As a consultant, you may think your compensation centers around your expertise. In fact, expertise is just one of the ways you create value. While you should strive to become a better expert, there are six often-neglected areas of consulting where a little focus can reap big rewards.
Let’s dive in.
What your client thinks is the problem often isn’t. I had a client who was sure he was one advertisement away from getting his new business off the ground.
I pressed for clarity: “If you already had the best ad running, what would you do next? Who on your team and what resources do you have to support the influx of new customers you’ll get?”
This client was no slouch. He had built a thirty-million-dollar empire in his last business.
Yet, all businesses suffer the same problem. You can’t read the label from the inside of the jar. Clarity comes from objectivity, and objectivity requires an outsider perspective.
The client responded, “Good point. What do you recommend instead?”
“When you solved similar problems like this in the past, how’d you do it?”
“I outsourced it to a third party since we didn’t have the internal capabilities.”
“Do you have a budget for this project?”
“Can you create a budget for this to ensure it actually gets done?”
“How about I just throw $100,000 at it and put a project manager on it.”
“Though not the most elegant solution, that could work. With a bit of planning, we can do even better. You want to explore that right now?”
The client usually has solved a similar problem in the past. Your role is to figure out how, and then have the client do it again with the current problem.
Notice I didn’t come up with the solution. I had the client realize he already knew the solution, and worked to apply it to the current situation.
Clients get stuck. Your goal is to create movement. For many clients, that is worth much more than what they pay you.
Most problems are solved with a who not a how.
As a consultant, you amass connections. Even if you’re just starting, you can use connections to land your first client.
Who do you know that delivers results? Write to them:
“Hi [name]. I’m starting to consult on [subject]. I anticipate a lot of my clients might benefit from your [service]. Is it okay if I refer them over to you and if so, what’s the best way?”
The person you’re contacting might actually need help with the consulting you provide. Or, they may know someone. Since you’ve offered help first, reciprocation compels a return favor.
If you get a response, follow up with this:
“Oh, and if there’s something you need help with, I have quite the rolodex of top-notch experts. Let me know if you need any recommendations.”
When connecting two people together, use this approach:
“Hey, I have someone who needs help with ________. Would it be okay if I send them to you? I do consulting, and one of the ways I help clients is finding the right vendors who I think can best solve their problems…”
The American Society of Training and Development found that you have a 65% chance of realizing your goal if you commit it to someone else. Add a formal, written commitment, and your chances jump to 95%.
Most goals fail because they aren’t “right-sized.” It’s easy to set unrealistic goals when you’re only accountable to yourself. You think more critically if you have to share your goal.
Pearson’s law states: “That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.”
Leaders are often accountable to no one. Providing accountability is often the greatest value you provide as a consultant.
Re-examining Conventional Wisdom
In 2007, Nokia owned over 50% of the mobile phone market. That same year the iPhone launched. Nokia didn’t adapt, and now has only a 1.1% market share.
As Dan Sullivan says, “The skills that got you out of Egypt aren’t the same skills that will get you to the promised land.”
Here are three questions you can ask clients to accomplish this:
- “What is a strategy you’re still using that needs updating?”
- “What’s something that was once thriving and now isn’t?”
- “What is your company still doing that you know it shouldn’t?”
I’ve worked with thousands of companies ranging in size from hundred-thousand dollars to billions. I can tell you this: Confidence is rarely connected to revenue. The culprit is Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is the fear that your accomplishments have been gained under false pretenses.
Common traits of Imposter Syndrome include:
- irrational fear of failure
- discounting of praise
- undermining of personal achievement
Research estimates 70 percent of us have felt like imposters at one point, and 40 percent of successful people consider themselves frauds.
Simply emboldening a client to act, who otherwise would remain paralyzed, is valuable. By telling a client an idea is okay to move forward with, you can save them days, weeks and months of wasted deliberation.
What’s that worth?
The Intangibles Money Can’t Buy
My wealth advisor’s primary role is helping me manage, protect and grow my assets. He does a fine job with my money. But where he shines is in the intangibles.
He researches, finds and interviews other professionals for me, even those unrelated to my assets. When I asked him about the financial implications of buying a new property, he also pulls alternative properties for me to consider.
As a consultant, you get to decide the rules. If a client hates negotiating a new vehicle purchase… you can do it for them. It may have nothing to do with your consulting service, but if done for the right client, it will leave a greater impression than any amount of direct expertise ever could.
There are many basic human skills you possess that others lack. Some love to schmooze while others detest it. Some are extraverts, others introverts. If you can easily do something for a client that they find near impossible, then do it, even if it’s completely unrelated to your consulting.
This will result in happier clients who stay with you longer, pay you more money and send you more referrals.
By using these six strategies in your consulting business, you can more confidently sell your services and provide better services without becoming better in your area of expertise.