Hoop Dreams

It's what you know about your game.


I don't want to disappoint you, but I guess I'm not really much of a sports fan.

Out of the "Big Four," I have just a passing interest in football, zero interest in baseball and, despite having attended college in wonderful Montreal, a negative interest in hockey (that is to say, my level of interest would have to increase for me to have no interest).

But basketball? That I like. And so while I don't follow it closely during the season, when the NBA playoffs come around as they always do this time of year, I find myself tuning in nearly every night.

One of the things I'm always most intrigued by and impressed with is the depth of knowledge of the TV commentators.Most are either former all-star players or coaches and I'm amazed by how much they know -- that I don't -- about what's happening.

They see things that I don't see: "That's the third time in a row Miami has run that play and Indiana finally figured it out."

They know what's going to happen next: "With 23 seconds to go in the game, Memphis needs to go for a quick foul here, so they can regain possession and get the last shot."

They're able to evaluate performance and suggest improvements: "That was Wade's fault for not switching fast enough on the pick and roll. That's why West was wide open underneath."

All of this is done on the fly and, based on the joking and mindless banter that goes on alongside it, seems to happen without any heavy lifting on the part of the commentators. They know the game so well that it's easy for them to see, evaluate, criticize and recommend along the way.

Not that you asked, but in my opinion, this kind of work is the best there is: You're so knowledgeable and so accomplished in your field that you're getting paid well to simply weigh in. You'll be pleased to learn that this kind of arrangement is not the exclusive domain of retired professional athletes. You're also extremely knowledgeable and accomplished in your field. You see things other people can't see. You know what's going to happen next. You're able to evaluate performance and suggest improvements on the fly.

But I bet that's not what you're selling. Instead, like most solo professionals, you probably believe that people only want to pay us for "doing the work."

And so we offer to...

... "write the report," instead of offering guidance regarding which report should be written

.... "interview the candidates," instead of offering advice on whether or not a particular job needs filling.

... "train the sales team," instead of helping a client think through other ways to grow the business.

You get the picture. We tend to sell work, not advice.

And while some of our insight may leak out in the process of doing the work, to the extent we notice that it's happening at all, we simply think of it as "providing a little extra value." Not me.

What I've begun to realize is that the commentary itself -- not the "work" per se -- is the high value stuff. It's what has the biggest impact on a client's business and it's what they have the most trouble figuring out on their own. Like me watching a professional basketball game, they understand the rules (in their case, they are actually playing the game). But they don't have the same depth of understanding that you and I do, in our respective specialties.

And so try as they might, they are unable to untangle what's happening, why it happened, what might happen next and what could or should happen from here. You, on the other hand, see everything -- and without a lot of heavy lifting. Here's the bottom line. There's nothing wrong with selling hands-on work; I do plenty of that too.

But the real high-value stuff -- the stuff your clients are most in need of, most eager to buy, and most (happily) willing to pay more for -- is what you know about the game. To you it may be obvious. But to them, it's magic.

Stop getting paid for the hands-on stuff while you give the advice away for free. Instead, see if you can sell the advice all by itself, whenever you can.

Like I said, this kind of work is the best there is.
Michael Katz
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Katz> all articles
Michael Katz is a Boston-based marketing consultant and founder of Blue Penguin Development. He specializes in developing email newsletters for professional service firms.

Since launching Blue Penguin in 2000, Michael has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Business Week Online, Forbes.com, Bloomberg TV, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and other national and local media.

He is the author of three books, and has published over 350 issues of "The Likeable Expert Gazette," a twice-monthly email newsletter with 6,500 passionate subscribers in over 40 countries around the world.

Michael has an MBA from Boston University and a BA in Psychology from McGill University in Montreal, and is a past winner of the New England Press Association award for "Best Humor Columnist."

Specialties: niche marketing, e-mail newsletters, newsletters, authentic marketing, solo professional, professional services marketing
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/michaeljkatz
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MichaelJKatz