About the interviewee
Paul A. Dillon is a certified management consultant with over 37 years of successful business development experience in the professional services industry. He is the president and CEO of Dillon Consulting Services LLC, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs certified Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, with offices in both Durham, NC and Chicago, IL. His clients have ranged from small, family held business to major clients such as AT&T International and American Airlines. He has served on numerous non-profit boards and federal, legislative, gubernatorial and mayoral committees and commissions. For more than 14 years, he served as the supervisor of elections for both the National Radio Hall of Fame and for the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts & Sciences for the Emmy Awards.
Tell me about your firm (number of employees, location, type of companies you work with, etc.).
I am a sole practitioner. The rest of this question is answered in the paragraph above.
Tell us about why it is important for you to establish a relationship with your potential clients.
The marketing and sales of an intangible service, such as a professional service, is different than the sales of commodities or “things”. All a professional services firm has is the confidence of the client’s (or prospective client’s) competence in the people providing the service. Prospective clients must have confidence that the work will be performed with the highest quality, and at the agreed upon price. They must have confidence in the integrity of the service provider, and confidence in your integrity. That’s why I say that professional services are bought, rather than sold.
What do you do to establish relationship with the key players?
People buy professional services from someone whom they know and trust. A person who is known to the prospective client as trustworthy and competent puts a “face” on the service provider, and gives the prospective client a comfort that the service will be provided as stated, and at the agreed upon price.
It takes a long, long time to form a relationship with a prospective client that might lead to a purchase decision. There are no quick purchases in this business.
You need to listen carefully to a prospective client. Often they will tell you things about themselves that will enable you to understand their business, and to form a relationship with them. You need to be their business friend, genuinely (they will spot phonies), and may be called upon to help them in many, many ways for which you will never be compensated.
What sales techniques have you found as ineffective in developing relationships, which ones work, and why?
Because it takes such a long time to form a relationship with a prospective client that might lead to a purchase decision, a lot of activity (putting yourself in situations where you can meet a lot of people, who might be prospective clients) is critical. The more activity you have—the more people who you meet—the more chance you have to “get up to bat”. And, some of that will fall through the cracks as new business.
This is an art, not a science.
Most often, the business development process is random, not linear or “targeted”. Treat everyone whom you meet as a potential client. You don’t know where your next piece of business is coming from.
Finally, in order to have long-term success in the business development of professional services, you need to be a nice person, who is truly concerned with the welfare of others. You have to “give before you get”.