Build real personal relationships with your clients--so they'll reveal to you what they really want, what could really drive their decision but can't be written in an RFP.
You may remember the 1990 movie Crazy People in which Dudley Moore plays an advertising executive whose idea to write "honest" advertising copy like the following lands him in an insane asylum:
Volvo... they're boxy, but they're safe.
Porsche...you can't get laid in one, but you will once you get out.
As outrageous as those taglines were, they were successful in the movie (and probably would have been in real life, too) because they spoke to what people really wanted--far beyond what car companies learn from customers in rank-the-features surveys. In these cases, customers didn't just want cars that got them from point A to point B. They bought a Volvo for the peace of mind and the Porsche for a new hope of finding romance.
Our organizations face the same problem automakers do. I certainly don't think my firm's marketing and sales consulting services or training offerings are anywhere close to commodities. I believe we have deeper insight, more experience, a watertight methodology...a laundry list of reasons why we can provide value no one else can. I bet you feel the same way about your core products and services. But the truth is that many other organizations claim to have the same things we have. And if you delude yourself thinking that what's on your website and printed marketing collateral is significantly different from what others have written down, then you're full of it.
That's why we have to build real personal relationships with our clients--so they'll reveal to us what they really want, what could really drive their decision but can't be written in an RFP. Then, and only then, do we get opportunities to offer generous solutions to their problems that convince them to purchase our core products and services.
You have to approach them as people as well as professionals. Show them you're human by letting your guard down. Share your passions and learn about theirs. See yourself as a combination of consultant, life coach, therapist, and friend. Ask insightful questions, actively listening for what really motivates or frustrates them personally. Then, when you have a deep understanding of what they really want, try to bundle a solution that, first and foremost, solves one of their problems and, ideally, includes your product or service.
This method might require you to find outside partners to deliver--yet another reason to develop larger networks of friends. In fact, the first couple things you "sell" to someone may have nothing at all to do with your own product.
For example, I frequently strengthen relationships with clients by aiding their personal career pursuits, entirely separate from what they're procuring from my firm. When I learned that one of my clients ultimately wants to be in politics, I got him invited to join an advisory council to Bill Clinton comprised of people under age 40. When another client confided in me his desire to be an actor, I took him to dinner with a leader of William Morris Agency. A third client was struggling with earning the respect of his CEO, so in addition to the consulting services we provided his organization, we coached him personally on how to leverage the work we were doing and even just how to behave in the CEO's staff meetings to build the credibility he needed to become a key player in the executive team.
Another person who has a knack for giving clients what they really want is Ty Pugh, a Seattle-based financial advisor. The financial products and services he has to sell are true commodities. You can get the same stuff from many other places. But Ty is building lasting relationships for revenue growth by providing clients additional investment opportunities in real estate, independent of his core offerings.
After Ty made a personal investment in a waterfront resort community in North Carolina, he generously made the opportunity available to many others. He convinced the developers to lease a jet to fly investors from Seattle to the east coast. He brought in former professional football player Nesby Glasgow to serve as the real estate agent and to lend some cachet to the deal. And he invited 42 investors to check out a new investment opportunity, take a free trip to a beautiful resort community while hobnobbing with a pro athlete, and get to know a whole bunch of like-minded investors.
This amazing demonstration of how he's much more than your average financial advisor won Ty clients in the developers, the real estate agent, and some of the investors. You, too, can make your business boom if you find and deliver what clients really want before selling your core product.