For the past 30 years, I’ve been self-employed as an executive resume writer and career coach. Through those experiences, I gained a tremendous amount of information about what executive clients want/need in a resume writer and coach, and that’s the information I’m going to share with you in this article.
1. Executive clients want to work with a career professional who understands what they do – their industry and their profession. This is particularly critical during the sales process when you are “competing” against other resume writers, coaches, counselors, outplacement companies, etc. to get a new client’s business.
During the sales process, you MUST communicate your knowledge of the client’s industry and profession. This accomplishes two things: (1) the client feels comfortable with you and believes that they’ve found the “right” person to help them; and (2) it gives you a tremendously competitive advantage in closing the sale. You can almost “hear” the client’s thought process … “This person not only appears to be a very well-qualified career coach but, JUST AS IMPORTANT, he/she also knows all about logistics, distribution and supply chain management!” You’ve just won that client to be sure.
How do you so quickly communicate that information? It’s easy. All you need to do is ask the “right” questions and use the “right” keywords. Inevitably, one of the first questions you will have asked a new client is what they currently do for a living. I always ask … “Are you a sales guy, an IT guy, a general management guy …?” Once I have that information, then I’m ready to go. Here’s a good example:
Suppose you’re a resume writer and you’re speaking to a Vice President of International Finance for a leading global corporation. As you’re explaining your services and how you work, you’ll throw in comments and questions such as … “The kinds of things I’ll want to know from you will relate to your experience and accomplishments in foreign exchange, foreign currency hedging, foreign government financing, global banking, joint ventures and M&A transactions.” If you say this to a prospective client, you’ve instantly connected yourself and your expertise to that client. I GUARANTEE they’ll be so impressed they can’t pay you fast enough!
Also, be sure to use acronyms such as M&A (versus mergers and acquisitions) to further entrench yourself into the profession. I might have also asked the above client … “Have you ever been involved in an IPO transaction, led VC road shows or participated in an ESOP?” (IPO = Initial Public Offering; VC = Venture Capital, ESOP = Employee Stock Ownership Plan)
2. Executive clients want the price to be reasonable. Reasonable is a pretty vague concept, but consider the following. One of the most important elements in setting your pricing structure is your competition. If you’re in a small town, hundreds of miles from a major city and all of your competitors are charging $250 a resume, you’re certainly not going to charge $2500. On the other hand, if you’re in a major metropolitan area and the average resume price is $500 a resume, you’re certainly not going to charge $50 (I hope!).
The strategy here is that you DO NOT want to be the cheapest. Most executives are NOT looking for the cheapest; they’re looking for the “best” at a reasonable price. If you’re the cheapest, the customer-perceived value of your product will be less. Conversely, you may not want to be the most expensive either. I always recommend setting your pricing right up at the top, just a notch or two below the most expensive.
3. Executive clients want the process to be easy and efficient. You want to create a “process” for doing business that is easy for both you and your clients. In years past, if I was speaking to a client for the very first time and they were anxious to move forward, I asked for a credit card number and proceeded immediately. If I had told that client that I’d have to send an agreement, worksheets, credit card authorization, etc., before we could get started, chances are likely I might have missed that opportunity. Perhaps the client would have changed his/her mind, decided to call a few other career companies and shop around, or whatever. My motto is … “Hit while the iron is hot! “
IMPORTANT: I would, of course, have my clients complete the appropriate documentation immediately after our conversation. I just wasn’t going to let them go while I had them “hooked.”
You must then continue to work in the same efficient manner. No matter the specific type of career service(s) you are offering, if you are able to create a seamless process where the client is able to move from step to step with virtually no interference, then you will have succeeded. Set deadlines and stick to them, keep the flow of paperwork to a minimum, and attempt to eliminate much of the administrative detail that can both bog you and your clients down.
4. Executive clients want you to be their “job search captain” and guide them through the process at a strong and steady pace. Most often, executives want you to lead them through the process, whether that process be resume writing, coaching, counseling, outplacement, or any other type of career development or management effort. They know that they’re great at their jobs. Now, they expect you to be great at yours and they’re happy to follow your advice and your lead.
In turn, you must exude confidence and knowledge in all of your communications with them. You must be decisive and direct with specific recommendations for action. These guys aren’t messing around! Tell them what to do and they will do it. Let them perceive you as a strong, yet compassionate career ally.
Executive clients are a wonderful market niche, but not the only niche. Find a targeted clientele that you’re comfortable working with and then apply the above principles. They will work well with any client population.