For about two years now, I’ve been getting calls to act as a consultant for several of my clients.  Normally, this is not my role.  My role at Broadlook, historically, has been envisioning the business logic behind a technology solution, building the product, and then evangelizing the hell out of it.

Sales and recruiting teams, in 22 countries, are power users of Broadlook software solutions.  They are thinking of new ways to leverage technology that I dreamed up…in ways I never dreamed of.  Cool. They are creating their own internal Broadlook corporate training classes, building corporate wiki’s and flying Broadlook Black Belt trainers on-site for advanced training classes.  Very cool.

Here is what bugs me:  They are not talking!   Many clients see the Broadlook tools as a confidential trade secret and an integral component of their business process.  So they won’t talk about what they are doing. Not cool at all.

Here is what happened recently:

A “big” client called and wanted some consulting time.  They wanted me.  I informed them that if they wanted me personally to go on-site and consult with them… they would have to pay an outrageous fee for my time.  I really did not want to travel in an already travel-full month.  I thought I was safe.   Unfortunately…

They agreed to the outrageous fee.

Keep in mind that I was a recruiter that had a good number of 20K placement fees.  Those I worked hard for. This was outrageous…and it would really be easy.  When you do something that you totally love, it is strange to get paid for it.  They actually said yes! I didn’t know whether I should ring the bell on the wall or kick the wall.  I felt like doing both.

As I scrambled to the dry cleaners, I thought to myself.  They see Broadlook’s software as so valuable that they were willing to pay very well to use it even better.  So I started asking key questions.  I found out some things about our client…

-200% growth in sales each year over the last 3 years; compounded 800%
-dedicated lead generation team
-8 trained power users
-centralized location for lead generation
-leads distributed nationally

Regarding my client’s secretiveness: While they were a large client, they were not a large company.  They do have a few big competitors, so, to a certain degree, I understood.  However, I was actually upset.  I wanted to use them as a marquee case study.  They were not open to being a reference, they were simply willing to pay a nice consulting fee.

I then thought it over again and told them NO. If they were going to build a business process based on my brainchild, I have the right to set the rules of engagement.   Play with my toys, play by my rules.

This is when the true dialog started.  From this point they understood my motivations and I understood theirs.  They would never be a reference for another company in their space and I was OK with that.   However, I did have leverage; they really needed my help.

In the end, I decided to give them my consulting time for free.  The stipulation was the they would be a reference for our professional consulting.  While Broadlook is a software/technology company, 50% of the value we bring to our clients, as of 2009, is our know-how, consulting and professional services.

While I will not be able to talk about my clients specific business process,  I’ve used them several times as a reference for our process consulting.

This was a liberating day.   For the entrepreneurs out there that agree to everything under the sun in order to get a client to say yes.  Here is a hodgepodge of advice to speed and simplify your processes:

  • Say NO more often.
  • For references, use LinkedIN.  Here is how I do it:  I have about 50 testimonials on LinkedIN.  If anyone requests a Broadlook client reference, I simply tell them to (1) Connect to me on LinkedIN (2) Read my testimonials and (3) feel free to contact any one of my 50 references.  Basically, that ends the requests.  So build up your LinkedIN testimonials.  This is my #1 actual use of LinkedIN.
  • Be upfront in your motivations.  Everyone assumes that you want $$.  If you are clear that you have other intentions, you may be surprised at how your client or prospect opens up
  • Standardize your pricing and stick to it.   We call it “pricing integrity”.   New situations arise and you may need to adjust. For example Broadlook charges a “multiservice” premium for RPO’s and service providers.  Basically if someone uses our software and they service multiple clients of theirs, they pay a premium for that software license.   Fair.
  • Don’t sell on price.   Good sales is about showing value and ROI.  If you continually sell on price, you’re probably not improving your sales technique.
  • Understand your clients business model.  If you don’t understand what they do, how they do it and how they get paid for what they do, it will be real hard to develop a solid argument for your product or service.

Lastly,  Don’t be afraid to fire a prospect or even a client.  I’ll never forget the first time I did it.  A prospect was verbally abusive to one of my sales reps for one reason or another  (the sales rep did nothing wrong).  He demanded to talk to me.   When I did, it was surreal; he yelled at me too.  This was the early days where every sale counted.   My head was swimming with the pro’s and con’s.  Extra sale and more revenue vs. problem client that would make life miserable. In a moment of clarity, I forgot about the business and remembered WHY I started the business.

I fired him and it was a glorious day.  That moment of clarity, sticking to my core philosophy empowered myself and my team.  We turned a corner that day.  The message that my team learned is: as long as they sell in an ethical manner, I would always back them and not an abusive prospect with a fist full of money.   Having clarity empowers a sales team.