5 minute read
Consultancy sales are hard.
Referrals make them easier but if you’ve never worked with a particular client before, then you’ve a long, unpredictable road ahead.
A road, by-the-way, that they will be being paid to navigate, and you won’t.
A road that can lead to a great project for you, or, burn hours of your time and money that you’ll never get back.
So how can you know you’re on the right track?
How can you pace yourself properly on this voyage of mutual discovery?
How can you deal with the anxiety to get a deal done verses knowing when it is best to cut your losses and move on?
Well I’m sure you know there are endless strategy’s and tactics about how to go about winning profitable consultancy gigs.
Some good ones include:
- Starting with small projects.
- Proposing scoping projects if primary requirements are unclear.
- Being courteous, punctual & always super respectful of a clients time.
- Asking outright for their budget, timing and broader objectives.
- Get them used to saying “yes” to you often, and
- Giving your advice generously, freely and with no catches.
Great. You are into this kind of dialogue, employing these tactics.
How do you know if it is working?
There are lots of technical solutions you can use to help.
I’ve used a number of CRMs over the years, my favourites include Pipedrive and Hubspot, to keep track of each stage of an enquiry, monitor the sales funnel value and remind me to followup.
It is a lot of effort. Worth it, to keep organised. Interesting, for the stats (maybe?)
It is complicated though, can quickly get out of date and, importantly, does not really give you any indication on how well a potential sale is going or whether it is worth pursuing.
The analyst in me is never going to bet the house on that aggregated funnel value – things seem just to unpredictable in consulting sales …
What would be great is if you could have a super-simple way to benchmark how your sales approach was going, at any time, and easily with any given prospect.
A way of calming your anxiety when you feel you are not making enough progress.
A way of giving you a clear warning sign when you are wasting your time.
Well, you might be surprised to know this “magic” method revolves around coffee!
6 cups of coffee to be precise.
In my experience, no-one is EVER going to buy consultancy services from you unless you’ve sat down and had 6 cups of coffee with them. End of.
A great blog, referral and testimonial might short cut that a bit, but the point is about setting expectations for yourself and your sales performance, more than anything.
I feel any customer (you are going to want!) will simply demand that level of pre-sales interaction no matter what.
But that is fine.
Simply knowing this massively takes the pressure off you.
You know that if you’re on cup 1 or 2, just forget about a sale. Enjoy the conversation. Get to know them.
They are not going to give you a PO (and you would not want it right now) so stay calm and play the long game.
Getting permission for the next coffee is your sole goal in these early stages.
Focus on offering as much value as you can in order to “win” that next coffee.
A quick aside. I’m sure you’ve got this but clearly coffee is an analogy here. If you or your potential client do not like coffee it doesn’t mean you are not going to sell your consulting services!
Coffee is anathema for a “meaningful connection” – a discussion about understanding their specific challenges whilst establishing if you have any value to offer in helping them.
It is an honest, adult conversation. If you can’t help fine, it was a lovely chat. If you can help great, let’s get started.
It just so happens that, in my experience, all this very often involves the drinking of coffee!
So there are three basic types of “coffee” you can have:
- Meeting up to drink a coffee together. This is the most effective.
- A virtual coffee, say a good discussion on the phone or Skype. Less effective but still good.
- An email discussion (over a day or so) also counts as a coffee, all be it, on the least effective side.
And then the pattern is that you’re basically looking to go through the following stages, 6 times:
- Admin to Arrange Discussion,
- Discussion (Coffee) event,
- Thinking Gap (no contact for minimum of a week)
By coffee 6 you should have a nice PO for your new client engagement.
Your challenge (of course!) is to try and beat this metric – Beat the 6!
And great work, if you can. That will save you time and money and prove your sales process is much more efficient than mine!
The point being you now have a solid, battle tested reference that works for all potential consultancy clients.
So what if you go over 6?
Well, if you are onto coffee number 10 then you need to have a serious think about this potential client.
If you are not discussing the deep specifics of how your consulting engagement is going to work then something is (likely) going wrong (for you.)
If by coffee 10 you have little clarity on:
- their budget,
- their timing,
- their real challenges, or,
- what kind of project they’d like you specifically to do for them …
… then this should raise a BIG REG flag.
At a minimum it is time to change tack. Most likely it is time to politely drop them (for now) and put your time, money and energies elsewhere.
This is easy to say and so hard to do.
All that effort invested to admit defeat is rough.
But honestly, by coffee 8, 9, 10, if you’re not fine tuning the specifics, in my experience, it is not going to happen with this client. Certainly not in the near term future.
Leave the door open and move on.
Sounds crazy to think about how simple and non-tech this is (perhaps even more so coming from the geek that I am?) but keeping a mental tally on how many cups of coffee you’ve had with any given prospect is easy and really does help keep your expectations in check.
With 6 cups, the pacing is just right between urgency and wasting your time.
Plus the bonus is you can treat each coffee won is a mini celebration in itself – no matter what the eventual outcome to have won all that time with an individual is a success.
There is always something you can learn. Take that and move on.
If you’re a freelancer or consultant trying to win clients then maybe give it a try for yourself?
I’d be really keen to hear if you can beat my 6 cups benchmark, or, if you’ve another method that really works for you. Just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.