The “like” could be to get a second meeting. It does not have to immediately be to get the opportunity to quote and win the business. But it is important for your morale to be able to exit the meeting being able to tick at least one of the must, intend, like boxes.
After the meeting it is vital all involved in developing this relationship receive feedback on all meetings and there is a clear follow up strategy and date for next contact.
For their part in this two way sales and marketing team process, the fee earner must realise that providing this feedback is as important as conversion. Because if the outcome initially results in no sale, and let’s face it, how many of us commit on a first date, the prospect needs to see that you are keen to win their business, without being too pushy. Marketing can help you manage this. We do realise that you have to juggle a million and one things and are willing and able to help.
So, some vital questions to finish off my article….
What happened to Fred?
Well, three months down the line Fred told me he had now billed 30% of his annual target and had the rest as a healthy pipeline, but as he now knew only 50% of this would convert he had added another partner and had been introduced to another referrer he’d met at a networking event who had heard from another referrer how good he was.
Have I used it – Did it work for me in developing my business?
As a practical, rather than theory based marketer I am very pleased to say that yes, adopting these principles worked for me and, more importantly for the clients I am helping too. Yes, it was very daunting at first and some very deep breaths had to be taken to swallow my own medicine. But then when the choice is do this or pay my mortgage and keep my son in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed, it’s not too hard to find the motivation to want to win business!
And, is my parting piece of advice – find out what it is that will motive the fee earner to carry out the PMP and its actions – an interest in the sector, desire to be seen as an expert, money, ambition, peer pressure, fast cars?