Does your prospect have trust issues? How your PSO can build trust and close the deal
Several times a year, as part of the sales process, a prospect will send me an email like this:
We do not trust you at all. We've had horrible experiences with professional services firms. We need a detailed resume, college transcript, and background check for each of your staff because we think you are going to resell our contract to the cheapest untrained labor available in a developing country.
Regrettably, that fictitious example is not too far from what recently landed in my inbox.
Before we proceed with engaging your professional services organization, would you kindly send us the resumes of the consultants who will be working on our project?
Trust is easy to understand. From a client's perspective, once they've had enough bad experiences with professional services organizations, they will mistakenly assume that all professional services firms work the same way. As a result, they stop trusting all professional services organizations. This belief is unfortunate because there is not much an individual professional services executive can say to address their fears. After they've done business with you, they will have more reasons to trust you. However, you need to close the first deal before you have that opportunity.
Transparency is the best policy in this situation. If the prospect is asking for the resume(s) of your team, be prepared to send resumes. If you do not yet know who you will be assigning to the engagement, provide a selection of sample resumes.
However, these resumes do not need to be the same resumes that your employees used to apply to work at your firm. Instead, ask each of your team members to produce a limited release resume. This resume has enough facts to establish their professional credentials without divulging more information than they'd be comfortable sharing with a client. That is going to vary by individual, and you should respect their choices in what information to share.
A good limited-release resume will have the employee’s name, title, and then pertinent details of recent consulting engagements conducted on behalf of your firm. These do not – and should not – include client names unless your strategic or developing clients have agreed to allow your company to use them as references. These should be stated as accomplishments, such as ‘saved the client six weeks and $50,000 by deploying our solution rapidly”. A couple company names prior to the employee joining your firm may be included with dates, but not with details of those positions. Finally, the employee can choose to add relevant skills – the typical buzzword bingo found on a modern resume.
An alternate strategy is to send the prospect the LinkedIn URL of your employees who might be assigned to their account. This process is similar to the limited-release resume in that each team member can establish public privacy settings on LinkedIn to control what information they show to the public. Coaching your team on what should be displayed on the public view of their LinkedIn profile is also a good idea. If individuals on your team have been featured in trade publications, produced white papers, or have relevant YouTube videos, those could be featured prominently to establish their expertise.
The related best practice is to remind your personnel to update their LinkedIn profiles, and limited release resumes at least once a year. A hastily-composed resume or LinkedIn profile will do your organization no favors, and creates an unwanted pre-sales fire drill.
What will not work in this situation is a vague response. If the prospect does not trust your firm or professional services organization, the following example will not address their concerns:
Thank you for asking about our world-class team of senior professionals. We hire only the best and brightest consultants who have worked a minimum of twenty years in our industry and are trusted advisers to the Fortune 1000. I am available on Thursday at 10:00 if you'd like to discuss how our team can help your company meet the goals of the project."
Notice how that answer or any variant neglects to respond to the prospect's request for a resume? Any answer that does not include a sample resume is going to erode the prospect's trust in your firm. The odds of a call addressing their fears are similarly low.
By comparison, consider the following alternate response.
Thank you for asking about our employees who may be working on your project. We have enclosed several resumes of our trusted advisors who may be working on your project, as well as links to their LinkedIn profiles. Once we have come to an agreement on the project schedule, we can provide you the resume of the employees who will be working with your team. Thanks,”
The use of the word, “employees” here is key for stopping one of the primary objections from a nervous prospect. By using the word ‘employee,’ you are indicating that you are not reselling the services or subcontracting them, but rather that they are being delivered by representatives from your firm. Similarly, providing both limited-release resumes as well as LinkedIn URLs of potential employees helps the client to get a sense of the caliber of your personnel. These should be likely candidates, too – depending on how your firm schedules services, you may already know whom you will assign to the project. In that case, send their resume to the prospect.
By following these simple recommendations and being open and honest, you will further build trust and distinguish your business as being different from “those other services companies.” While it will not solve the larger set of trust issues from a given prospect, that is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it is to your strategic advantage for prospects to not trust your competitors.