Project teams at healthcare and life sciences consultancies are staffed by experts in their field, many of whom come from academic or research-focused backgrounds. So, the term "selling" can be an uncomfortable one for those individuals. At Gatehouse ICS, we believe that interactions with potential customers should not be about forcing consultants and project teams to become sellers but rather to be authentic and find a true point of resonance between them and the person they are speaking with. With that in mind, we have developed training services to help clients make those important connections.
In a series of blogs, I will share some insights on those training services based on three overarching themes: proactive project teams, persuasive insights and client relationship management or development.
The proactive project team
It’s our belief that someone working for a consultancy should be leading the encounters that are key to initiating a project. After all, the dictionary definition of a consultant is one whose advice is sought on a specialist subject and therefore the consultant is the person who should lead the encounter. We often start our training here. Without mentioning selling we go back to basics on empowering each team member to be a proactive part of the team.
Leadership requires you to take a step back and think about what the person in front of you wants, and what they hope to get out of a project. What does success look like to that person? Before going into any meeting or encounter, the consultant or project manager should also be thinking about what they, the consultancy and the client want to get out of the meeting and how they will lead any engagement.
There are opportunities to be proactive at every stage of the client relationship, from cold introduction, to pitch through to receiving a project brief. Before that first encounter, it's important to consider what you need to know in order to write a successful proposal. During the project, there are opportunities to proactively think about the destination, not just in the short term but even beyond the close of your project with the client. Think about how you can help them to achieve their longer-term goals, beyond the current project milestone, and always keep the commercial objective front and centre. With proper planning and consideration, there are ways to proactively spot potential problems before they happen. How will you mitigate those or warn the client about them early, so that the client relationship isn't hampered when a project goes awry, as it often will? During the project, it is also important to be proactive in managing your own time, prioritising what is important to the success of your own workday, your own work goals and your client relationships.
Often forgotten, are the opportunities to be proactive at the closeout of a project to check that things were delivered satisfactorily. This is important for maintaining the relationship and for considering follow-on projects or referrals to other project teams where the consultancy is suited to help. Even when the relationship is dormant, there are opportunities to be proactive in sending information that is of interest and just continuing that engagement.
As with any relationship, there needs to be a flow of communication to retain the connection and create the opportunity for more work in the future. Our experience has found that the seller-doer – in other words the project teams and project leaders – are the people most suited to lead those client encounters and to build the relationships. It starts with the proactive leadership mindset as a solid foundation for all sales enablement training.