Early on in my consulting career, I just could not wrap my head around the idea of putting on a “sales hat”.
I avoided any words, body language or presentations that would give the slightest inkling that I was selling.
After all, I was a consultant, not a salesman.
The mere thought of being categorized as such made me nauseous.
I’m guessing you can relate.
Maybe the idea of making a “pitch” puts a pit in your stomach. Or, you’re probably worried about coming across as too pushy, salesy or fake.
Either way, selling just feels wrong to you.
Wouldn’t it be great if customers would just realize how good you are without having to put on a show?
Definitely, but hope alone won’t build your business.
You’ll have to eat the sales frog at some point if you want to make serious money.
Everybody sells, they just sell differently
Without sales, there’s no revenue. And, without revenue there’s no business.
Every business owner must sell to achieve their financial goals, consultants or otherwise. This is an iron law.
But, not everybody has to sell the same way.
A jeweler at Tiffany’s in New York City would certainly take a different approach than a used car salesman in Albuquerque.
After all, they sell completely different products to (likely) very different customers.
So, how can you sell your consulting services with feeling like you need to take a shower?
By giving customers what they want.
Buyers buy, they aren’t sold to
The big mistake I see a lot of folks make when selling consulting is that they focus on how they want to sell rather than how customers want to buy.
As I wrote before, there is a discrete buying process that each client goes through from defining a problem to signing a contract. And, they very much like to be in control of it.
They’ll gather as much information as possible to decide which consultants and solutions will deliver the best results at the lowest risk.
Being overly pushy or trying to rush can easily lose a deal for you.
Your job then is to give your customers the best advice, transparency and support they need to speed up the process and make a decision.
To win more business then, you simply have to provide an outstanding buying experience by being what you are: a consultant.
The formula for creating this buying experience is ridiculously simple:
Be Insightful, Be Honest, Be Responsive, Deliver Well
That’s all there is to it.
Being insightful means bringing ideas and experiences to the table. Clients are always looking for a fresh perspective.
Often, they are too close to the problem or facing it for the first time. That’s exactly what they need consultants for.
What have you seen at other clients? Are there any pitfalls, problems or other risks? How can they avoid them? What options do they have? Is the problem they see really THE problem?
As a former boss of mine once said: “You’ve got to bring the meat!” Focus on solving your client’s problems, not the sale.
Meet with buyers face-to-face whenever possible and don’t wait for an invitation to bring them a great idea. You’ll be seen as a strategic partner and not somebody just schlepping services.
Experience and well thought-out, objective insights trump glossy brochures and bullet points every time.
Be articulate and provide any supporting content you can whether it’s a case study, article or quick write-up.
Helping your clients to understand how they can improve isn’t selling. It’s partnering.
[bctt tweet=”When selling consulting, experience and insight will trump glossy brochures every time.”]
Being honest means you are prepared to talk openly about project risks, the downside, the upside, probabilities, caveats etc.
Pushy sales pe0ple overcome objections by turning their customer’s attention to other glitzy features and benefits.
Consultants address the issues.
Every project has risks, and most buyers know this upfront. Do not minimize these. Simply explain why they aren’t show stoppers or how you can overcome them using past experience.
Handle any objections calmly and with confidence.
Don’t be afraid to say “no“. If you can’t deliver what a client is asking for (or, don’t want to), then just say so.
Most people will see right through you when you are hiding something. You can wreck not only the opportunity but your reputation as well.
And your reputation always precedes you.
Being responsive means getting back to clients right away.
When you respond quickly, people assume you are professional and in-control. When you don’t, they view you as overwhelmed or unprepared.
Did they ask for a proposal? Get it to them tomorrow.
Did they ask for a case study? Send it the minute you reach your desk.
Return phone calls and emails promptly, and with aplomb.
Few things impact your personal brand more than your responsiveness.
Advice: always be writing case studies, articles, white papers or whatever you can to further cement your expertise into your clients mind.
Have information on the ready and you’ll move like lightning. This post will tell you what content you need and when.
Delivering well is the seed of any consulting business. You have to back up your brand promise with results.
The more projects you succeed with, the more experience you gain and the better insight you can provide.
With more experience you can build an impressive list of references, publish books, write case studies and get invited to speaking events.
All of these things can sell for you. They inspire customers confidence and make it easier to hire you.
I’m telling you now: Nothing generates more sales than doing great work.
Bonus Tip! Have other people sell for you!
The easiest way to find new business is to have somebody else bring it to you. And, that’s done by getting referrals.
When you follow the formula above and, create an outstanding buying experience followed by delivering great results, clients will sell for you.
They’ll be happy to tell others about their wonderful experience and keep you top of mind for their next project. This builds your brand and positions you for bigger deals.
Repeat business and referrals speed up the sales cycle and keep your pipeline full with less prospecting.
What’s could be better than that?
Consulting is actually a pretty simple business.
You don’t need elaborate sales pitches, special offers or a give-away.
If you just master your craft, provide value and build good relationships you’ll immediately move to the front of the pack.
Have some other tips for closing more consulting business without a hard sell? Post them in the comments below or send me a note!