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The Real-World Guide to Selling Professional Services

If you’re among the millions, worldwide, whose livelihoods depend on sharing their skills and expertise with those who need them, you know that working as a consultant or professional service provider brings with it challenges unknown to those who sell tangible products like eyewear or farming equipment. Services are often misunderstood and under-valued, and, regrettably, they’re among the first items to be cut from tightening budgets. And with today’s staggering 11% global growth rate in the consulting and professional services industries, the competition for clients is now fiercer than it’s ever been. But if you’re like the vast majority of consulting and services professionals, all of your specialized training and education, not to mention your years of experience, count for little without a deep understanding of how clients buy.

A survival guide for every service professional, this book helps you up your game by schooling you in the secrets of finding, connecting with, and building lasting professional relationships with the clients you want and deserve. And you won’t have to become a pitchman, social media expert, road warrior, or marketing whiz to do it.

Brimming with sage advice, priceless insights, and practical guidance, this book is for services of every stripe, whether you’re a bankruptcy attorney working in a large firm or a home-based graphic artist, a web designer or a financial advisor, a strategy consultant or marketing consultant. Written by a uniquely well qualified author team, and based on interviews with dozens of senior professionals working in a wide range of consulting and professional services, ranging from law, accounting, investment banking, and commercial real estate, to management consulting, advertising, and HR, How Clients Buy reveals proven strategies and techniques for generating leads, pre-qualifying them, connecting with prospects, and closing the deal.

A key insight you’ll take away from this book is that the most successful consulting and professional services practices don’t sell at all. Instead, those world-class rainmakers leverage their deep knowledge in the ways of how clients buy, and they deploy a set of sophisticated strategies and techniques for propelling the buying journey.

The most important investment you’ll make in your business development, How Clients Buy arms you with that knowledge and those techniques for getting the word out, connecting with high-quality clients, and building the practice of your dreams.

How Clients Buy provides essential advice to professionals who have to step up from delivering services to selling them.”

Ford Harding

Author, Rainmaking

“A terrific resource for anyone looking to build a successful client service business. McMakin and Fletcher are spot on citing quality and trust as cornerstones.”

Lynne Doughtie

U.S. Chairman and CEO, KPMG

“The best-written book on the subject. Read it on a plane ride home and change the trajectory of your career.”

Jeffrey Fox

Author, How to Become a Rainmaker

“Tom and Doug offer well-grounded, practical advice on how to enhance business building, the most important skill any business, large or small, must tackle to grow and prosper. They take an “outside in” (client perspective) view and offer important personal guidance on how to be an effective “grinder, minder, and a finder.” Their book is fun, easy to read, and well worth the time invested.”

Gary Singer

CMO, A.T. Kearney

“The one book I’d buy a friend who said they were going into consulting or professional services.”

Jeff Shore

Author and Host, The Buyer's Mind Podcast

Tom McMakin

Tom is CEO of Profitable Ideas Exchange (PIE), a leading provider of business development services for consulting and professional services firms. Previously, he held leadership positions in private equity and served as the chief operating officer of Great Harvest Bread Co, a multi-unit operator of bread stores. Tom is the author of Bread and Butter, a critically-acclaimed book that describes his work at Great Harvest and how he and his team created a nationally recognized corporate learning community and culture of best practices using collaborative networks. He has appeared on the pages of Fast Company, Inc Magazine, Newsweek, Business Week, and The Wall Street Journal and speaks widely. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and former Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon.

Doug Fletcher

Doug currently splits his time between speaking/writing/coaching on the topic of business development in consulting and professional services and teaching at the Jake Jabs College of Business & Entrepreneurship at Montana State University. He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Beacon Group, a growth strategy consulting firm headquartered in Portland, Maine. Prior to that, he was co-founder and CEO of North Star Consulting Group, a technology-enabled consulting firm that specialized in global web-survey projects. Earlier in his professional life, Doug served as a consultant with the management consultancy, A.T. Kearney, and was trained at General Electric in its leadership development program. He is a graduate of Clemson University and has an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Administration.


Tom McMakin is an engaging speaker who is passionate about helping expert services professionals be more effective at business development. Invite him to share practical insights into the real-world applications of the 7 Elements framework described in How Clients Buy with your team.


Doug Fletcher works one-on-one with professional service providers to help them achieve their growth objectives.


Clients aren’t sold services. They buy them based on their evaluation of need, resources, capability, and fit. Seven elements must be present before clients are ready to buy: awareness, understanding, interest, belief, trust, ability, and readiness. We’ll help you assess and benchmark your capabilities along these dimensions to improve your business development capacity.


The company that Tom McMakin leads, Profitable Ideas Exchange (PIE), trains “next generation” partners in how to drive business development using reputation, relationships, and referrals. Learn how we think about selling professional services.

Virtual Roundtables

You handpick the executives with whom your team wishes to work. Profitable Ideas Exchange (PIE) recruits and interviews the executives, uncovers unmet needs, briefs your stakeholders, and facilitates compelling conversations.