The livelihood of an independent consultant is based upon their ability to seek, obtain and serve clients.
The following strategies are designed to be effective in developing and building business for the consultant and his clients.
- Plan, don’t just react With planning you control the outcome. With reacting the outcome controls you.
- Never Assume Don’t assume a lot of prior knowledge. If you must use jargon, explain it. The first time you use an acronym, explain it.
- KISS! Keep it simple, stupid Always write a Business Plan with the most uninformed member of your audience in mind.
- Know your USP and talk the talk Unless you have a USP, you cannot charge premium rates. You need to differentiate yourself. Why should someone use you rather than another person? This reason is your edge. Always have an ‘elevator speech in mind’ describing what you do should be results orientated rather than process related.
- Come across as a success Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. You need to look the part, speak the part and act the part. Enthusiasm is contagious, and can certainly help make a sale. You need to be conditioned to success, not failure. There are those people to make things happen. There are those people things happen to. And there are those people who wonder what has happened. In which category do you want to be? Everything you do moves you in a certain direction. You need to make sure that, to the greatest possible extent, what you do moves you in the direction of success.
- Be clear on your positioning. Make everything you do support it You are positioned in a prospect’s mind as an unknown. You need to build on that and the only way to do so is by earning it. The key point is that you are positioned differently with different members of your audience.
- Know the customers and put their interests first Having a good understanding of your client or prospect is a key success factor in your role as an independent consultant. You need a good idea of who you would your customer to be. When you get a prospect identify the goal and ask yourself “what do I have to do to get there?” and do it.
- Promote what you do relevantly and effectively Initially build on good experience. Merge in good presentational and communication skills and you’re on your way. Start delivering and you’ll make a name for yourself. Next you must find a good way to get the message in front of the right people.
- Keep in touch – don’t loose track A well known fact is that many sales are not completed on the first call. It’s not so well known that many sales are not completed until the 13th call. So you need to keep in touch – without being a nuisance. If you are involved in a communication, never assume that it got there simply because you sent it.
- Demonstrate commitment and reliability The only way to build credibility for what you offer is to make every experience of dealing with you positive and unforgettable. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver; exceed their expectations; result is everything and the process is nothing; ‘there is no “try”, only “do” or “not do.”’ You can build more creditability by showing interest in your client by sending press clippings, asking for their expert advice, obtain testimonials, and be a connector in your networking activity. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem and people will want to talk to you.Finally solve problems intelligently by using open questions. Don’t say “could you put me through?” say “what would be the best way for me to talk to….?”
- Make your client or prospect special Here you have to schmooze the client by taking a personal interest in them e.g. identify their hobby and talk about that, invite them to a special event. Write a thank you note. Remember a good relationship with the client is more important than doing great work and having a lousy relationship.
- Handle different relationships appropriately The ladder of goodwill helps to identify your action to move your target up the ladder.
- Involve your client in your work By involving your clients in what you do, you build a sense of ownership. This not only bonds the relationship, it also provides a useful ally. When you present the work your ally will sell it for you because you are a team. Make sure that the ultimate client (decision maker) is in the loop. Always talk up the benefits, not the features. If you come up against a barrier to progressing ask “What do we have to do to solve this/get this off the ground?”
- Ask for feedback, evaluations and referrals On an ongoing basis update the client on your work (even if it’s bad news), ask for feedback and evaluations and involve their colleagues. Be a good loser and maintain the relationship. Finally, if you screw up, own up. If you have a good relationship an error will be accepted.
- Analyse your business Conduct periodic sales analysis, client profitability, margin per hour etc. Analyse to identify when contribution can be increased.
- Handle money issues carefully and well Pricing should be based on the uniqueness of your offering, quality, impact on the client’s business, speed of delivery and degree of customisation. Quote by the job and not by the hour. Think about extras that could be charged separately beyond your fee – travel, expenses, postage, telephone etc. Have a conversation with the client about billing – how to get paid promptly. Agree a fee in advance and bill in stages with an immediate element.