I want to give you all a quick update on the book project that Tom McMakin and I are working on this summer.  First off, the current title of the book is: How Clients Buy – A Practical Guide to Business Development in Consulting and Professional Services.  The current title has evolved from our original working title of: Selling Professional Services. The transition to the new title deserves a quick back-story.

Tom and his research team are interviewing approximately 30 individuals working in consulting and professional services.  Our plan is to weave into each chapter a story or two from our interviewee’s careers to bring the topics to life. We’re wrapping up the interview phase and I have to say the knowledge contained in the interviews is incredible. I wish I had a bundled copy of this advice when I was starting out in management consulting 25 years ago.

Our interviewee list ranges from the partners and CEOs of leading services firms to seasoned solo-practitioners and all points in between.  We’ve interviewed junior partners and some just beginning their careers in professional services.  To those that we interviewed, I want to earnestly thank you for your time and wisdom. During our interviews, we realized that we had struck a very sensitive nerve with some individuals in identifying our topic as Selling Professional Services. To some, the term Selling gave them acute discomfort.  They helped solve client problems. But, they did not “sell”. Ever.

Of the 30 interviewees, I would say it was no more than 10-15% that had the strong, adverse reaction to the word sales.  But, we realized for some the word came with a lot of negative, emotional baggage.   Interestingly, we did not have a single founder or co-founder that felt this way.  My hypothesis is that anyone who has ever started a firm from scratch, or stared into the abyss a time or two come payroll, has a more nuanced appreciation for the concept of revenue than some.  That said, the point was a very important message.  I thank you for sharing your point of view….and, perhaps savings us from embarrassment….. thus, a new book title!

Our work in consulting and professional services is different that selling a product.  That is one of the key premises of our book.  Clients buy consulting and professional services from those they know, respect and trust.  Or, who come highly recommended from someone they know, respect and trust.  There is a significant void in the education of those of us in the professional services. We were trained to do the work…..not how to bring in new clients. Somewhere between the extremes of Never Say “Selling” and I Need Work lies the main hope of our book.  We want to help those trained to do the work learn how to connect with clients in a meaningful way so that they can serve those clients and grow their practices.

This discussion brings to mind a recent comment by Chuck McDonald, a senior attorney in Columbia, SC:

I’ve often said the one thing they don’t teach you in law school is that the most important thing in private practice is ‘how to get clients’. And you just find out fairly early on, you’re either going to be able to do that which enables you to climb the ladder within a firm structure or you’re not. And if you’re not, you’re sort of a fungible good. I mean, there are what we call “worker bees” but they just don’t get the same, frankly, respect within the firm or the same compensation or any of that. So it is a very important component.

Chuck’s insight strikes at the heart of why Tom and I are writing this book. What Tom and I have learned over the years, and what we’ve learned from our successful friends, we’d like to share with others.

The last thing I want to share with you is a draft of the book’s cover.  Subject to change of course.  But, things are beginning to take shape and we’re making progress.  One summer day at a time.

Happy July 4th holidays to everyone if I don’t speak with you before hand.