Selling consulting services? How to approach the first meet.
I’ve been lucky enough to have the benefits of being able to pick the brains of multiple CEO’s, MD’s and other decision makers at various levels who have hired the services of many consultants — to a large degree of varying results.
So let’s start with the end in mind putting yourself in the perspective of the decision-maker deciding whether you hire your consultancy services or not; upon meeting with a consultant for the first time it always seems to help if the consultant have walked a mile in the decision-makers shoes beforehand. For example,
- as a CEO who knows what it is like to lose sleep worrying whether you can pay your employees this month,
- a Project Manager who really struggles to find cohesion within multi-disciplined teams or
- an Engineering Manager who is finding it difficult to solve a difficult technical problem.
Do not come over as being superior, but a peer. It is important that you really listen, use your experience and try to help from the get-go. Give away a lot for free and add value. Make them focus on the difference between input and outcomes and make sure that you add-value before you ask for any money. This helps to show your prospective client that you are interested in building a relationship. You need to understand their language and the outcomes that they are looking for. To build a relationship for the long-term you need to concentrate on outcomes and ask them “how do you define success?”
Upon that first meeting you need to have done your homework. You must know your prospective clients customers, know their place in the industry, their corporate culture and ask intelligent questions. How would you feel if the consultants that you’d invited for a meeting turned up no knowing any of the basic information about you company? You do not necessarily have to commit everything to memory but it is a major statement of credibility if you can.
Getting to the details of the inner workings of a business takes time and you probably won’t be expecting to be delving into too much detail in the first meeting. However, if you are an Operational Consultant you will need to know, in detail your topic of expertise and be able to have detailed conversations on a specific issues right off the bat.
It is important to note here that you must not ask any question that can be found by a quick google search on your phone! Use “How” and “Why” question and not “Where” and “When”.
For example, “How do you realise that your customers are not giving you maximum value?” is a great question… you can now engage in conversation. Bring value right from the get-go.
Another example would be “I have looked at your company versus company X, company Y and company Z and here are the differences that I can see… am I understanding your business correctly?” this gives the chance to show you’ve done some research but also given them a chance to retort. Ask the right types of questions and although you may not be the right fit right now there is a chance that they will refer you. Maybe there is an opportunity for you in 3 to 6 months?
Additionally your follow-up contacts need to follow suit and add-value at every opportunity. “We saw this and though of you…”, “there’s an opportunity for you to speak at…”, “we want to bring more people to see you who can help with…” Do not be transnational, add value.