Friday, May 26, 2006

Move your prospects forward, faster

I have a professional services client in Toronto that is very interested in the entrepreneurial market, so I have been working with them to help them understand better how to identify and work with growth entrepreneurs.

Yesterday we held a session with one of Canada’s top growth leaders as he candidly outlined some of the problems he has faced in his business.

One of his comments should be of immense interest to anyone selling services and systems to small business.

Every entrepreneur in a growing business faces a conflict between trying to develop the staff that has been with the company for a long time, and bringing in more experienced professionals who really know how to do the job. Essentially, the conflict is the business’s need for greater professionalism vs the entrepreneur’s sense of loyalty to the people who have helped the company grow – but may no longer be the best people to help it grow further.

This entrepreneur admitted he was very slow to resolve that conflict. In the end, there was no doubt – without more professional management, his company was doomed. He took the plunge and brought in new people with the skills he needed. Some of his long-serving colleagues accepted reassignment; others accepted severance.

Most services companies targeting small business are selling professionalism. But not all entrepreneurs are ready to buy. Like yesterday’s guest speaker, many put it off for years. This suggests that there is a huge opportunity to sell more professional services to more entrepreneurial companies earlier – if you can help the leaders deal with their natural reluctance to upset the delicate balance of people and skills they have set up in their businesses.

How can you get loyalty-minded entrepreneurs to move forward faster?

Acknowledging their dilemma is one step. Explaining how other entrepreneurial clients have successfully solved this problem would be another. Paint a picture of what success looks like – and why so many more people – staff, customers, other stakeholders – will be better off in the long run.

Review your experience and ransack your client list to identify success stories of how you have helped other entrepreneurial firms grow stronger and faster by establishing more effective processes. Ask satisfied past clients if you can refer prospects to them for a personal discussion on how to manage such tricky transitions.

Entrepreneurs distrust experts who promise them the moon. Like everyone else, they tend to drag their feet when change is painful. But they are willing to listen – and act – if you have compelling evidence and testimonials proving that short-term pain will produce sustained long-term gain.

The client company will be stronger for it. And so will yours.

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