How to tell compelling stories if you’re in Professional Services.
We know two people who’ve got the answer… because let’s face it – professional services can be a little bit ‘dry’. So how do you grab your audience and get them to engage with your business?
It wasn’t many years ago when those in professional services relied on their reputations and golf club contacts to secure a steady stream of clients. Thank God we’ve moved on from that (my golf swing is shocking!). However, the flipside is that the professional service world has had to get better at engaging with their target audience to maintain and build their practices.
I’ve watched many Opendoorz members from the Professional sector – from lawyers to accountants and from insurance brokers to management consultants – build and develop fantastically strong relationships that have led to phenomenal business results.
So, how have they done that?
When it comes to professional services, there’s no ‘sexy’ sell – it’s often something people either ‘have to’ or ‘need to’ buy. We spoke to two Opendoorz members who run successful professional services businesses to get their top tips on how they use Opendoorz business networking to engage their audience.
Nikki Poole, describes herself as a ‘breath of legal fresh air’. She is the Director of Culture & Innovation and an owner of Hedges Law Ltd. Hedges has grown from a small high-street practice to a high-end, well-renowned and successful law firm. A founder member of Opendoorz, Nikki is currently a member of the Opendoorz Milton Park group. Here’s her advice to making the most out of professional networking:
“No-one gets up in the morning and thinks ‘today I feel like spending money on legal advice’! They do it because they have a particular need. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned over the years is that the thing you do isn’t the thing they’re buying – you have to show them what you’re going to achieve for them and, crucially, you have to be a nice person.
Buying legal advice, as with other professional services, is a ‘credence’ goods. By that I mean the customer has to put great faith in those selling the services. When I stand up in front of fellow Opendoorz members I need to demonstrate that I can be trusted and that I will deliver.
I do this in three ways;
Firstly, I show the outcomes, not the process, of what we do. For example, when talking about our wills, probate and inheritance planning services I tell stories about how we’ve helped clients gain peace of mind. When it comes to conveyancing I don’t talk about the process (I might even send myself to sleep doing that!). Instead, I talk about how we’ve helped people secure their dream home.
Secondly, I make it personal. Clients have to feel I’ve got their best interests at heart. It may sound simple, but actively listening, looking people in the eye and giving them my time (through insights, chats in the bar, and being available for a friendly bit of advice on the phone) helps to build trust in me and to build solid relationships that allow my fellow members to confidently refer to me.
Finally, I do the unexpected! A bit of humour goes along way and so I tell jokes, albeit pretty terrible ones. Sometimes, I take a light-hearted look at some of the services we cover – my ‘brief history of divorces’ showcase had everyone gasping and giggling! Other times, I’ll use jaw-dropping stats to create ‘wow’ moments, such as the number of children that are orphaned in the UK ever year.
Being part of the Opendoorz group has literally done what it says on the tin – it’s opened doors for us. Not only have we gained business– over £1/2 million so far – but without Opendoorz I wouldn’t have been brave enough to open a Hedges office in central Oxford.”
Jo Spencer is a Chartered Insurance Broker and owner of Spencer Insurance, a family-owned business for two generations that offers a hands-on approach to ensuring their clients in the engineering, manufacturing and commercial property sectors get the best insurance solution for their business. Jo is a member of the North Oxford Opendoorz group. She told us how she uses stories to help her fellow members and guests understand how she helps her clients.
“Everyone hates buying insurance! It feels like a chore. I understand that and so work hard at showing how I help my clients.
Stories are a powerful part of my marketing toolkit. I use them to move the conversation away from the idea that insurance is just an expensive piece of paper to thinking about the consequences of not being properly insured. It’s a powerful message as, in my experience, 9 out of 10 SMEs don’t have the right insurance.
Even business decisions are rooted in emotion and so my first top tip for those in professional services is to use emotional drivers to illustrate how you help. For me, there’s the fear that business owners have about not being properly insured and a claim not paying out. But there’s also the positive side, the peace of mind they get from knowing they are comprehensively covered so that if the worst happens, with the correct cover and support, their claim will be settled quickly and in full.
The second tip I have is to be aware that you are speaking to a wider audience than just those that are in the room. I call it the Opendoorz effect – it’s the connections your fellow members have that might be the ones that will really engage with your message but to reach them you’ve got to ensure they thoroughly understand what you’re saying. Stories are the best way for them to engage with your message.
I’ll be honest, I am a reluctant networker. It’s a massive push out of my comfort zone. The format of Opendoorz is different and the familiarity you build up with your fellow members over time has helped me grow in confidence and now I’m getting solid referrals.”
Differentiation can be difficult in professional services but not when you have built strong relationships based on the principles of ‘meet, know, like, trust’. That’s exactly what we do at Opendoorz – structured meetings that allow real depth of professional relationship (and even friendships!).
Why not come along to a guest meeting at one of our 9 groups across Oxfordshire & Gloucestershire and discover the Opendoorz difference for yourself?