Customer Needs Research


2. Knowing your Clients

To build a successful consulting business you must identify your clients, speak their language, know their high-value problems and engage them.

Before you start working with any client you must have an image of your “perfect client” and how you will help them. You must have a proven system guides cold leads into becoming engaged prospects who turn into happy clients.

Identify Your Clients

To find your prospects and fill your pipeline, you must know how to identify and find your prospects. Following the Critical to Success Fill Your Pipeline System in Stage 4 may leave you with tens of thousands of potential leads in your niche(s). You can’t go cold-calling and knocking on all their doors, nor would you want to. You need to know how to identify the exact highly-qualified prospects that fit the profile of your perfect client.

As a consultant it is a waste of money to advertise on television or in a magazine. Advertising there is advertising to a general market. Businesses that advertise to general markets use a marketing avatar that identifies their leads by personality attributes such as their age, marital status, the car they drive, the sports they like, etc. They appeal with a broad psychological appeal like “Keep your children safe by driving a Volvo.”

This approach rarely works for consulting. For one thing, as an independent professional you probably don’t have the massive funds necessary to appeal to a mass market. A far better approach is to identify and talk directly to the people matching your Client Profile. 

The Client Profile you create needs to answer descriptive questions such as the client’s industry, job title, job function, company size, industry associations or groups, etc. When you create a Client Profile with these exacting descriptions you can pull perfect prospects from Google, LinkedIn, and LinkedIn Navigator.

The Critical to Success Client Profile prompts you for the client criteria that helps you search Google, LinkedIn, and LinkedIn Navigator for your perfect prospect and their company.

Discovering High-Value Client Problems

Once you know how to identify your perfect prospect you can learn their pains and gains –the troubles they face and what they want to achieve. This takes “empathy” and research.

You need to talk to prospects about the problems already in their mind. These are the problems that keep them awake at night – the problems that are already on their minds and that they would pay to get rid of.

When you talk to prospects about their high-value problems and show them you know solutions they sit up, pay attention, and ask you how soon you can start work.

Engage prospects with the problems already in their mind.

One of the quickest and easiest ways to get an overview of the pains and gains for a niche is to look through discussions in industry and association forums, look through tables of contents in Amazon’s lists of popular books for the niche, and searching Google for niche-specific blogs. Critical to Success gives you step-by-step guides on the best and fastest ways to create a list of high-value problems for your niche.

When testing your Minimum Viable Consulting Service and later in Later in Stage 4, Filling Your Client Pipeline, and you can talk directly with prospects using the “wide, then deep” approach to learn their highest value problems.

Mapping Your Client's Journey from Lead to Prospect to Client

Clients complete a journey from unaware lead, to interested prospect, to highly-engaged prospect, and finally to client. Understanding their Client Journey and how you can move prospects through it faster is critical to your success and to helping them solve their problem. 

Helping clients move quickly through the Client Journey helps them solve their problems and helps you accelerate revenue.

As a consultant it’s important for you to know that you aren’t “selling” a prospect and forcing them to buy your solution. Instead you are guiding them on a journey to the solution that will help their business. To get to that solution they need they have to go through multiple stages.

In most cases it is up to you to give an enticing offer and Call to Action to help your prospects move through the stages in the Client’s Journey. Prospects can be held back at each stage by lack of trust, lack of clarity, confusion over alternatives, and so on. It is up to you to make an enticing offer and a Call to Action that moves them to the next stage in their journey.

Guiding prospects through this journey is significantly easier when you use the Critical to Success Client Journey Map to identify each stage, your best channel of communication, the prospect’s obstacle, and so on. Critical to Success members receive examples of some of the most common Client Journey’s and the offers and Calls to Action that work.

Consulting Checklist:
Know Your Clients

Know your clients, their problems, their journey from pain to gain, and the Calls to Action that move them forward on their journey.

Create Your Core

  • Create a Client Profile of your top three ideal customers, how to identify them, the channels they use, their pains and their gains. Use the Critical to Success Client Profile worksheet to guide you
  • Use Google and LinkedIn searches to confirm there are enough leads in your niche. (In Stage 4 search for specific prospects.)
  • Create a Client Journey map with Calls to Action to plan how you move leads to prospects to clients. Use the Critical to Success Client Journey map template and Calls to Action checklist.

Quick Wins

  • Reach out to your professional contacts, co-workers, meetup connections, and friends and let them know you are consulting and the type of clients you are looking for
  • Research the high-value problems in your niches
  • Create a Minimum Viable Consulting Service (MVCS)​
  • Talk to a few prospects and listen to their responses to your MVCS
  • Confirm that clients will pay for the MVCS

Expand and Refine

  • Continue interviewing and “coaching” clients to refine your MVCS
  • Expand the Minimum Viable Consulting Service into a full product
  • Create offers and Calls to Action for each stage in the Client Journey

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