For many years, I’ve been involved in the digital consulting business. It’s a great way to make supplemental income when you run an online business or any type of business for that matter.
As a consultant you are telling and showing others how to do what you know how to do, generally from personal experience once you have mastered something.
This is different than a contractor. A contractor is a “hands on” outsourced employee that is paid a salary or hourly. They are not always experts in a particular field and may be learning parts of it as they go.
9 Steps to Effectively Sell Digital Consulting Services:
- Have an Actual Expertise
- Have a Proven Track Record
- Have an Actual Network to Tap Into
- Stop Pitching and Start Adding Value
- Don’t Work for Free
- Offer a Result Based Service
- Constantly “Sell” Your Own Advice
- Weed Out Good Clients from Bad Clients
- Reach Out to Your Network, Incentivize It
Step 1: Have An Actual Expertise
Having an actual expertise is important too. On top of being able to show your success, having a speciality in a specific field is extremely important.
Nobody is going to buy general consulting services unless your name is Tony Robbins or the likes. And even Anthony has very specific specialities that he taps into.
Write down 1-5 (3 is my sweet spot) of items that you feel you are an expert in. You don’t want to confuse prospects with too many choices. I like to have 3 options of what I’m offering to clients. Sometimes I will only offer a client 1 specific service if I already know what they need, and I usually do.
Knowing what your prospective client needs before you talk to them is a great way to have a leg up against everyone else pitching them. A confused web product owner for example, might have no idea what to do to fix their website conversions or increase their revenue. As a consultant, you better have an idea before talking to them.
Step 2: Have a Proven Track Record and Testimonials
A lot of people think that consultants are washed up losers that don’t have any success and try to pawn off second rate consulting services that they don’t know anything about.
While this can be true, it’s certainly not always true.
Make sure to have an actual expertise, with a proven track record before you start consulting. It makes selling your services so much easier.
Testimonials, Making the Inc. 500 list (like I have for my consulting company), and even Referrals from business partners or people that know you well are valid ways to prove your track record.
Testimonials are also a great way to help sell without aggressive pitching. If you have a testimonial from a credible and verified person, it’s much easier to sell your consulting service.
A good testimonial mentions specific results that you helped get the client. You have to understand that a company will always take some of the credit but don’t let that deter you from using the testimonial.
Any specific mention of you helping them increase something is always good. Aim to get the testimonial from the CEO or a very high-level executive at the company.
Step 3: Have an Actual Network to Tap Into
The biggest mistake of consultants is immediately going outside of their network before they have used their network.
It’s much harder to close deals with strangers vs people you know or have already done business with.
The last thing you want to do is make new contacts AND try to sell them at the same time. This takes a long time, and without warming them up, you need a flawless pitch with a very public track record.
It’s far superior to build your network before you need your network.
Inevitably if you are building your network and selling them at the same time it’s going to be harder than if you had already established contacts.
Step 4: Stop Pitching and Start Adding Value
You may hear this a lot, but I have a great way of explaining what this really means.
People often get confused and think that for some reason “adding value” before you ask for any money means working for free. That’s absolutely not the case.
For example, when I take a call with someone that could potentially be a consulting client, I don’t start pitching them my services.
In fact, I do the exact opposite. I start asking a ton of questions about their business, the problems they may be facing, and I start giving solutions to how they can expand, increase revenue, grow traffic, gain customers, etc.
This loosens people up and makes them comfortable with you because you are already helping them rather than directly selling them.
Often times consultants can have a track record of being aggressive and really pushy with their pitches. It’s a breath of fresh air when a consultant doesn’t “pitch” and instead focuses on the potential clients business.
Step 5: Don’t Work for Free
The reality is that nobody should be working for free. It’s not a mutually beneficial deal. I believe that an “exchange” has to take place to allow others to really feel invested into a deal.
I don’t know many consultants that have worked for free that have put in a great deal of energy or effort into a client. That’s just how it is. It’s a one-way relationship if someone is gaining and the other is not.
But what about experience gain? Yes, this is true, but that’s for the newbie consultants, not the rockstars. And you don’t want to be a newbie forever, so you need to be paid. I don’t know any rockstar consultants that work for free, how could they?
Go ask Tony Robbins if you can get “a few free hours” this month.
Lastly, don’t do detailed samples or provide 100-page “plans” before you work with a client. They are paying for your knowledge and expertise, don’t let them convince you to give it up for free with a vague promise of something down the road.
As Step 4 suggests, you can provide some value before you officially begin a contract, but don’t “work for free” beyond that email/call.
Step 6: Offer a Result Based Service
This is what I do, I offer a result based service. I don’t work for free, and they are paying for results, not for my time. I don’t clock in and clock out, or keep track of hours when I work with clients. In fact, I generally end up working so many hours that it would be a nightmare to even do that.
What I do instead is that I make my services results based. If they make $5 million additional profit that year, they are going to be VERY happy paying me $300,000. Whereas if they make $0 they aren’t going to be happy paying $300,000.
There always has to be a mutual exchange, never start or do any services without a clear exchange and contract. This also does not mean a “percentage deal” where you only take a percentage when you get results.
Clients often seem to think that a good consultant would be happy to take a backend, “pay later” percentage deal if they believe in their services…
The problem with this idea is that a high demand client is also building a business where cash is king, so if you aren’t offering to pay anything until way down the road, that consultant can often find a better client elsewhere without the risk of you not paying or having to wait an extended period.
Again, go ask Tony Robbins if he will do a “percentage deal” with you. Unless you have some insane credibility, track record, the answer is probably going to be “no” if you are even lucky enough to get a serious response.
Step 7: Constantly “Sell” Your Own Advice
I’ve had clients that I gave the exact same guidance to as another and one made tons of money, gained tons of clients, tons of traffic/sales, and the other got absolutely nothing. That was because the latter failed to do anything I told them and argued with me about every step.
They were trying to be the expert, yet they were not the expert, I was.
I have to constantly “sell” what I am teaching clients. That’s because if I don’t sell it, they won’t do it and then they won’t get anything out of it.
A great tip here is to explain to them how a similar strategy worked for another client and what their results were.
As a good consultant, you have to become an expert in getting clients to do what you tell them because after all you are the expert!
What if a client doesn’t do what you say? Fire them! And next time get better at weeding out good clients from bad clients.
Step 8: Weed Out Good Clients from Bad Clients
This was one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned about getting consulting clients. At first, I would try to “sell myself” but then after many deals I realized that I also had to make them sell me on why we should work together.
I would ask questions like “If I gave you an exact strategy that was guaranteed to make your business $1 million more this year, if you did exactly what I say, would you do it?” to warm them up to the idea of listening to me, since after-all I’m the expert in the particular field and they are not.
Having a client that listens vs a client that doesn’t listen means the difference between a very short term low paying deal and a very long term extremely lucrative deal for all parties involved.
Step 9: Reach Out to Your Network, Incentivize It
Last but not least, make sure to incentivize your network to help you find prospects. I typically like to offer a 10-20% referral fee to my network .That means if they introduce me to someone that ends up purchasing a consulting package, I cut them a check for 10-20% of my proceeds.
This incentive angle also helps make sure that your network pre-sells you to their friends and contacts rather than some useless introduction.
I find that if you don’t offer something to your network, they won’t really pitch you very well. Instead, they will just say: “My friend Brian wants to pitch you a consulting package, he’s a good guy” rather than give any benefits or warm them up to me before introducing.
You want your network to give benefits of what you do, rather than say you want to pitch them something or that it’s expensive.
Instead, I would much rather have my network say to their contacts: “Brian helped me grow my website traffic 2,000%, increased conversions 22% and my revenue increased 15x this year thanks to him, he’s a traffic, conversion and monetization ninja – let me introduce you.”
That’s a perfect short form lead in for me to take it from there. And they are warmed up to what I do, increase website traffic, conversions and revenue in this case.
I hope these 9 steps have helped you see how to position your consulting services better and a good plan of attack to start going about it.
If you have any questions, as always, leave them in the comments below!
Brian is an Inc. 500 Entrepreneur, who built the 25th fastest growth marketing and advertising agency in America. Brian is an advisor to many startups and mentor to many entrepreneurs. He is a columnist at the world’s top publications. Brian is the Founder of Influencive and the Founder at BDE Ventures.