The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Building Your Consulting Business
Strategies, Tactics, and Tools to
Help You Build a Thriving Consulting Business
Selling Consulting Services
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Consultants are experts in their field of experience. They love to use their skills and knowledge to help solve clients' problems. But most consultants I've known hate the the "sales" process.
We often view selling our services as forcing someone to buy something they don't really need. If we change our mindset and realize that we are helping clients solve a pain or improve, and then we use our native consultative question and answer processes, selling our services becomes almost fun. (And, very rewarding.)
fall into the Feast-or-Famine cycle.
From Lead to Prospect to Client
Connecting with leads and then not engaging with them is an effort in futility and waste. It is like greeting someone on the street and then turning your back on them when they say "Hi."
I get connection requests every week from people that look interesting. I respond to them and then the communication goes dead. "They reached out to me and all they do is connect - there is no response. There is no engagement." It always surprises me.
For some people, building a big list of contacts seems to be more important than creating a valued relationship.
It is far better to have a small list of ideal prospects that you engage with and nurture than to have bragging rights to a large list of people who don't remember you.
Building a big LinkedIn or email list and
not engaging people in the list can build your ego,
but it won't build your wallet.
You need a clear roadmap of how you will engage prospects, nurture them, and convert them to clients. One proven way to do this is to move new contacts into an email sequence that delivers value they want. If you are working with new LinkedIn contacts move them as quickly as possible out of LinkedIn and onto your email list.
Try to make all prospect and client engagements a two-way value exchange. Don’t think about how you can sell them. Instead, think about ways you can help them and give them value such as white papers, industry trend forecasts, high-value newsletters, short webinars, etc.
The Client Journey
If you are going to help your prospects solve their pain they must become a client. That means you have to help them move down the Client Journey.
To do that you must know the prospect’s needs, pains, and psychological triggers. Knowing and using psychological triggers is not “sales trickery” if you are helping people solve their pain.
A great consultant is no different than a doctor or healer who understands their patient’s pain and wants to heal them.
You have a duty to help clients get better. It is no different than a doctor’s duty to heal a patient. To do that you need to turn them from lead to prospect to client.
You don't need magic or sparkling personality to
turn leads into clients.
There is a proven system that consistently
converts prospects into clients.
Setting the Client Meeting and Agenda
Cold, hard, sales techniques have never worked for me and don’t seem to work for most consultants. What does work very effectively is just talking with the prospect about their vision, their problems, the consequences, and what they have tried as solutions.
If you have built your authority and you have the prospect's trust, the conversation seems to naturally progress into “When can you get started working on this.”
Have you ever watched world-class athletes like Simon Biles do her super-human gymnastic routines or Rafael Nadal slide across a tennis court to return a winning tennis shot? They make it look so easy and natural. They look like they were born to it.
They practiced and practiced and practiced. They knew exactly what their strategy and tactics would be. They developed mental and muscle memory of what they needed to do.
You need to do the same to be consistent about winning your consulting engagements. You want to walk into a meeting relaxed but know how you want it to go.
Before any client meeting where you might propose an engagement you must go through the same steps we guide our students through,
Know the pains and problems for the industry
Use Google, Quora, Redditt, and industry forums to research probable problems.
Research the prospect’s specific problems
Review local and online newspapers for information about the prospect and the people you might be meeting. Check their profiles on LinkedIn.
Map a Client Meeting Agenda
Know which of the four types of meetings you expect and be prepared for it.
Create a PAES Map like the type we use in the course
Know how to guide the discussion from pain to solutions. PAES combined with consultative selling does this perfectly. (PAES is described at the end of this stage.)
Do Not Discuss Your Methods Until the Prospect Becomes a Client
Talk about the prospect’s vision, their problems, the consequences, and what the future could be. Talk about what you have done for others in the same situation, but don’t talk about your “XYZ Handout” and your “Very Cool Sticky Note Brainstorming Methodology.”
Selling Consulting Services
This whole process during the meeting uses “consultative selling.” This is nothing more than understanding your client’s pain and asking a set of well-structured questions. The questions explore the client’s needs, show the potential for additional problems and pains, build rapport with empathy, and then build a vision of your solution.
It is up to you to help a prospect move through the Client Journey. Prospects can be held back at each stage by lack of trust, lack of clarity, and confusion over alternatives. Understanding their journey, their hesitations and the triggers that make them move will help you turn them into clients so you can heal their pain.
Marketers usually think of the Client Journey in four steps, Attract, Engage, Nurture, and Convert. A great metaphor for the marketer’s Client Journey is a bridge. The steps of Attract, Engage, and Nurture are a natural part of Stage 4 and Stage 5, but Conversion comes hard for most consultants.
The problem with using just the marketer’s bridge is that prospects often balk at saying “Yes!” and consultants are hesitant about pushing for the sale at the end of the bridge.
You need to know what you are going to do in the closing conversation.
Preparing for the Closing Conversation
At the Convert stage you need to go through a final short closing. In the Starting and Building a Thriving Consulting Business course we practice this last step using a PAES table as a structure for the closing conversation.
One consultant who used PAES for the first time said,
“I used to feel nervous in the first client meeting. Now I feel confident and
I know how to move the conversation along
until the prospect asks to become my client.”
The GREAT thing about using a PAES table to prepare for meeting with a prospect is that it makes it easy to talk with the prospect and lead them into the Convert stage of the Customer Journey. Numerous consultants, new and experienced, have told me how PAES helps them prepare for a client conversation.
To learn more about the sales conversation structure and conversation, read...
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Ultimate Guide to Starting a Consulting Business