I spoke recently with Craig Leach, CEO of Graham-Pelton Consuting. Graham-Pelton is a leader in the field of non-profit fund-raising consulting.
CHG: So Craig, tell me this story.
CL: It was a large potential client for us. We had discussions with several key leaders, but as is often the case in non-profits, the board wanted to be involved before significant commitments were made. That meant a presentation to the full board—about 30 people in this case.
I knew we were in the last time-slot of a four-firm dog and pony show afternoon for this group. It had to have been a long day for that many people.
I and my team had prepared well, but as I we headed down the hall to await being summoned at 4:30, just as the door opened and we were ushered in, I got a little inspiration. I channelled you Charlie and your approach to trust-based selling.
“I’m calling an audible,” I whispered to my team. “Follow my lead.”
We walked in to this long, vertical room with 30 stressed, tired faces jammed into the seats. You could hear pencils tapping, and could smell the low-grade tension.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” I said. “We’ve got another long presentation for you to sit through today, but I’m wondering—maybe we should do something else. All those in favor of junking the slides and just getting down to business, say Aye!”
Well some of them literally jumped out of their seats, thrusting their hands up and shouting Aye!
We had a great meeting. We talked about what they wanted, what their concerns were, and we listened—actively and attentively. They asked us for some opinions, and we gave them. Everybody felt great having that conversation.
Of course we got the job, and several people told me later that our approach was, while not the only reason we got it, certainly a differentiator and a real plus.
CHG: Congratulations, Craig, that’s a great story. What do you think it means? Is this a case of the last time slot wins?
CL: No, not at all. Partly we read the room right, and got credit for adjusting to it. But more deeply, it was what you had written about: selling by doing, not by
telling. There was nothing canned about what we did. It was a conversation in real time and therefore it became a consulting session rather than a sales pitch. Nothing up our sleeves. We brought game, not gamebooks. We just did what we do, and they could immediately see whatever they wanted to see—not just what we wanted them to see. That’s what really did it, I think.
CHG: I think you’re right. Congratulations again.