Episode 146 – Brand Building in a Professional Service Firm – Member Case by Chad Prinkey

Your brand matters. In the professional service industry, Founders need a brand for the firm, the service offering, themselves, and their talent. This session will explain how brands are built inside small service firms, and how they help boutiques punch above their weight class.


Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Hi, everyone. This is Greg Alexander, the host of the Pro Serv Podcast brought to you by Collective 54, the first community dedicated to the boutique professional services industry. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about brand building inside of a boutique professional services firm, and I’m joined today by someone who’s done quite a nice job with this. He’s a Collective 54 member. His name is Chad Prinkey. Chad, would you please introduce yourself and your firm to the audience? 

Chad Prinkey [00:00:45] Sure. Thanks for having me, Greg. It’s a pleasure to be here. I am the founder of a consulting firm that focuses only on the construction industry. It’s called Well Built Construction Consulting, and we’ve been around now for coming up on three years. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:07] Congratulations! All right. So the reason why I wanted to have you on the show is we had spoken. You told me about a lot of things that you were doing to build the brand of your young firm. So I’ve got some questions here that I’d like to kind of run you through. The first one would be, you know, step one in building a brand is identifying your target audience. So tell us a little bit about how you did that. 

Chad Prinkey [00:01:31] Yeah, so what I know about our target audience, and I should be clear that I was, I’ve had this experience from doing what I do at a different firm, different meeting, different day, Greg. We could talk about what happened there, but at a, at a different firm that I, that I chose to leave a couple of, you know, I guess three years ago for. So I’ve had exposure to this market for the better part of 15 years. The market that I serve. So what I’ve learned about that market is that there are three different categories of potential customer. They’re on the small end, there are customers, potential customers for us that have under 50 employees, and these are contractors, general contractors or subcontractors, that have under 50 employees who when they hire us, it’s make or break. This is a big spend and it’s a lot of stress and pressure on the business. And they are really stretching to make ends meet when they bring us in. On the on the top end, there are companies with a thousand or more employees, and these are our organizations that really don’t need us for our full suite of services because they handle so much of what we really do, which, you know, in-house. They own this capacity internally. So our sweet spot really lies in between 50 and 1000 employee contractors, general contractors, and subcontractors, who can make the most use of our service, which is a fractional chief strategy officer offering, where we’re helping them to go to market. We’re helping them to address all the items in their business from really from A to Z, from in every silo, you know, in a strategic planning context, improving the business across every aspect of it. So if they are under 50 employees, we can have a massive impact, but it’s such a scary spend that it’s a dangerous it’s a dangerous spot for us to be in, a dangerous spot for them to be. Okay over the 51 employee mark, they really start to get and feel comfortable with what we’re going to deliver. And it’s not a small investment, but it’s not scary to them. So that’s our target audience. 

Greg Alexander [00:04:17] Okay, very good. So now that we understand the target audience and how you selected and that was very well articulated and that’s part of the brand-building process, you know, there’s different seduction tactics to reach the audience, and I know that that you’ve done a few a book, you do some speaking, you’re involved in some associations. So could you kind of explain to the audience what you’re doing to seduce that target audience? 

Chad Prinkey [00:04:39] I believe in authority marketing. I believe in the idea of positioning yourself as the go-to group for what you do. And one of the things, your listeners may be asking themselves, you know, geez, you know, here’s this consulting firm that’s focused on this really, really narrow aspect of the market. It’s over 40,000 companies that fit that description in the United States. And, you know, so for me, that’s more than I could ever hope to service. And what I found in my personal experience is that when you are trying to appeal to do broad an audience, they have a very difficult time finding you. Mm hmm. So when you’re talking about here’s how to be the best in selling, you blend in with a massive group of people who are selling that same message. But when you narrow that down to say, here’s how you can bring in three new general contractor clients this year that fit your target perfectly. There’s a very narrow group of people who that is focused, too. And they all care. They’re all they’re all really interested in that. So anyway, to answer your question, maybe a little bit more directly. Content–content creation Adding free value. From my perspective, I’ve never felt bad giving away great ideas. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:22] And I understand you’ve got a book. Is that correct? 

Chad Prinkey [00:06:25] A book is coming out, so the book is complete. We’re going through the publishing process, and we should be releasing probably by the time this drops in back. Something along those lines, though, like November. December. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:36] Okay, great. And then you’re doing some speaking. 

Chad Prinkey [00:06:39] I do a lot of speaking, Yeah. I averaged two speaking engagements a month between live events and virtual events. And that you mentioned associations, Greg, that ties in is that what I found is that inside the industry that I serve, there are associations that are desperate to provide valuable content to their members, and I’m there to help to fill that need. And it provides a fantastic, you know, receptive audience for me as well. There are just dozens and dozens of associations. Yeah. In the construction industry. So I’m partnered with many of those. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:21] You know, it’s a perfect tactic for you since you believe in authority marketing. The associations have built the audience. They need the content, and you come in with the authority. I mean, it’s just it’s hand in glove there. Makes a ton of sense. You know, let’s talk about positioning, because positioning is part of brand building. And sometimes small firms like our community, yours, young firms, they have a hard time making room for their brand. And the way that they do that in the in the mind of the prospect. That’s what I mean by making room. Freeing up mindshare that you can occupate, they have to reposition the bad guys, the competition. All right. So I know you have a long history in this industry and you’re new yourself with your firm. So how have you repositioned the bad guys and made yourself sound different? 

Chad Prinkey [00:08:11] Number one by a long shot is emphasizing the fact that this is all we do. There are folks who have construction industry practices, practice areas with one person who’s heading that up, who’s, you know, doing their best to try to appeal to that market. But if you dig deeper, you might actually find them marketing to software as well and financial services as well. And that’s our number one positioning strategy is the only people we’re talking to are you, and you are the hero. And don’t you deserve somebody who understands that? 

Greg Alexander [00:08:49] I love that. 

Chad Prinkey [00:08:51] We understand the villains that you face and we’re helping to slay those dragons with you every day. Yep. The other thing that we do is we stand for positive change in the building industry. So we are actively involved with all measure of diversity initiatives, of attempts to drive more progressive delivery methods, which that shock of shoptalk now. But the other two attempts to drive meaningful technological change and business process change. And we’re joining we are joining in voice with some of our competitors as we do that, and we actually will talk about, I think another one of our positioning statements, actually, now, the thing about it, Greg, is that we’re we’re the good guys in this industry. And if our competition is trying to make the industry a better place, well, then they’re our friends, too. Yeah. And and they don’t talk about us that way, which I think also sticks out. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:04] Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s often overlooked, but if you’re advocating for the industry that your prospects and clients are in, then you’re on the right side of the argument, right? And you’re going to get some positive rub-off because you’re advocating for the industry. And the general positioning idea there is that if it’s good for the industry, it’s good for me. You know, we’re all going to win here. And sometimes industry participants don’t don’t do that. You know, they might even, I don’t know, say negative things about the industry. All they do is talk about everything that’s wrong about the industry. And then they talk poorly about the competitors in the industry. To rise above that and occupy a spot as kind of a brand ambassador on behalf of the client is a wonderful spot to be in, and it sounds like that’s just the spot that you occupied, which is pretty amazing given the fact he’s only been doing this for three years. 

Chad Prinkey [00:10:54] Yeah, again, I well, I have found is that it’s relationships. It all comes down to credibility. Yeah. And fortunately enough, I have, you know, many years of credibility that I’m able to, you know, build on from having developed a comprehensive relationship set over a long time. So thankful I’m able to pull on that. It’s kind of like I’m cheating. I’m not really, I’m not really brand new. Yeah, that makes. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:20] So let’s talk about credibility. Buying professional services is difficult because it’s an intangible. It’s not like you can take it out for a test drive or try it on in a dressing room. You know, ultimately, you’re asking a client to take a leap of faith when they hire you and you have to establish trust. So what stands in for as a proxy for a product sample or a product demo, because we don’t have that in services, is credibility. And you’re asking them to trust you based on your proof points. How, what are you doing around credibility to, you know, get those clients to make that leap of faith and trust you even though they haven’t been able to taste your wares, so to speak? 

Chad Prinkey [00:12:10] I haven’t been able to get the full benefit of the book, but I believe that’s going to be a game changer in that area when it comes to reaching well outside my current market area. What I can speak to in my current market area, which is really easy, is that we deliver phenomenal results for companies everybody wants to be like. Hmm, And that’s the easiest game in the world. McKinsey, I think, has always held this position that I can’t imagine holding, but I have the utmost respect for what they’ve done. But McKinsey holds this position that they never talk about who their clients are. But I think anybody who knows that. McKinsey, right, they don’t need to talk about it because other people do. And so that makes it big, you know, so here’s here’s my point, is that what I am able to do is I’m able to use lightning rod names that I’ve been fortunate enough to not only be affiliated with, but to have raving fans inside who will say, listen, and I literally have a testimonial to this effect is, you listen, if you want to build a better construction company and you’re not our competition, I highly recommend that you do this. You’d be crazy not to, and that that in in the market in which you serve, just I think most industries are like this. Construction I know for sure is very much like this. They all know each other. Yeah. And it’s on a regional and local level in particular. And so inside our home base market, which is DC. Inside our home base market, we are closely affiliated with names people want to be, and what is really nice is when we’re meeting our target audience, our target audience is often saying like, we would really like to work with you guys, but I’m not sure I can afford it. If you work with X or Y or Z, we’re nowhere near those guys. And then I’m able to come back and say they weren’t really there always either. Yeah. So the good news is we’re we’re priced perfectly to fit you guys and let’s talk about that. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:35] Yeah, I mean, what a perfect spot to be from a brand perspective. My last question is a little bit more tactical, and that’s around naming, you know, naming the firm, naming the service, naming the methodology, naming the book, etc.. So tell us a little bit about the name of your firm, how it was chosen, was that part of the brand strategy, etc.? 

Chad Prinkey [00:14:58] There is it was absolutely part of the brand strategy. And there’s there’s there’s an inspiration that I had for this. In a construction firm based out of Kansas City that is not a client. I would love to at some point, but they’re in that not they’re too big to take advantage of our core service. But we could do a lot of business with this company named JE Dunn is the name of the business and they’re an awesome, well-respected general contractor that does work nationwide and they have done a beautiful job. I noted they did this beautiful job with weaving, Dunn, D-U-NN, in their world, but “Dunn” into all of their, yeah, it’s like everything they have is branded “Dunn,” so it’s like this Dunn right or this, you know, Dunn It’s great. And and and I always loved it. I always thought that it’s an example I’ve used multiple times when working with my clients, like, I’m going to pull up a website. I want you to think about how we can do this with your brand, and how we can how we can really create consistency across all of your brand with with how we name things. So when I selected Well Built, it was to be able to say We do. We create Well Built construction companies, Well Built project teams, well-built estimating apartments, Well Built project teams I’m sorry, project management departments, well built, business development. Well, you know, all these different things that we can do. It all attaches to our idea of everything we do is Well Built and what were what we’ve done, what we’re doing. I shouldn’t say what we’ve done right. It’s it’s always a process. But I, I see signs that have me excited that when we talk to our clients, they will say we are a Well Built company. Yeah. And they’re proud of that. They’re proud of being able to say we’re a well-built company, which means we’re following the principles that our consultant teaches us. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:00] Absolutely brilliant. I mean, it’s the ways you can use that are so broad, yet so targeted for your industry that you’re serving. It’s it’s just and we’ll talk about this when we have a Q&A, but that’s what’s called this brand architecture, which a name is part of. And it allows for an umbrella approach that Chad is using very, very well. So. Well, Chad, it’s so great to have you in the membership. Today’s session was really interesting. The private Q&A session I’m going to have with the members is going to be even more interesting because members will be able to ask you questions directly. But on behalf of the membership, just thanks for being part of our group. Thanks for contributing today. We very appreciate it. Thank you. 

Chad Prinkey [00:17:45] Thank you. Thanks for all you do and for what you and your team are putting out there. I very much needed what Collective 54 brought to the table when I first joined and the value continues to build, so thank you. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:59] Thank you. All right. So three calls to action for listeners. So if you’re a member, look out for the invitation that’s coming so that you can attend Chad’s Q&A session. I’m sure you got a million questions for him. If you’re not a member, but you want to be, go to Collective54.com, fill out an application. The application review committee will take a look at it and get back in contact with you, and if you’re not ready for either of those two things and just want to educate yourself further, go to Amazon and check out my book, The Boutique How to Start Scale and sell a Professional Services Firm. But until next time, I wish you the best of luck is to try to grow, scale and exit your firm.

Episode 136 – Why Podcasting Should be Part of a Professional Service Firms Marketing Mix – Member Case by Tom Schwab

Podcasting is a perfect marketing channel for boutique professional service firms. It allows a firm to authentically connect with its target market at scale cost effectively. Yet, many members are not taking advantage of this tool. This session will teach members how to leverage the podcasting channel to grow their firms.


Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Welcome to the Pro Serve podcast, the podcast for leaders of thriving boutique professional services firms. For those that are not familiar with us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community focused on the unique needs of the boutique process of firm space. My name is Greg Alexander. I’m the founder and I’m going to be your host today. On this episode, we’re going to talk about podcasting and its role that it might play in your marketing mix as you look to grow your firm. And we have a collective 54 member role model with us who’s an expert in this area. His name is Tom Schwab. He’s with Interview Valet Time. It’s good to see you. Please introduce yourself to everybody. 

Tom Schwab [00:01:00] Greg, I am thrilled to be here. You know, I run the agency interview valet. And my my viewpoint is that today every pro serves business problem is obscurity, right? There’s thousands, tens of thousands of people you could help. They just don’t know you exist. And I think instead of breaking through the noise, it’s much more powerful to get in on the conversation that people are already listening to. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:25] All right. So so give us kind of a State of the Union on podcasting. I’m not sure our membership community, you know, has a full appreciation for how prevalent it is, how it’s growing, etc.. 

Tom Schwab [00:01:37] Yeah. And everybody thinks there’s, you know, millions and millions of podcasts. While that’s true, less than 450,000 have gone live in the last 30 days. So there’s always room for great podcasts out there. The other thing is that not everyone is listening to podcasts. If you look at the current data, it says 51% of the U.S. adult population listens to podcasts, right? And they’re above average income. They’re above average education. These are people that are early adopters, that are looking for answers. They’re looking to make their life better right there. There’s still probably a third of the people out there that are so proud They haven’t read a book in since high school. They’re probably not listening to podcasts. Right? The people that are listening to podcasts are looking for answers, looking for ideas. Look at looking for people that can help them. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:33] I mean, if half the American adult population is listening to podcasts, I mean, that’s that’s a huge audience. So, I mean, relative to the other forms of media, it’s pretty new, although it is maturing. Why do you think it’s grown so much? 

Tom Schwab [00:02:49] It’s now, what, almost 20 years old, right? So it it’s you know, it’s going to stick around for a while. But I think it’s really because of the intimacy and also the authenticity. Right. We’re so tired of this little, you know, sound world. And while there’s a place for that to really learn, to really understand, something is going to take more of a longer conversation and it’s more authentic. Right? And we look at things that are on television that is highly edited, and we really just sort of want to see what what really happened behind the scenes. And in some ways, almost like a voyeur is a bright. You and I would be having the same conversation if we were sitting at a coffee shop or a bar. Right. The only difference is that there’s microphones and the whole world gets to listen in. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:44] Yeah, it’s really interesting. I like the concept of intimacy because if you think about our audience boutique process firms, I mean, they’re boutiques by design, which means they serve. You know, I like to say the riches are in the niches. So anything that you can do to build a more intimate or authentic relationship with the target audience and the client base is much preferred over maybe kind of mass communication techniques. So. So tell us why, in your opinion, podcasting should be part of the marketing mix specifically for the boutique processor firm? 

Tom Schwab [00:04:14] Yeah, I think it’s really because there’s this idea of you’re one funnel away and I don’t believe that, right. The best things in life don’t come through funnels, They come through conversations and there’s a great book called Clicks and How Digital Marketing is Ruining Your Business. And I love how Bill Troy says Big fish don’t swim through funnels and whales don’t click right. The people that are hiring processor firms aren’t going to hire you because you did a dance on Tik. If anything, that’s a reason for them not to hire you, right? So they want this discussion. They want to know who they are working with. And at the end of the day, none of us need more leads, right? We need more profits. We need profits come through great customers, right? So the idea of going out there and being able to communicate at length is really magnetic marketing, where it will attract the right people and retell the wrong ones. The other. The thing I love about this channel is that it becomes so easy to create and then so easy to reproduce and repurpose. Right. I’ve written a lot of blogs in my life. Most of them feel like homework assignments, right? But we can have this conversation and then take the take the audio and get a transcript, have somebody clean it up and make a blog. We can take video clips from it, audio clips so you can get a month’s worth of content out of one podcast interview. Yeah. So to my my sense, it’s it’s easy to create, it’s inexpensive to create, and it’s so powerful that you can use it in your marketing and even in your sales, right? You can for somebody who gets on a sales call, you can say, Hey, our founder did this interview. Right? And I think it’d be interesting to, you know, how they’re going to listen to 45 minutes of the founder before they even jump on a sales call. That that becomes a warmed up lead. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:10] Yeah, I agree. So there’s there’s two approaches. Should they be done mutually exclusive? Should they be complementary to one another? And the two I’m referring to is sort of collective 54 members start their own podcast or should they seek to be a guest on somebody else’s podcast? What’s your opinion on that? 

Tom Schwab [00:06:29] Well, I’ve always got opinions on everything, but I look at it, it’s like, should you be an Uber driver or an Uber passenger? Right. Say same platform, but what are your goals? Right. If you want to nurture your current clients and your current leads, then host your own podcast. And Greg, this is a great example, right? Because you take this content, we we dig into it each week in the community. Right. So it’s really for people that already know about it or part of it. Well, if you want to go out and find new leads, new customers, you know, if you build it, they will come. Doesn’t work. You really need to tap in where they’re already listening to. So I’d say be a host. If you want to nurture your current leads and customers, be a guest. If you want to go out and get new customers, new leads, new exposure, new backlinks. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:25] Yeah. I mean, so that’s I mean, and I should tell everybody that collective 54 is a client of Tom’s, and we do both. I mean, obviously here we are, here we are hosting our own podcast. And you’re right, it’s that is for our members primarily. And we are able to, you know, put role models in front of them through the podcast every week. And our members love that. But when Tom books me as a guest on another show, that’s an audience that doesn’t know who I am and I get exposure, you know, to that group. And then through that they find their way to collective 54. So I think, you know, being a guest on someone else’s show is a great acquisition technique, and hosting your own show is a great retention technique. At least that’s how I see it. I think that’s a good way to frame it. So, Tom, tell the audience a little bit about your services. And I’m giving you permission here not to be modest and humble, but, you know, your expertise is taking people like me and getting them on other people’s shows, which it’s hard to get on other people’s shows. I don’t know how people do it without somebody like you. So why don’t you tell us how it works? 

Tom Schwab [00:08:31] Yeah. So we’ve been doing this for nine years now and we have a team of 30 in Europe and North America and. When we first started out, it was almost like guest blogging, right? My background is inbound marketing and engineering, and I looked at it and said, Well, I guess blogs aren’t working anymore more. Could we? The equivalent of guest blog on podcast. And so we started with that. And Greg, the first three years, we built up the systems, the processes, and I went, I tell people about it. I’d get my elevator pitch and they’d go, What’s the podcast? Well, that changed about 2019, and people started to see the power of those. And so now, now one of our clients said, I love working with you because you let me be the guest and you take care of the rest. And I’m like, Oh, that’s good. Copy were taken that. But we’re working with thought leaders, right? Coaches, consultants, leading brands, not fiction, nonfiction authors to get them out there on the right podcast and really, you know, let them be Sinatra. And we do all the supporting work with that. So not only finding the podcasts, but prepping them for every podcast, giving in the best tools and processes for each podcast, and then also the feedback, right? I’m an engineer by degree, so, you know, in God, we trust everyone else bring data. So we license a whole lot of databases. And I think without that it’s more podcast guessing than podcast guesting, because at the end of the day, nobody comes to us and says, I want to be on a podcast, right? That’s that’s an ego thing. Now there’s always an overarching goal of I want to grow my business. Yeah, being on podcast. So that’s really what we focus on. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:24] Okay, so some of our members and I’d say quite a few are what I would describe as a brilliant domain expert. Whatever their domain is, I don’t know. Maybe they’re, you know, a brilliant creative director in a marketing agency, or maybe they’re an absolute brilliant technologist in cybersecurity or something like that. And that’s is what allowed them to get their firms to the point that they’re at. But they’re they’re not great at sales and marketing and they don’t like it. And they sometimes suffer from what’s known as the imposter syndrome. You know, they maybe don’t recognize how brilliant they really are. So putting themselves out there on a podcast can be very intimidating to that group, which is a shame because the world needs to hear what they have to say. So you mentioned that you coach them and you prep them before they get on a call. So how do you help somebody like that maybe overcome their fear and kind of hold their hand? So it’s a great experience for them. 

Tom Schwab [00:11:25] Yeah. And I think I’m going to correct you there. I think all of them are brilliant, right? They’ve all brilliance in different ways. And one of the phrase you hear me talk about a lot is what’s ordinary to you is amazing to others. Right? So that expertise that you have there that everyone knows that. And there was a friend of mine that actually helped me with this because I started out I had that imposter syndrome. I’m like, I’m not the expert, Right? I don’t think there’s anything as the expert, but there is a expert. And he said, you know, the legal definition of a of an expert is someone by their training, their education or their experience knows more than the average person. Trust me, as long as hard hours as you put in your business, in the industry, you have expertise there that others don’t have and that your clients are paying you for. And so I think to frame it that way, for people to also work through their one sheet to say these are the topics that you can bring expertise to, let’s focus on these. Right? Nobody’s going to ask you a question. You know, if you’re not in finance, they’re not going to ask you, Well, what do you think about the Fed’s move? I don’t know. That’s not my area of expertise. Yeah, right. So they want to bring you on. They they want to make you look good with that. So I really think it’s focusing that that light on where they can they can add expertise. The other thing is I love it when people come and they’re like, Yeah, I don’t like sales, I don’t like marketing, I don’t like promoting myself. Perfect, right? Because the worst thing to do on a podcast interview is to make it an infomercial. Yeah. And, you know, Rand Fishkin, who wrote the book Lost and Found Her, I love how he put out there. He said the best way to sell something today is not to sell anything, but to earn the respect, awareness and trust of those who might buy. And I would say, you know, on a podcast, it’s those who are ready to buy, right? If they listened to you for 30 or 45 minutes, they’re going to turn you up or turn you off. That’s fine, right? But if you’re the answer to. FRAYER You don’t have to sell them, right? You have to just tell them what you do, how you do it, and it will attract it to it. And, you know, the data shows that we’ve have for nine years that the leads from podcaster interviews tend to close faster for a higher initial engagement and less churn. Yeah, and it sort of makes sense. It’s not cold traffic. It’s it’s a warm referral. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:04] I mean, that’s the experience that I’ve had for sure, and that’s why I’m so committed to the podcasting piece of our marketing mix. All right. Well, listen, we’re out of our time here, but for the members that are listening to this, I want to encourage you all to attend the private member only Q&A session, which we’ll have with Tom that will allow you to ask your direct questions to Tom and he’ll answer those. That meeting invite will come out shortly, but look for that and please attend. If you’re not a member and you think you might want to join, go to collective 54 dot com. You can fill out a contact us form and one of our reps will get in contact with you. And if you’re interested in topics like this and you want to learn about other things, I would point you in the direction of our book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start Scale and Sell a Professional Services Firm. But with that, Tom, I mean, I appreciate you and all that you do. Thanks for being a great contributing member to Collective 54. You give a lot as well as take. So thanks for that spirit and thanks for being part of our tribe. 

Tom Schwab [00:15:02] I thank you for putting it all together. It’s such a great community and like I said before, what’s ordinary to you is amazing to others, and there’s just brilliance in there. And when people share that, it’s amazing the magic and synergy that happens. 

Greg Alexander [00:15:17] Okay, great.

Episode  128 – How to Begin Building a Sales Team with Fractional Sales Talent – Member Case by Dan Morris

Scaling boutiques need to build a sales team yet delay doing so because of the perceived risk and expense. In this session, member Dan Morris shows us how to reduce the risk and ease into it by leveraging fractional sales leadership. Most boutiques use fractional finance, HR, IT, and Legal executives and it may be time for you to deploy the same approach to sales. 


Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Welcome to the Pro Serv podcast, the podcast for leaders of thriving boutique professional services firms. If you’re not familiar with us, we are Collective 54, and what we are what is known as a mastermind community. And we are different than other communities in that we focus on a single industry, the pro serv industry, and a certain type of firm within that industry, what we call a boutique, which is kind of post-startup at pre-scale. And we have a weekly podcast that we put on where we profile a role model, and that’s what today’s show is about. And we’ll talk on today’s episode about fractional sales leadership and sales teams. But before we do that, let’s do a couple of intros. So my name’s Greg Alexander. I’m the founder of Collective 54, and I’m going to be your host. We also have with us today Dan Morris, and Dan runs one of these fractional sales outsourcing companies. And I’m probably not doing it justice so we’ll give him a chance to introduce himself in his company. So, Dan, it’s good to see you. Please, please give us an intro.

Dan Morris [00:01:22] Hey, Greg. Great to be here. Yeah. My name is Dan Morris. I’m Managing Partner at Mindray, a consulting. We’re a boutique management consulting firm. We focus on growth, efficiency, and in our case, what that means is we support our clients by helping them to develop effective growth strategies. And then when it’s required, we implement those strategies by leveraging fractional executives and fractional teams.

Greg Alexander [00:01:47] Okay, sounds great. So because you are a member, you’re familiar with our membership, the profile of a member and many of our boutiques know that in order to reach their full potential, they have to make an investment in sales. They get to a point in their journey where, you know, referral generation and kind of word of mouth is not enough. They have to invest in convincing people to hire their firms. And those folks of those folks, many of them don’t know who they are, but they’re gun shy to make the investment in this nonbillable asset. So they’re curious about fractional sales leadership. So let’s start there. So define it for us. What is it?

Dan Morris [00:02:30] Fractional leader. Or in our case, specifically a fractional sales leader, a highly experienced individual normally north of 15 years of experience. They bill and they run sales teams and sales organizations before in the industry using the business model that the clients have. So they’re very familiar with both the industry jargon and the ways of doing the types of deals that the client is doing. That means that they’ve committed themselves to share their experience with multiple clients who are non-competing at the same time, which means that they can give the client access to their experience at less than the full rate for bringing that person in. And their scope could be from carrying a bag themselves to actually help win a couple of deals to help refine the process before they’re then able to start bringing people in around them and building out that commercial sales team. And they can look at new business, they can look at upsell and cross-sell to the existing client portfolio, as well as exploring potential for partnerships and channel business as well, depending on the opportunity. And so their engagements would range from supporting a founder who needs some help building their confidence to get some complex deals done all the way out. So implementing and managing a commercial sales team and developing an in-house leader. So it runs a very broad scope, but it’s about role and then walk and then run in order to get things right. You might go from one fractional leader to another. Well, in the next stage and all the while not investing the full amount that you’d have to invest for a full person to be full-time.

Greg Alexander [00:04:28] Very good. And I’m assuming that there’s a natural point in a firm’s evolution where it makes sense to engage in this model. When is that point?

Dan Morris [00:04:41] Though there’s two points that we most often get hired, and one is where you’ve got a CEO that does not identify as a salesperson who is committed to figuring out how to grow in a scale. They’ve got some initial clients and often that’s somewhere between $1,000,000 and $3 million in top-line revenue. The second use case is where they brought in a fractional CFO or even a full-time CFO, and that person has somehow inherited the responsibility for driving revenues and reporting on revenue growth. And they bring in a fractional because they need to be able to deliver in that period of time.

Greg Alexander [00:05:26] Okay. And then is there a point in time when they graduate out, you know, above this approach where fractional is no longer enough and they want full time? Is that a natural evolution or no?

Dan Morris [00:05:38] Yes, it is. So we’ve actually built a whole service offering review, refine, roll out, and then replace. And in between roll out and replace is a lot of repeat will go round that cycle several times to get an organization to where they want to be. And it might be three months and it might be three years to get them to the place where they want to replace most often. And then a fractional person would develop somebody from internally within the team to take over and lead that team using all of the best practices and processes that have been developed in that business.

Greg Alexander [00:06:16] Okay. And then as I’ve gotten to know you, I’ve learned that it’s not just leadership that can be fractionalized, but it can be a sales team as well. So please describe that to us.

Dan Morris [00:06:27] That’s right. So we’ve developed over we’ve done over 300 advisory and engagements with clients now since 2014. So we’ve been around this for a while, since before it was called fractional. And so recently we’ve been developing more and more things around the clients the way that they want them. And so we were doing business just with sales leaders, revenue leaders and supporting a lot of founders. We found that there are really natural partnerships with other people in the fractional ecosystem, such as Chief Finance Officers or Chief Operations Officers but within our pillar which is revenue, we are able to provide the sales leader, the marketing leader, the revenue operations leader, which is the sales and marketing technology implementation and process management and actually a turnkey sales team to get a client from where they are to where they want to be. So having access to that in a very flexible way is what the market told us that they wanted to do. And so we’re supporting more and more businesses to get there until they feel confident enough to bring in the full-time leader and begin to either rebuild that internally or take over some of the resources.

Greg Alexander [00:07:42] So I’m very bullish on this idea because. You as a firm goes through its evolution and they need to make this investment in sales. They’ve reached that point where in order to hit their growth targets, the law of large numbers says they’re not going to get there by kind of shaking the tree of their personal network anymore. They’ve got to do more than that. But sometimes if you go full-time, especially if you hire leadership in a team, they don’t have the capital to do it and they don’t want to go into debt. They don’t want to raise the equity because of the dilutive effects of that. So they end up not doing it. But by doing it this way, they can grow into it because fractionalizing would suggest it’s more cost-effective to do it. So. Why are more firms not doing this? What’s standing in the way of pulling the trigger on this? Because it seems to make such great common sense.

Dan Morris [00:08:35] You’re right. And part of that is that they don’t know that it’s an option. It’s becoming much, much more talked about now. And I think the most common fractional engagement today is still in the finance department because bookkeeping is one of the most natural first things to outsource then the Chief Financial officer involved in a lot of the CPA’s offices around that. And so that’s where it started. And then operations followed because getting things organized in the back of the business affects that profitability very immediately. And then after that, people look at this other pillar, which is a lot scarier to a lot of founders. You know, the reason they haven’t built out the commercial sales team is because they don’t identify as salespeople. They don’t really feel confident in building that sales engine right away. They want to make sure that everything is going to land properly first before they go and get a lot of new clients. And so that we think that there’s definitely a trend in the market right now with people talking about fractional, them becoming feeling more relaxed about bringing in people on that basis. But also there’s a lot of businesses out there that just restructured significantly, right? They leaned out back or W2 based and are now looking to invest in businesses that can give them that level of flexibility. And so there’s been a lot of businesses transitioning to partner with us over that last few months for that reason as well. So one is more education and one is market timing.

Greg Alexander [00:10:05] So for those that are listening to this, that might still be afraid to do it after 300 engagements. I’m sure you’ve seen mistakes. What are maybe two or three things to think about before they jump on this fractional sales leadership concept?

Dan Morris [00:10:20] Well, it’s an experiment until it’s not. Right. So you’re getting on board with somebody who can come in and give you a 5000 or 10,000 foot view of your business in 30 days. That’s the first thing that you’re doing with the fractional executive. Is not like making a higher W-2, where you have to figure out you’re going to give this person a year. You’re going to get the sales number. You’re going to try and work it out. The first 30 days of this is figuring out where the priority should and should not be working with that person. And that’s something that’s very bite-sized that a lot of founders and CEOs don’t think they can do but they can. And so, you know what we see one of the problems is when founders or CEOs try and buy a tactic that they’re not sure about, that we know we should be doing outbound sales. Okay. Well, is that the right thing for you to do first? They haven’t thought that through and they try and buy a vendor who will do that for them and they set fire to a bunch of money. What we often find is that they’re already trying to do too many things with the resources that they’ve got. And in that first 30 days, often we’ve identified businesses. There was one who were trying to do 17 growth strategies with four people on their team.

Greg Alexander [00:11:37] Oh my Lord.

Dan Morris [00:11:38] We help them focus on five of those growth strategies and they 5x that business in the next 12 months. Mm hmm. Do less with more, but the right things. And so a good way of protecting themselves is to get really clear with that front workshop, get the strategies aligned for what they’re going to do, what they’re already good at, and, you know, go with an individual who has less experience as a fractional or may not give them that straight away. And the risk is where a CEO is not familiar with hiring a sales group and brings in an experienced fractional or who just is being a really strong individual contributor. There’s room there for missed expectations, and that’s the biggest risk I think, out there in the world of fractional. Oh, we had this fractional when we tried out and it didn’t work. Yeah, well. There’s a better way. Yeah.

Greg Alexander [00:12:30] What do you say to the member who believes, in my view, incorrectly, but still very strongly held belief that what they do requires so much industry and domain knowledge that outsourcing it to a fractional sales team is just impossible?

Dan Morris [00:12:49] Well, we do run into a lot of business owners and CEOs who struggle with overcoming that, and they come back to us a year later in the same place. They haven’t grown. They’re still stuck there, they’re more upset about it. It’s a natural barrier for us to be overcome with a crawl and then walk and then run approach. And a simple way of looking at this is to say that one day if you want to exit your business, you have to solve this problem anyway. And getting the right support to do that in a fractional basis to help you along the way is one way of doing it. And I’ll give you an example. We’ve been working with a founder on and off for eight years. A super nice guy, really brilliant at what he does, and finally came to us in January and said, okay, let’s look at this a bit differently. And what we helped him to do was a Done with You program, which helped him to do the activities he needed to do to get out of his own way. And now he’s doing massive projects with his ideal clients. Four months later, he’s in that procurement process is where he’s never been before. Now we can show him what the roadmap is to have somebody else do those activities and gently begin to walk him backwards outside of that process so he can focus on the other parts of his business. Just one example, but it’s got to be crawl and then walk and then run with people who are really holding onto that mindset. Otherwise, they just never get down to that.

Greg Alexander [00:14:18] Yeah, you know what I would offer the audience is that, you know, we’re all comfortable now with fractional CFOs. Most of us are using fractional I.T. departments. We might call them something different, like a managed service provider. Pretty much most of our members use some type of outsourced fractional HR Leadership. A growing number of our members are using fractionalized chief technology officers as they attempt to productize their service offering. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to now expand that philosophy into the revenue growth engine, the sales team. And if you take the approach that Dan recommends today, which is the crawl, walk, run approach, it’s actually very little risk. There might even be more risk not doing it than there is to do it. So that’s what I would kind of conclude with. So Dan, we’re really happy that you’re in the group. Our community really needs what you do, so you’re adding a lot of value to us. So on behalf of all the members, thanks for being here today and we look forward to the Q&A session with the members and having them give them an opportunity to talk to you directly about this.

Dan Morris [00:15:22] Thanks, Greg. There’s been enormous value for us being part of this community, and so we’re really happy we’re here as well. And thanks for making the time to talk today.

Greg Alexander [00:15:29] Okay. Very good. All right. A few calls, action for listeners. So first, if you’re not a member of Collective 54 and you want to be, check out the website, Collective54.com and fill out the form. One of our representatives will get in contact with you. If you are a member, be sure to attend the session that we’ll have with Dan, the Q&A session. And if you’re not ready to join just yet, but you like content like this, I would point you in two directions. First. Subscribe to our newsletter that’s Collective 54 insights. You get three things a week, you get a blog, you get a video, you get a chart of the week, or you can check out our book, How to Start I’m sorry, The Boutique: How to Start, Scale, and Sell a Professional Services Firm, which you can get on Amazon. But until next time, I wish you the best of luck. Audience members. And as you try to grow, scale, and someday exit your pro serv firm. Take care.

Narrowing Your Ideal Client Profile: How to Sell More Services Easily

Narrowing Your Ideal Client Profile: How to Sell More Services Easily

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You can’t afford to have unhappy clients at your professional services firm. So how do you ensure you’re working with the right people at the right time?

Spreading your resources too thin prevents your business from dominating your niche. And the inability to say no to the wrong client can prevent you from having resources available when the right client comes around.

In this video, Greg explains how to nail down your ideal client profile, concentrate your scarce resources correctly and accelerate the pace of scale.

In this video, you’ll learn:

    • How to tighten up your ideal client profile
    • When to say no to sales to create room for better sales
    • Sales strategies and client types based on your ideal client profile