Will Smith. Sandra Bullock. George Clooney. Matt Damon. What do these four names have in common?
They are all “Bankable Stars,” a term used to describe an actor who gives movie backers confidence that they’ll achieve major ROI through a large box-office draw. Such stars are rare and highly sought after, and earn the highest fees in the industry.
In business – in nearly every market – you find advisors and service providers equivalent to Bankable Stars in Hollywood, says sales coach Andrew Sobel. He calls them “Bankable Advisors.” Some are individuals and some are firms. Examples include Alan Dershowitz (law), Ram Charam (board consulting) or Jim Collins (CEO consulting). A list of firms could include Goldman Sachs (initial public offerings), McKinsey (strategy consulting), and IBM (computing).
So how do you become a Bankable Advisor who is sought after, earns high fees, and rarely has to respond to RFPs? There are six strategies you can pursue to move yourself towards bankability in the business world. Let’s look at each in turn:
1. Consistent quality. You must build a reputation for consistent delivery, year in and year out. What makes Bankable Stars truly valuable is their ability to consistently deliver on very high expectations. A brilliant but erratic star is a high-risk investment, and the risk reduces their value. On a personal level, remember that time and again, executives who talk about their trusted advisors will say, “You have to deliver, deliver, deliver; and over time, my trust in you builds up.”
2. Consistent thought leadership. Some Bankable Advisors earn their stripes through writing best-selling books. But there are other ways of building a reputation as a thought leader. You can achieve this through deep industry focus, for example – by speaking at industry forums, writing articles for professional publications or, on a more personal level, keeping your buyers ahead of the game with timely analysis and ideas. Caveat: You must consistently engage in thought leadership activities over time – you can’t just write do it once and declare victory. If you produce a slow but steady stream of thoughtful perspectives on your chosen niche, you will notice a powerful “flywheel” effect that grows every year.
3. A clear value proposition. Like movie stars, Bankable Advisors have a specific value proposition that people associate with them. For actor Liam Neeson, it’s delivering an “intelligent” action film; for author Jim Collins, it’s helping companies become great. Your public value proposition may not define everything you do with clients, but it’s the tip of the spear that you’re best known for. Without a recognizable value proposition, you risk becoming just another vendor, or cookie-cutter expert for hire.
4. Name recognition. Bankable Advisors invest in their own personal brand. Most of them work very hard at getting their name out in the marketplace. When you’re bankable, and prospects in your geographic area, market niche, or industry segment think of your specialty, they think of you. There is a multitude of ways to achieve this type of “marketing gravity.” One way is getting known as the advisor to several of the best companies in your industry. Google your own name – how many cites does it get? However known or unknown you are today, start planning two or three key activities that will increase your name recognition over the next 6-12 months.
5. Scarcity. Bankable advisors are scarce. When you’ll work for anyone, it dilutes your brand. This has been the downfall of some fashion designers (remember Pierre Cardin?) who put their name on everything in sight. Not everyone can hire Alan Dershowitz or Barry Scheck (the “DNA guy”) to defend them. Similarly, a plain-vanilla small company cannot hire a top investment bank to do their IPO. Bottom line: Communicate to your buyers that you, like them, are selective about whom you do business with. Let your buyers know you work with them by choice.For example, if you’ve turned down business that wasn’t right for you, it’s worth mentioning to others.
6. High fees. As a result of all the points above, Bankable Advisors are able to charge high fees and preserve margins, and certainly don’t discount to get business.
But there is more to it than that. Nothing says “commodity” like a
low price. Many researchers have demonstrated that high prices lead to high perceived value. So on the road to becoming bankable you enter into a virtuous circle of ever-higher perceived value and fees. One other thing happens: Part of your value comes from the fact that hiring you reduces risk for the person who has retained you. In other words, you add value just by virtue of your status as a well-known advisor.
Question: How far along are you on the continuum from unknown expert-for-hire to Bankable Advisor? What steps do you need to take to move further along towards being renowned in your particular market?
Finally, keep in mind that Bankable Stars are constantly reinventing themselves. Otherwise their career can go like this: “Who’s George Clooney?” “Get me George Clooney!” “Get me a George Clooney Type!” “Get me a young George Clooney!” And someday…”Who’s George Clooney?”
Source: To learn more from Andrew Sobel visit www.andrewsobel.com
Subscribe to the Sales Blog
Get the latest research on workplace learning with weekly posts delivered to your inbox