Consulting For Dummies
If you’ve decided to become a consultant, stay ahead of the competition using tested techniques. A professional Web site and a commitment to your clients will increase your chances of referrals and add to your consulting client base.
Ten Secrets to Consulting Success
Many different ways exist to become a more efficient consultant, however, some are better than others. Incorporating the following methods into the way you do business will keep you way ahead of the consulting competition:
Listen to your clients. To determine the best solutions for your clients, you must listen to them and understand what it is they want. Make it a point to listen to your clients more than you talk.
Quickly establish rapport with your clients. Consulting is very much a one-to-one, person-to-person kind of business. Establishing rapport with your clients builds a bridge that enables trust to grow.
Be direct and honest. Your clients are hiring you because they need help — sometimes a lot of help. You are doing them no favors by sugarcoating any bad news you may have for them. Give them your best assessments and advice at all times.
Be flexible and responsive. Flexibility is one of the main reasons why people hire consultants. You will have a tremendous advantage over the competition if you can quickly respond to customer needs as they present themselves.
Don’t overprice your services. The higher your price, the less demand there will be for your services. That may be fine if you can survive with a relatively few, high-paying jobs. However, if your prices are significantly higher than the competition, be prepared to explain the additional value you bring to the table.
Don’t under-price your services. If your price is too low, you may find it difficult to make a profit. Don’t forget: There’s not a client on the face of the Earth who will tell you that you should charge a higher rate!
Have more than one primary client. Trusting the success of your business to just one or two clients is never a good idea. Secure a number of clients in a variety of fields instead of just one or two, even if your main client keeps you busy full time.
Accept as much work as you can without compromising quality. Small jobs may lead to big jobs. Avoid turning down new work unless doing so will cause the quality of your current work to suffer.
Treat your current clients like gold. Not only do your current clients pay your bills, but they are your best source for referrals to new clients. Don’t forget your most important clients: your current clients.
Constantly market to bring in future business. You need a constant stream of future clients to keep your consulting business afloat. Set aside one-third to one-half of your time prospecting for new clients.
Building Your Consulting Business with Current Clients
While you’re throwing money and time at marketing your consulting business don’t forget your current clients. They’re your best source for new consulting business because they know you and your quality of work first hand. Take care of current clients first with these proven techniques:
Be on time and within budget.
Anticipate your clients’ needs (and be ready with suggestions to address them).
Be easy to work with.
Keep in touch with your clients.
Be honest and ethical.
Give a little more than you promise.
Ask your clients for testimonials and referrals.
Offer financial incentives for continuing to do business with you.
Educate your clients about all the services that you offer.
Do great work.
How to Build an Effective Consulting Web Site
When putting together a first-class Web site for your consulting business, your goal is to create a professional image, make the site easy to navigate and enhance client contact. Try these Web site building tips:
Consider hiring a pro. Your Web site may be the first impression a potential client has of your business, and first impressions are important. By hiring a pro to design and build your Web site, you have a better chance of making the first impression a good one.
Be easy to find. Make sure your Web site address (URL) closely matches the name of your business or is otherwise linked to it.
Get out the word. Be sure to include your Web site address wherever you can, including on your letterhead and business cards, marketing brochures, within your e-mail signature, on the side of your car — anywhere a potential client might see it.
Capture contact information. Encourage visitors to leave their contact information so you can open up a dialog with them. Provide them with a free subscription to a useful monthly newsletter — or a free assessment of their issue or opportunity — in exchange for their e-mail address.
Give clients a reason to visit. Your Web site should contain information that is of value to them and that entices them to visit on a regular basis. This information may include articles as well as links to other Web sites and blogs.
Visit your site regularly and check Web stats. It’s always a good idea to check your site regularly to make sure it’s up and running, and that all links and interactive elements are working the way they should. And be sure to monitor your Web stats so you know who is visiting and what pages they find of greatest interest.
Consider blogging. The latest trend is for people to set up blogs — which are personal online journals that easily can be set up and maintained, and are usually current and interactive — instead of static Web sites. Before you set up a blog, research what other consultants in your field are doing, and be sure to take your findings into account.
How to Form Strong Relationships with Your Consulting Clients
As a consultant, the relationships you build with your clients are key to your success and they should be built on the strongest foundation of respect and honesty. Maintain the highest code of ethics and always do the right thing, including:
Account for your time accurately and honestly.
Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
Don’t recommend products or services that your clients don’t need.
Be candid and give your honest opinion.
Protect your clients’ confidentiality.
Follow through on your promises.
Disclose conflicts of interest.
Don’t use inside information to your advantage.
Don’t break the law.