One question I get asked a lot is how to become a business consultant… Specifically, what strategies, tactics or workflows do you need to put in place in order to successfully open a consulting practice.
Before we get to that – tell me… Is this your story?
Your chair is squeaking. The office manager told you three times he will change it but he hasn’t. You get up and walk to the kitchen, you’re not hungry but that’s the only room in the office with a great view.
You want to take a moment to think but Matt from accounting comes and asks you for some files. He leaves. You get back to your desk and start working. Some coworker drops some files on your desk without saying anything and moves on.
You sigh and look the the motivational poster you have as your PC desktop. You start dreaming about leaving your job and becoming a consultant.
Now, do you think you have what it takes to be a freelance consultant or a consultant for a well-known firm? Do you have the skills required to work with clients and move the needle in their organization?
Here are 7 things that great consultants do for their clients…
Connect The Dots
Being a highly paid consultant means that you can easily identify a problem and provide the solution for that problem quickly. Maybe it’s something you’ve been through yourself or you’ve helped others through – the trick here is experience. If you don’t have experience in the thing you’re consulting about – be it health or business or survival – it’s going to be a long road for you,
Identifying the problem is mainly a skill developed by connecting the dots, going from one issue to another and finding out what’s wrong or what could be better.
Most often, you learn how to connect the dots through work experience, but your own research, study, and passion can help you get there a lot faster in your consulting business.
Your Prospect Pipeline
It’s not enough to call yourself a consultant and let that be that. People won’t flock to your door because you think they should – they do business with you because you’ve got a solution to a problem that they’re experiencing in their life or business right now.
If you want to become a business consultant, you need to have a pipeline of people ready and willing to do business with you.
This, my friend, is harder than it may seem… You might be naturally gifted and you’ve put in the years of work to build up some relationship capital in your area that you can key in on when you’re starting your own consulting business, but that’s not the norm…
More often, people venture into the consulting space because they’re leaving a job they don’t like, meaning they don’t have relationships they can capitalize on.
So, what you’ll need to do is make sure you pipeline is set up…
At minimum, you need:
- A website that talks about the value you provide to the market
- At least one landing page giving away a free lead magnet
- An automated webinar or something running to pull people into your marketing process
- Marketing automation running in the background, sending prospects email and communication pertinent to their situation and the actions they’re taking
- A way to book strategy sessions, so you can start closing.
Synthesizing The Good From The Bad
As a consultant, you will be your client’s best friend, coach, counselor and advisor. It’s a role they pay you for so they can be a better form of themselves. You need to know how to differentiate between the real information and buzz words you hear, both from your client and in the educational material you encounter online.
At the heart of the consultant/client relationship is trust. You need to make sure to have their best interest at heart at all times and that means cutting through a lot of the noise to figure out what they should be doing in their business, what strategies they should be employing, and how to keep them accountable.
The same can be true for clients you’re attracting to you. You’ll get good clients and bad clients. You want to make sure that you’re qualifying prospective clients well so you don’t get stuck in a relationship you hate just because you’re being paid. The trick is to learn what qualities and characteristics you should be looking for in clients so you can model your sales and marketing material and reach your exact customer avatar.
At the end of the day, you wanted out of a regular 9-to-5 job to get freedom. You don’t want to be trapped by clients you don’t like working with.
Time = Money Trap
When you’re working to become a business consulting, nothing is more true than the rule: Time = Money. You’ll spend your days working with clients and the last thing you want is for them to take advantage of you. You need to be very wary about promising too much and not charging enough.
Here’s what I mean – there are 40 hours in a work week. If you have 20 clients who each demand 2 hours of phone time a week, you’re basically maxed out… Between switching between calls, thinking about their problems and possible solutions, and working on your prospect pipeline, you don’t have any time left…
Now, that’s not the path I’d recommend you taking… You want to lessen the Time = Money Trap by doing bi-weekly calls or creating a course to go along with your consulting, so you’re not spending as much time on the phone with them as you would be otherwise. You want to make sure to use your time wisely.
You’ll need a flexible schedule. You might need to delegate and outsource work. You’ll need to be connected and have clear expectations set up on email, Skype, chat and the other ways that clients will contact you.
A great tool that we built to help manage clients and calls is TimeSlots. Your clients can choose when and they want to talk to you, ahead of time. Just follow the instructions and you’ll be able to choose available times and what questions you need them to answer prior to your call!
Even if you’re the best analyst in the business community, to become a business consultant who people want to work with, you also need to be a people person. It’s something that you’ll want to work on from the earliest stage of your consultant career.
… That means that you need to be supportive and punctual in answering email. You need to be good on the phone or in person. You need to be diligent and disciplined in your work schedule. A client won’t be working with you long if they’re too busy trying to track you down in between your beach-going lifestyle.
At the end of the day, people. your clients, will be paying your bills. They’ll be the ones putting your fees on their credit card because the value that you provide their business far surpasses the cost of doing business with you.
Not to mention, as a business consultant, you’ll probably be the one on the phone with them, selling them your services… So, from the time that they’re considering working with you all the way to when they’re in process, your people skills will be what seals the deal.
And if ‘people skills’ isn’t something that you were born with, you’ll want to make sure to get outside of your comfort zone and learn them. It’s important if you want to become a business consultant!
Unless you have 40 years in the business, you’ll hit roadblocks with your client that you won’t know the answer instinctively to… That’s ok. What’s important is that you understand how to ‘learn’ quickly, on the fly, and you can apply what you’ve learned to your client’s business.
Iterative learning is, very simply, knowing that you’ll constantly grow and accumulate knowledge over time. As a business consultant, it’s your job to help your client implement strategies and tactics, and recommend solutions if those don’t work.
Sometimes, those solutions are variations of the original strategy. Sometimes, it might be a different strategy altogether. What’s important is that you learn along the way and gather enough information that you can make a better choice next time.
At the end of the day, researching and applying new tactics should be a priority for every business consultant.
If you’re not going to pay attention to the latest trends and tactics, after a few years you’ll be that guy who does things using default methods and you will start to lose clients in favor of a newer breed of consultants.
When it comes to clients (more specifically, your prospect pipeline) you should make it a priority to understand what projects you can take and what you should leave for others. This is a matter of self-assessing what you do well, analyzing your time schedule and drawing the line when you have too much to deal with.
Learn to prioritize cases and clients. Learn to delegate work to others. If you bite more than you can chew, you’ll start to slowly drift away from your clients and team.
If you want to become a business consultant, you need to constantly stay on your toes, learn new strategies and tactics, and make sure that your prospect pipeline is full at all times.
That way you can break free of what you’re doing right now and start building a scalable career where you work on stuff you live, with people who you want to work with.
If you’d like a hand at putting together your prospect pipeline and strategizing the best types of clients to work with, schedule an action plan call with us!