Posted April 30, 2012 by

Seven Power Questions to Help You Become a Bankable Star

Are you looking to create a demand for yourself, resulting in a nice payday?  If so, there are some questions to ponder, which could help you achieve this goal.

The truth is there are Bankable Stars in almost every industry, notes Andrew Sobel. And when you can become the big name of your market, it will be great for business.
“Just like the Bankable Stars you see in Hollywood, there are advisors and service providers in every market, who like their West Coast brethren are highly sought after and bring in very high fees,” says Sobel, coauthor along with Jerold Panas of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others. “I call them ‘Bankable Advisors.’ Some are individuals and some are firms. Regardless, clients love them.”

“Fortunately, you don’t have to be a global eminence to achieve bankable status,” says Sobel. “Regardless of your profession, in your particular market niche, you can become a Bankable Advisor without the galactic notoriety.

So how do you become a Bankable Advisor who is sought after, earns high fees, and rarely has to go searching for clients because great clients come to you? Here are seven power questions you must ask and answer to move yourself towards bankability in the business world:

1. Do you offer clients utterly consistent quality, again and again? You must build a reputation for consistent delivery, year in and year out.  “On the other hand, I’ve had clients who had so many historic quality issues that they struggled to come up with reliable references when asked for their names by prospects,” notes Sobel. “As a result, their margins have been cut, and they face endless ‘Requests for Proposal.’ They are not bankable! I’ve heard this quality message from dozens of top executives as they’ve talked about their most trusted advisors: ‘You have to deliver, deliver, deliver; and over time, my trust in you builds up.’”

2. Are you a thought leader in your market? Some Bankable Advisors earn their stripes through writing books. “But there are other ways of building a reputation as a thought leader,” says Sobel. “You can achieve this through deep industry focus, for example—by speaking at industry forums, writing articles for professional publications, and being known as the consultant to industry leaders.  You must consistently engage in thought leadership activities over time—you can’t just write one article or hold one breakfast event and then declare victory. If you can produce, every year, a slow but steady stream of thoughtful perspectives on your chosen niche, you will notice a powerful ‘flywheel’ effect that grows every year.”

3. Is your name clearly associated with a powerful value proposition? Like movie stars, Bankable Advisors have a specific value proposition that people associate with them. “Your public value proposition may not define everything you do with clients, but it’s the tip of the spear that you’re best known for,” explains Sobel. “Mine, for example, is ‘Helping companies and individuals develop their clients for life.’ Without a recognizable value proposition, you risk becoming a commodity—just another tradable expert for hire.”

4. Do you have strong name recognition in your market? Bankable Advisors are well known! And in truth, most of them work very hard at getting their name out in the marketplace. When you’re bankable and potential clients in your geographic area, market niche, or industry segment think of your specialty, they think of YOU. “There is a multitude of ways to achieve this type of ‘marketing gravity,’ ranging from publishing to speaking to getting known as the advisor to top leaders in your industry,” says Sobel. “Google your own name—how many citations does it get? However known or unknown you are today, start planning two or three key activities that will increase your name recognition over the next 6-12 months.”

5. Are you selective about the clients you will take on? Bankable Advisors are scarce. When you work for everyone, it dilutes your brand.

6. Are your fees at the top of your field? As a result of (1) through (5), Bankable Advisors are able to charge high fees. But there is more to it than that. “Many researchers have demonstrated that high prices lead to high perceived value,” says Sobel. “Most people think that it’s the other way around—that you deliver high value and then you get high fees. But consider this: When you buy a luxury BMW, you expect it to be fabulous. So on the road to becoming bankable, you enter into a virtuous circle of ever-higher perceived value and fees, with clients experiencing what they expect. One other thing happens: Part of your value comes from the fact that hiring you reduces risk for the person who has retained you.  In other words, you add value just by virtue of your bankable status.”

7. Do you ask the questions? Or are you “grilled” by potential clients who don’t really know who you are? When a film director calls a big star to discuss a potential movie project, who do you think is asking the tough questions? The star is. “The same applies in business,” notes Sobel. And here’s the good news: You don’t have to wait until you’re famous to put yourself in this position—you can do it right now, regardless of where you are in your career. When you’re the one with the thought-provoking, engaging questions in the conversation—be it with a brand new prospect or a longtime client—you immediately move yourself up a notch and gain control of the discussion. You quickly move from being a vendor who takes orders to a proactive, thoughtful advisor who is focused on helping clients achieve their most important goals.”

“Know this: There’s a natural progression of fame that you should expect and enjoy as you strive to become a Bankable Advisor,” says Sobel. “In fact, my coauthor, Jerry Panas, is the perfect example of what happens on this progression. Jerry is the undisputed Bankable Advisor in the field of philanthropy and fundraising. He’s written 13 books. Once, on behalf of a major non-profit client, he even solicited a major gift from the Duchess of Windsor. There is almost no one in the non-profit sector who hasn’t heard of Jerry. No board of trustees will ever be criticized for hiring Jerry and his firm.

“Here’s how the progression of Jerry’s career went:

‘Who’s Jerry Panas?’
‘Get me Jerry Panas!’
‘Get me a Jerry Panas-type!’
‘Get me a young Jerry Panas!’
And someday…‘Who’s Jerry Panas?’

“How far along are you on the progression from unknown expert-for-hire to Bankable Advisor?” asks Sobel. “Regardless of the answer, start thinking about the steps you need to take to move closer to being renowned in your particular market.”

Andrew Sobel is the most widely published author in the world on client loyalty and the capabilities required to build trusted business relationships. His first book, the bestselling Clients for Life, defined an entire genre of business literature about client loyalty. In addition to Power Questions, his other books include Making Rain and the award-winning All for One: 10 Strategies for Building Trusted Client Partnerships.

He can be reached at

Jerry Panas is executive partner of Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, one of the world’s most highly regarded firms in the field of fundraising services and financial resource development. His firm has served over 2,500 client-institutions since its founding in 1968. Jerry’s clients comprise many of the foremost not-for-profit institutions in the world. They include every major university, museum, and healthcare center in the United States. Internationally, Jerry has advised organizations as diverse as the University of Oxford, The American Hospital in Paris, and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos in Mexico, the largest orphanage in the world.

He can be reached at

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