A common mistake experts in business development make is that they try and sell their knowledge to clients, thinking this is what they want. An endless stream of knowledge has no value in its own right. The real value is in your experience of applying knowledge to solve problems.
Once you start to understand your target audience and begin to focus on their problems, selling gets a whole lot easier – provided you have the expertise to help them solve their problems. A prospect takes a big risk when buying services – they are never sure exactly what they will get for their money until they have got it. A key way of limiting the risk is by working with people that have experience in solving similar problems. The bigger the risk the more that tried, tested, and trusted drives the decision making process. Its the old cliche – ‘You never got sacked for buying IBM’
This is why I advise people I work with to focus on their area of maximum credibility when seeking new clients. Getting a meeting with a prospect is one thing. Getting them to take a risk on you is another. The more experience and credibility you have the easier it gets. That’s why being referred by a trusted contact makes selling to new clients so much easier.
People who profess their expertise but cannot back it up with project experience will lose all credibility when it comes to th crunch. It is much better to start off in an area where you can add value and seek to develop your experience in other areas as you proceed. Starting with a relatively small project will make it easier for a prospect to take a chance, although these days everyone is being even more careful with their money than ever.
So how do you get started in business as an expert when you have knowledge but no track record? Ideally you should start off in an area where you do have some experience, even though you may have been working for someone else. Friends and trusted contacts may allow you to get some experience with them – maybe for free or at a nominal rate in return for a testimonial and being a case study. Charities or good causes could also be another great place to do some good and develop expertise at the same time.
Working with clients, I normally find they have more expertise that they realise but it takes a little work in narrowing down the focus for their marketing. Once they start thinking and talking about the problems they have already solved for clients they make it easier to find prospects with similar problems. That is what prospects find attractive – the fact that you can potentially provide a solution to their problems and a way forward – rather than the fact that you are the fountain of all knowledge!