Tag Archives: communication

Steps on the Relationship Ladder towards a Deal

Level of Relationship with Potential Client

Level of Relationship with Potential Client


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When to Persuade Potential Clients

Which stages does a professional service provider need to pass successfully in order to receive a new job? With disecting this process you can identify the communication needs. 

  1. Circumventing a pitch / tender
  2. Getting on the short-list
  3. Winning a pitch / tender

Circumventing a pitch / tender

Usually a new job (at least in the business of creative agencies) is pitched (I will further use the word pitch, meaning the same as tender or call for bids). Only a handful of professional service providers is invited to take part (the short-list). However, as more often seen in the classical consulting business, a pitch may also be circumvented due to two factors:

  • the professional service provider is already working for the company and the new job has been declared as an extension of the service provider’s current occupation
  • personal connections on a high management level have avoided the official purchasing process (number of members on the short-list = 1)

In order to circumvent a pitch, it is important rather to invest in connections or a high quality output; communicating your knowledge isn’t as important here.

Getting on the short-list

This is where communicating your knowledge skills might come in handy. In case you’re not already on the short-list for regular jobs, here’s your chance at joining the club: new members are mostly inserted into the short-list when the job either concerns a new field of technology / skills or an existing member is to be expelled due to past éclats. Either way, the company will search for other experts in the field, especially true though for the first reason. And this is your chance: communicate openly what you know so that you will be found in this line of business.

Winning a pitch

When you have already managed to be on the short-list, this is a no-brainer. If you don’t show off your knowledge / experience during a pitch, you can be sure that all your will seem more adept than you.


In order to get on a short-list without a very strong brand, you will need to make some of your knowledge available to everybody, just to be noticed. The knowledge published will need to be covering a fairly wide field (though only in the field of your core competencies).

However, if you’ve made it and you’re already involved in a pitch, you will need to show off a different kind of knowledge: you really need to focus on the specifics of the potential job. Hopefully, now you can show a little more than what you have already presented while trying to get onto the short-list.

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Can Knowledge Be Sampled?

What can be said in order to truly persuade the customers of consultancies or agencies (professional service providers) that they’ll buy knowledge? Unless a customer has experienced it in prior projects or someone has recommended the professional service provider, it has to be communicated. However, a mere statement in an advertisement is not a proof and anyone could say so. Companies that produce and do not sell services have an easy method to prove the quality of what they’re offering: sampling.

On saturday mornings, I often go to a market to buy fresh food. On this market, there is a turkish stand that sells mediterranean delicatessen. I’ve started buying their vegeterian creams regularly because they’ve basically forced samples on me – and they were delicious. Another example: Would you ever buy a car without test driving it?

But how can you sample knowledge? That can only be possible when it is codified. How can you communicate codified knowledge

  • a company blog
  • white papers
  • studies / surveys (or a synopsis of it)
  • case studies
  • presentations
  • opening innovation processes to the masses

Then, however, you don’t know whether the customer also believes that the employees he will pay for have that knowledge. Secondly, you can’t give away too much because your competition or your customer might profit from it (the open source dilemma, described in an earlier post).

Thirdly, doesn’t sampling show weakness? A company like Apple would probably never need to sample because the demand is high enough. However, does that mean that all automotive companies are “needy”? In my opinion yes. If professional service providers sample knowledge, does that mean they are “needy”? Again: yes. But is needy negative? In my opinion: no. No, because neediness just means that there is high competition in the market and the service provider tries to acquire new customers.

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Tell what you know more, and sell what you’ve already told

I found out about a doctoral dissertation about “short term profit vs long-term expertise”, via this article. So someone else, to be exact Siw Marita Fosstenløkken, already wrote about what I had dreamed of writing about. 

Now I ask myself: is there a cutting edge one could add to her research? How do we need to rethink with her insights, think further…?

1. What I learned

I really liked the idea of classifying consultancies and communication agencies as professional service providers. Nice term – really nails it. What’s their service? Knowledge + workforce.

2. The cutting edge

Could it be “how much influence does expertise have in external communication to customers”? Is the lack of expertise of these professional service providers a real concern to potential customers? What is more important: the references or topic-oriented innovation / knowledge?

Shouldn’t this be more openly communicated:

  • a low fluctuation rate= positive
  • “Our knowledge is not only project-based – we’re out in the market, in the academic field – but we also don’t lose our sense of reality – we keep our routinely manner and our A level employees”

The open source dilemma

But in order to show that we value expertise – and we do it for real, not like our competitors – we would need to publish quite a lot of knowledge. We need to prove that we invest in this field. But wouldn’t we give away everything? And here we come to the usual open source dilemma: once you open source it, you can’t sell it.


  • everyone uses your stuff –> reputation.
  • people are too lazy to take your stuff one step further and hire you as a consultant to do that for them.

That’s at least what Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams argue in Wikinomics.

BTW: Good question for the next blog post: Is expertise identical to knowledge?

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