Jana Sedivy performs customer experience research for B2B companies. She helps companies that create and sell software to other businesses better understand their customers and identify ways they can improve the customer experience. Jana has worked with companies such as Adobe and Nuance, and she also holds twenty-one technology patents and is published in peer-reviewed user experience journals.
In this episode, Jana shares how she got started consulting and how you can start building the authority and connections so you can start winning these big clients as well.
Jana shares with us:
Jana started out as a developer. Then she became interested in how people interact with the programs while working at Adobe. She discovered that she loved working with enterprise software because of the complexity and how the software is intertwined in society, such as in inventory management, account processing, etc.
After Jana got laid off from Adobe, she got an opportunity to help a friend with their product. It was her first taste of freelancing, and it was unique in that it was quite an easy transition for her. Jana already had many relationships with colleagues from previous jobs, which gave her an entry point into many big accounts.
Getting a foot in the door:
Don’t be intimidated by the big businesses. There is a myth that the big companies want to work with the big agencies. In reality, the big businesses want to work with the niche expert who can certainly be a one-person operation because working with an expert decreases the risk for the client.
However, you can’t just know your stuff, you need to show that you know your stuff. To be seen as an expert, you have put expert content out there and in front of your targeted audience in a particular industry.
Through LinkedIn, you can also approach companies who target the same niche, but aren’t your competition, and offer to do a webinar for them. These companies or professional organizations might have a huge list and always feel the pressure to provide new content. The organizations will be so happy that you are offering to make content for them, and you get instant credibility!
Don’t undervalue yourself if you haven’t done a webinar yet. You can get started quite quickly and easily. The key is persistence! In the pitch itself, make sure you emphasize how the content is valuable for their audience. It’s not about you. And remember, not that many people contact them and they are so desperate for content that you will likely get the go ahead.
Once you have the “yes”, be professional and make great slides. One webinar might just be the start of a paying project if it goes well. But, you don’t have to sell a service at the end. Instead, you can give them a lead magnet to get them on your mailing list so they continue to see your content and recognize you as an expert.
Another unique and powerful way to build a relationship is to interview them for you blog or podcast. You can learn a lot about them and it’s also quite likely that they will say yes, especially if they are in mid-level management.
When you are building relationships, the people you connect with is important. Jana often gets hired by product managers, but they aren’t the ones who hold budget approval. You really want to get in touch with and hired by the director of marketing directly, who holds the money bucket.
The first project is the hardest to get. After that, and assuming the first project went well, you will likely be able to get larger and larger projects. Once they know you and trust you, they will want to keep working with you. You are an easy choice.
Jana also sends a thank you card and a thank you gift at the end of projects to celebrate with her client. These gifts are individualized and bring out Jana’s authentic, quirky, nerdy self which makes the relationship with the client even stronger.
Once you get the job, a stakeholder interview with the decision makers involved in the product helps you develop an initial relationship. Stakeholders include the project manager, the engineering stakeholder in charge of development, the marketing person who will know about the political stuff and customer interests, quality insurance people, or heads of distributed teams. Sometimes the official decision maker isn’t the one who is making decisions behind the scenes, so it is good to figure it out in an interview.
The interview should be about 15-20 minutes (at least you say it is 15-20 minutes even though it might go to 30 minutes) and can be remote or in-person. The most important thing in these interviews is to connect with people, which is much easier if you are being yourself.
The interview is also a great opportunity to learn about them, so let them talk. Ask open-ended questions and listen.
Questions to ask:
- What are you hoping to get out of this project?
- What is working?
- What isn’t working?
- Do you see any obstacles or challenges knowing what you do about the organization that might get in the way of a successful project?
- What would success look like?
The results of this interview may be the first deliverable for the big projects or just for your own information to build relationships.
Stay in touch with these decision makers after the project as well. These decision makers are extremely valuable since they will eventually be launching a new product or moving to a new company and will want to work with you again. Also, don’t be afraid to ask them to join your mailing list where you can supply useful content.
In case you aren’t convinced that building relationships is important, consider this: Often, when someone is looking for a particular expert in a big company, they will go to their network and ask if anyone knows a good person for the job. This job won’t be advertised on a job board or their website. It is done all through relationships.
What if they don’t want to have a stakeholder interview?
It’s a red flag. If there is resistance then they will probably not have time for the project and the project may not be successful.
- 5 Steps for Successful Stakeholder Interviews by Jana Sedivy
- Go to Meeting
- Small Business Revolution (John Corcoran)
Find Jana online: