Rethinking our Role(s) as Practitioners

The marketing and selling of professional services makes most of us uncomfortable. Many of us may not realize that our clients know the difference between “marketing” and “selling”. In fact, our clients often recognize marketing as essential and selling as an invaluable skill and the “life blood” sustaining their business.

One reason that professionals have so much trouble even discussing marketing or selling is that selling a TV at a “big box” store or soap at a grocery store requires little more than pointing out the product’s features and benefits and claiming that it is superior—better, less expensive, and so on—than those of the competition.

Yet, selling professional services requires that you “sell” yourself—your features and benefits, your good qualities, the value of your services, and how you differ from “the competition”, some of whom may be long-time respected friends. Few responsible professionals are comfortable with this role, especially those who are thoughtful enough to consider their own fallibility and know that their “worth” depends on clear communication and a “fit” with the client (customer). And selling on price usually feels uncomfortable. Responsible professionals want to get hired for their skills and wisdom, not just because the prospective client thinks they do the same thing as others but for less money.

The Practitioner has consistently tried to provide articles that offer practical advice to help consultants in the field better themselves and their practice. Even though we are family “business” consultants, bettering the “business” of our practices has typically not been a focus. However, we believe that we can also publish articles that help consultants on this “business side” of their practice by offering advice to get over many of the roadblocks we have in the “marketing and selling” of ourselves, and our practices.

This week’s article by Dave Specht entitled “Business Transitions and the ‘Private Plane Analogy’” is the first of what we hope will be many such articles. It offers an interesting way to explain to prospective clients what a consultant does and why it is of more value for both the business and the family than other uses that can be put for the money to be spent. As proud as we all are of the work we do, and as much as we appreciate the value it can bring, our clients are always evaluating whether the money we charge could be better spent on advertising, a new machine, a raise for the employees or even a family vacation. Knowing how to explain our value to our prospective clients is a skill that many of us do not spend enough time developing.

We hope you enjoy the article (available here) and would very much encourage your feedback in the comments section.

Yours in practice,

Henry Krasnow on behalf of The Practitioner Editorial Board

(Dr. Jamie Weiner, Kit Johnson and Guillermo Salazar)

About the Contributor:
Dave Specht owns the family business consulting firm Advising Generations LLC. He developed the curriculum for and was a lecturer in Family Business Management in the College of Business and Ag Economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is also a writer and speaker on the topics surrounding the unique complexities of family-owned businesses. His work was recently featured in Farm Journal Magazine, Campden FB, Businessweek, Family Business Magazine and The New York Times. Specht has gained international attention for his creation of The Continuity Quotient©. Learn more about his work at or follow him on Twitter @fmlybusinessman.

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