For the past 20 years, the B2C marketing profession has been moving in the direction of professional services. These consumer-focused companies are finally learning what professional services firms have known for decades—dare I say centuries. Sales and Marketing are about building trusting relationships.
Unfortunately, I suspect that much of what has been put on paper has either not been read recently, been seriously misappropriated or is being willfully ignored. Professional services partners, marketers, and business developers use the “trusted advisor” term the same way my 16-year-old daughter uses the word “like.” The word’s current use creates the opposite of its intended effect. It creates suspicion, erodes meaningful dialogue, and makes the one using it sound like an inarticulate adolescent trying to fit in.
What has replaced trust is what I call the “Solution-to-end-all-solutions Syndrome.” It is the phenomenon when practice leaders and firms fall blindly in love with a practice’s solution. I have yet to meet a practice leader who has not, at one time or another, been stricken by this ailment. When partners describe the power of their solutions, one cannot help but think of penicillin, indoor plumbing or sliced bread. There is a reason that the expression “a hammer looking for a nail” is so prevalent in pro services firms. Marketers more often than not amplify the disease. But, this is not how the world of sales and marketing works today—or ever.
Seth Godin penned, “Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem.”
It is a simple, beautiful expression of a client-centric and strategic sales/marketing mindset and approach. I learned this lesson as an adolescent working in my families part stores. In my post Lessons from life as a Marketing leader, I wrote that Marketing, teaching, therapy, and priesthood are all the same basic profession. If you want to be a great marketer, business developer or partner, be generous with your time, ideas, listening, and support in order to help others, not in order to sell something to anyone who will buy it.
In our Rattle & Pedal episode, Marketing Ruins Everything, I asked our listeners to remember our obligation to be generous by saying,
“We as marketers have been granted,…a sacred right to communicate with others and enter their lives around these needs, these issues. [We must] live up to this honor…You have access to very private information [personal and professional], respect it.
…If you go to market with that mindset, while the rest of the market’s going to the opposite extreme, you have an opportunity to differentiate yourself.”
Stop being a hammer and don’t spew silliness about being a “trusted advisor.” Better yet, strike the term completely from ALL of your firm’s external messaging.
Just, be generous.