This is a special edition for our consultants who have just taken the big leap into the independent consulting world
By Sonesh Prakash (A consultant with IndusGuru)
So, you have taken the leap of faith and started an independent consulting career. You have left that cushy job behind you and taken the path of uncertainty and in all probability – delayed gratification. You are willing to forgo the charms of a present monthly salary for a much higher future business income while doing what you love to do. Pat yourself for that!!
So, let’s help you come close to your objective of building a steady business income through your practice.
While some of you might possess sales and marketing experience, this article is for the many who aren’t exposed to the same.
Let’s begin with the most common insecurity when you start as an independent consultant. I am sure some of you (especially from a non-sales or marketing background) would have had this recurring thought, “I have worked in senior roles for the most of my corporate life and I never had to proactively scout for new business. I am a bit clueless about how I network, approach new clients and attractively pitch myself in meetings. Also, I am not the most enthusiastic about cold calling”.
So, as an independent consultant, you just can’t escape from the fact that you have to effectively network and sell yourself to get more business. You wouldn’t have the luxury of leveraging on the credibility of the brand, you once represented, while you were working in your corporate life. Even your past professional acquaintances would not necessarily treat you the same they did while you were working with a brand.
However, with time, I can guarantee that most of you would learn to conduct ourselves fairly well, even in complex scenarios which will challenge your sales competencies. In an endeavor to help you communicate and position yourself better, in part 1 of this series, I shall discuss how to ensure an engaging conversation with your prospective client while in a meeting.
If you want to improve on your chances at winning new business during a conversation, pay attention to these 3 points:
- Develop an affinity:
Your clients would buy your services only when they buy into you first. So, before you explicitly talk business, engage in a brief small talk which may include pleasantries comments about their office, their company or their attire, etc. This helps break the ice. Don’t sound artificial though. And remember the cardinal rule – Listen more and talk less in a conversation. The 80:20 Pareto rule works like magic in meetings, where you proactively listen to 80 percent of the time to your client. It also ensures that you come across as empathetic to your client.
- Try to know what your client aspires to achieve through his business:
Ask questions which makes the client explicitly share their larger goals for the business. Once you get a macro picture, you can open more vistas for you as a consultant than what you were initially called for. For eg, Even when a prospective client calls me to discuss a specific marketing brief, I often probe them in detail on the reason of the brief, only to realize that there are more avenues of engagement possible which weren’t explicitly shared in their objectives.
- Share your value proposition clearly:
Once you understand the client’s needs and wants, you should share concrete thoughts on how you can help them achieve their business goals. Try to include measurable metrics to quantify your efforts and subsequent achievement of their business goals. This also helps build trust. For eg, I work as a marketing consultant for startups and SME’s and am often quizzed on possible ROI figures (through digital marketing efforts) in the first meeting itself. It helps that I usually arm myself with some preliminary research data around the company and their industry, in terms of ROI benchmarks which can be extrapolated.
Goal with this series is to make you a more efficient independent consulting professional. Keep watching this space for my next article on how can you use your latent ability to pen your thoughts to your advantage.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author and do not reflect the position or official policy of IndusGuru Network Partners
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