Go deeper on the statements you make to potential clients. Convincing them to hire you takes a customized approach every time.
How many times have you used the “we’re local” crutch as one of your key points in a proposal or interview situation? Most clients don’t care about local unless you tell them why being local benefits them. Do you live in a community that values local business and there is a demonstrated selection of local businesses? Furthermore, does your specific client reflect those values and actually give you points for being local?
I hope you know how to answer those questions. If the answer to them is no, then you better tell the client why being local is good for them. We often offer weak reasons, such as: “Our firm is close to the project,” or “Someone in our firm lives near the project,” or “We have done other projects in the area.” Those weak associations will not advance your team in a competitive environment.
I was recently in a client’s office and had the opportunity to sit in on a proposal planning meeting for a municipal project. The project manager outlined their top three selling points and, low and behold, one of them was (drum roll please)… “We are local.” I challenged them as to what that meant. Did it mean that they would have lower project costs because their staff was 0.7 miles closer to the project than the competition? Would the client save money, headaches, or time by the firm being local? What does local mean? This particular firm has been competing with mainly much larger national firms that had a “local office” in the area. In other words, everyone could claim they were local. It turns out that this company did develop some strong statements that proved their local presence was superior to all others, but it took a lengthy discussion that resulted from being challenged. Most firms are satisfied with making a simple statement of being local and moving on to the next point.
Here’s the deal: Being local is often good in a service industry like ours; however, stating your firm is local rarely stands on its own as a value proposition. Furthermore, differentiators are not generic, especially in our business. Everybody reading this knows how close we are to being a commodity. What that means for all of us is that we must dig deep when defining the differentiators that set us apart from the competition. Tell your clients exactly what your benefits mean to them and how they translate to fit their mission. Anytime you can quantify the benefit, you will improve your chances even more. When developing your proposition around being local, you will need to look for the most powerful and quantifiable benefits your firm can uniquely offer your client. Also, consider that your job is to educate the client on what the project needs are and that your team uniquely qualifies as the best team to meet those needs.
The next time you hear someone in your firm (or even yourself) say that being local is important to a project or client, take the time to challenge them. Challenge your firm to go deeper on the statements you are making to clients when selling to them. Convincing your clients to hire you takes a customized approach for every pursuit. Every project and every client is unique and so should what you offer them. Start improving your marketing and sales materials by asking the simple question: Why?
Chad Clinehens is ZweigWhite’s executive vice president. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310), issue #1057, originally published 5/26/2014. Copyright© 2014, ZweigWhite. All rights reserved.