Allow me to preface this Sales Tip by assuring you that I didn't just fall off the 'sales turnip truck' yesterday. I know people will more readily take action and spend money due to fear or to fix problems, rather than to improve what they consider to be an "acceptable status quo". More people go to the doctor because they're sick than for pure preventative reasons.
But any HR person that's frustrated with their status - either in the eyes of their employer or in the eyes of prospective clients - should do a self-examination and see if they're a real downer compared to all the other resources an employer or prospective client has available.
Is the CFO always negative? Shouldn't be. S/he CAN fix problems, but they're there to drive the business financially.
Does the VP of IT known have a buzz-kill reputation? Probably not. He CAN fix problems, but he's there to drive productivity.
I found an HR website that touts a link on their home page of "Take Our Risk Assessment Survey". You go to it and it has 24 questions, obviously stacked in a manner that answering any of them with a "No" should hopefully make the survey taker cringe with fear. And yet any Business Owner who answered 90% of them "No", is quite probably getting by and isn't at huge risk. Business Owners are sick and tired of just hearing negative things about employment. (One of the assessment questions was, "Does your company consistently discipline your employees?" Geez ... What kind of answer were they looking for there? "Yes, we spank them daily!")
One HR sales professional told me something she learned years back early in her career. The owner of a business she would have loved to have as a client told her upon receiving her proposal, "If you had showed me today how I could make more money with your services, or save money with them, you would have had my undivided attention. But you have not done that today."
I'd venture to say that guy speaks for every small business owner in America. Granted, the expertise side of HR (as opposed to the commodity products side) is harder to sell, because it's all about future revenues or expenses - future revenue increases; future customers retained; future turnover reductions; future long term cost containment; future lawsuits avoided; future fines avoided; and future increases in business productivity. It's not as easy or measurable as immediately saving $xx dollars on some HR function or product.
But think about this: While the two things above that included "avoidance" (compliance related) is without a question valuable, it's almost impossible to prove that something we do/did now actually prevented a problem from happening in the future. You can't prove a negative.
So while we chose a profession that has a lot regulation and compliance associated with it, expanding our focus to concentrate on the other "futures" in my list above will move HR in the direction of being greeted with a welcoming smile "at the management table" and being seen as a business-driving resource. Not doing so will continue to have us received with an "Aw crap! HR's here. They're just going to tell us what we can't do."