Guest Post: Positioning for Consulting Success – Part 3

Today’s guest post is written by veteran consultant, Rebel Brown of People Who Know. This is her 3rd and final post related to positioning yourself and your consulting business for success. Rebel has also just released a free ebook all about positioning. Details on how to get the ebook are found at the end of this article, enjoy!
>> Read Rebel’s full bio here

So, we’ve talked about the overall value of a positioning story, and the evidence gathering phase of positioning process. And we’ve talked about how to create a Positioning Matrix. In this final segment of Positioning for Success we’ll leverage our evidence, Pivot Point statements and a client-centric perspective to spin stories that share who we are, what value we bring to and why prospects should work with us.

Before we get started, there’s one key point to always remember. No matter what aspect of your story you’re sharing, always stay focused on answering the ‘So What?’ question for your audience. That means that the basis of every story you tell has to be in response to your prospect’s unspoken yet most important question – “So What does it mean to me and why should I care?”

SPINNING THE THREADS OF YOUR STORY
Most positioning processes view messaging as lists of claims that are communicated in rapid fire. Unfortunately, that usually doesn’t work.

I think of messages as a set of threads that can be dynamically woven together, based on the specific person or audience and their requirements. The right positioning matrix helps you do just this!

So – now that you’ve done your positioning work, how do you use your Matrix to tell a story?

As we’ve discussed, there are certain messages and evidence that form the core or backbone of your story – the Pivot Points of Market Company and Expertise (or Solution). For each of these areas, you’ve developed a single concise statement that is your fundamental messages. To tell you story, leverage these as the fundamental ‘lead in’ for your story.

  • Pick the ‘lead’ based on your client’s specific need. For example – if a client is most interested in your knowledge in their specific market segment – lead with your Market Pivot statement.
  • Start your story with the most important thing your client wants to know.
  • Then weave the evidence of that statements (most likely customer successes as examples) into the meat of the story to expand or focus it, depending on the context of the situation at hand.
  • If you have clients similar to that prospect – use them first. Let the prospect see themselves in the Markets you have served.

Remember, evidence is the color, sparkle and just plain tangibility that makes your story come to life.

Once you’ve woven that piece of the story – you can decide whether to keep going on the other two pivot Points, or simply let the story rest and begin to probe more about your prospects world, their needs and situation.

  • You don’t have to tell the whole story all the time.
  • You do need to give the prospect the evidence they need to trust you.
  • You have to decide when that trust is gained and when you need to add more evidence- or cover more aspects of your story.

I’ve found that the key in my consulting practice is less about what my company does and what market we serve than it is about my experience. Most of my stories at this are focused on showcasing my experience in various markets.

  • I use client scenarios in specific situations to discuss approaches I’ve used that may be applicable to the situation at hand. I also client references in support of those suggestions. Since I’ve been doing this for a while, I have the real-world proof.
  • If you’re new to consulting, you may find that the your former employers and their references are the most compelling evidence you have of your experience – and the rest of the matrix has to be developed as you move forward. That’s okay – just make sure you focus on letting others tell your story for you, and keep your Pivot statements simple and provable.
  • Above all, don’t oversell yourself – you’ll just end up with a poor reference. Bad reputations take a moment to create and months to years to correct.

Once you’ve started spinning your story, go out and test it with business associates, former employers, partners and more. These folks will give you opportunities to practice – and they also can give you more fodder and feedback.

One other point – your story isn’t static. It’s anything but. Start evolving as you need to – based on your prospects, the expertise you gather and the successes you garner.Sometimes it’s a whole new statement or message – sometimes it’s simply the need to add new evidence in a specific area, sometimes it’s adding new customer success for a new market problem you’re addressing or simply to refresh your stock of real world examples. Whatever the reason, be prepared to constantly evolve. As your business grows and changes, so will your stories.

SUMMARY
So, what are the key things to remember

It’s Not About You. Chest thumping claims and self-promoting statements rarely create trust in your prospects. You come off sounding arrogant or worse, and it turns most people off. When creating your story, focus on letting your experience prove your value – and leave the chest thumping for the gym.

Focus. Anyone can claim to do everything – but that doesn’t mean they do it well. Find one key thing you do well in each Pivot Point area, that you can prove with third party validation, and stick to it. Use it as your lead, and then let the evidence and customer examples prove your value. Don’t try to be everything to everyone – focus on what you do well.

Tell a story: Claims are abstract statements. Make them relevant to your prospects by applying them. Tell stories that focus on real-world situations where you have value. Encapsulate your value in stories that speak to your prospects needs, based on other clients or employment situations where you’ve solved similar problems.

Let others speak for you: The best evidence comes from third parties. Customer success stories are the most powerful evidence you can communicate as a consultant so focus there. Get a reference list of clients (or former employers and associates if you’re just getting started) and be ready to share it. Forget making claims about yourself – where’s the credibility in that?

If you’d like to read more in depth on positioning strategies, Rebel Brown is offering her new eBook, It’s Not About You Anymore, for FREE download. In this eBook, you’ll learn:

  • How to create dynamic positioning from the 3 Pivot Points of Positioning.
  • The best questions to ask your customers to create compelling messages.
  • How to spin the threads of a dynamic story for each and every occasion.

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