Starting up a consultancy doesn’t sound like a dead-end idea, but failing to offer a point of difference might force you to start again. Frances Pratt can vouch for it.
Pratt is the founder of Melbourne-based business KISS to Sell, a website offering jargon-free online sales training aimed at non-sales people.
Before KISS to Sell, Pratt started consultancy business Metisan. However, she quickly realised the business didn’t have a point of difference.
“I realised I can’t have cut-through being a generalist. That really pushed me out into the market to go and talk to people, and I talked to lots of people,” Pratt says.
“I talked to them based on my 15 years of selling. [I realised] business owners don’t really understand sales or salespeople either, and that causes problems.”
“I decided to work in a specialist area, which was sales and salespeople.”
“My point of difference to everyone else in the market is I don’t really start with the salesperson. I start with the business owner or CEO, and I base it on the assumption that they hate sales.”
“I [thought about] what is natural for me as a salesperson and I wanted to capture that into lessons for people who hate selling. That’s how I came up with KISS to Sell.”
But without Metisan, KISS to Sell may never have come to fruition, Pratt says.
“In some ways, I would say it was a mistake to set myself up without a clear understanding of what I was going to do,” she says.
“But in other ways, if I hadn’t done that, I might not have come up with all the things I came up with.”
“I had a crisis of confidence in my own ability. That drove me back into the area where I had the level of experience, and made me focus on what my key skills and differentiation points were.”
Pratt founded Metisan in November 2010. She launched KISS to Sell in February this year before having a baby a month later. But this, she says, was another blessing in disguise.
“I’m much clearer today about who my target market is and what value I deliver,” she says.
“I didn’t change my core belief about what the product was and who it suited [but] that time away from it helped me clarify ‘Why?’, which is a really important question.”
“Why should people buy from you? One of the exercises I do with my clients is they give an answer to ‘Why?’ and I say, ‘So what?’ You’ve got to keep digging.”
While Pratt continues to operate as a sole trader, she is considering hiring staff in the future. She has also set herself targets with regard to revenue.
“When I was working full-time, I set myself a target of about $17,000 a month in revenue,” she says.
“Now that I’m only working three days, I would really like to be doing around 10 or 12 [thousand dollars a month].”
And while Pratt has firm ideas about successful sales tactics – namely the importance of testing your target market again and again – she has also learnt an inordinate amount from her clients.
“From my perspective, learning about what’s important to other people was as much about deconstructing what I do,” she says.
“When you drive a car, you’re not really conscious of using the clutch or accelerator. When you have to teach someone how to drive, you have to deconstruct it… You’ve got to learn it backwards. Working with clients allows me to do that deconstruction.”
“I don’t think that process ever stops. The business is always evolving and you’re always learning new things.”
“The modern version of how you construct a business is kind of leaving the clients to last… But I think what I did, and what I advise my clients to do, would be to really use your clients.”
“The last thing you want is to build a mousetrap when everyone’s got cockroach problems.”