Last week I shared how my failure to construct a compelling business case nearly squashed my sustainability consulting business only a few years after starting it.
It wasn’t until I figured out the 5 keys to building a business case that I gained traction, and learning to meet people where they are was a first and critical step.
It was the mid-2000s and my first sustainability consulting contract lasted over a year, which gave me time to get my feet wet.
As that initial contract was winding down, I was faced with the choice of convincing the client to renew or find a new contract to replace it. So what did I do?
The client was satisfied with the value I’d provided and I saw lots of opportunities they could leverage now that they were measuring, monitoring, and reporting on their impacts – so I floated the idea of a contract renewal.
They were open to it, but first wanted me to present to the Board of Directors on the work we’d done so far. If we could earn their approval, they said, the work would continue.
The client was an industry association, so the members of their Board were the General Council, CFOs and VPs of Sales of very large corporations.
I’ll spare you the details of how nervous I was presenting at this level when I had zero boardroom experience, but when it was said and done I secured another 24 months of work and it was, in great part, because I met each person where they were.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Just because we’re talking to people who work at the same company, doesn’t mean they share the same language. Sustainability, environmental, social and governance (ESG), corporate social responsibility (CSR), it’s alphabet soup. Engage in active listening to be sure you understand the syntax your target uses and match their language when you can.
2. Communicate a no-judgment zone. People can feel self-conscious about their level of knowledge and/or their company’s performance (or lack thereof). There is no such thing as a silly question and sustainability is a journey.
3. Find out how they define success. From time to time, “meeting someone where they are” can mean they deny climate change exists. What then? If you can determine what success looks like for your prospect, a shared vision can be the north star and you can save time and energy trying to convince them of something they may not be ready for.
If you’re ready to leverage the growing demand by companies and learn a structured and proven strategy to pivot and find new clients who want to work with you, then join us for the PIVOT cohort, November 22 – January 10, 2023.
Upcoming virtual events to check out based on expressed interest:
Carbon Markets from an Indigenous Perspective. Learn how Native American tribes are protecting their land and removing carbon, as well as how this work plays into the carbon markets. November 17, 1 pm EST
Early Stage Finance for Climate Tech – Accelerating the adoption of climate tech solutions through financing November 17, 1 – 2 pm EST
Solving the Data Challenge – How to improve ESG data quality so that it’s comparable, reliable, and complete November 22, 3 pm EST
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To your success,