A consulting business is one of the toughest businesses to run and manage, despite the benefit of revenues and oftentimes, profitability from the get go.
As the founder of a consulting business, you already know the challenges associated with scaling up. But do you know what it is that makes some of the consulting businesses more successful than others?
Why are they able to stand out from the competition and attract higher-paying customers that choose and want to work with them?
I would often ask this question myself in the first couple of years of running my own software consulting business. It took two and a half years or research to understand what successful consulting businesses do right and another three years to experiment and implement those strategies.
What I've seen over the last three years is consistent growth and today we clearly stand out from the competition - our prospective customers decide they want to work with us even before we discuss pricing, they fly down to meet us, rather than the other way around.
Here's what I've learnt from my experiments over the years that have worked and from what I've learnt from other successful founders - what they do right, over and over again to produce different results from those consulting businesses that are smaller or those that are struggling to scale.
Influence Prospective Customers
When a prospective customer begins their search for a consulting partner, it's too late to sell. Success lies in creating a mindspace with the target audience when they're not in the buying mode yet.
Consider a prospective customer that has seen an advertisement of a Company A, they go onto the Internet to do research about the space and keep coming across valuable content put out by Company B in the same space, who are they likely to trust and buy from?
By the time a prospective customer begins to search for an app development partner, it's already too late as it puts my company on the same level as my competition. But if I'm able to influence my prospective customer at the time they're doing research about the space, they're already warmed up to my company when they're in the buying mode.
Successful consulting businesses invest in educating, informing and influencing their prospective customers before they're in the buying mode.
Build a Personal Brand
Consulting business is a people-based business, in the sense that there isn't anything tangible to evaluate when buying.
And therefore, a prospective customer has to trust the person they are buying from. A service is experiential, so trust plays a big factor in the buying decision.
How do you get your prospective customers to trust you? You do that by building a trustworthy brand. When they see others reciprocating and following your brand, they feel at ease.
Prospective customers want the comfort of buying from a known brand than an unknown. This would also enable you to make it hard for people to compete with you on price.
And thus, founders of successful consulting businesses often are found writing for top publications in their industry, often quoted by the media, speak at conferences - essentially, they invest in building their personal brand. That's how this 30-year-old scaled his consulting business to revenues of over $6 million.
Value in the First Touchpoint
Even before a prospective customer talks to someone from our company, we've added value to their life and business.
We do this by sharing actionable insights that we've gained over the period working with a number of customers in the industry, something that's not theoretical but provides them answers to some of their most pressing questions.
The next touchpoint is a phone call, which again, we focus on giving them insights and inputs on what works and what doesn't, that we don't have to sell anymore.
Neil Patel is one such brilliant example. He runs a successful Search Marketing consulting business, but offers trade secrets and actionable insights that no one else does.
That helps his prospective customers know that he understands the space well and they line up to work with him. So much so that he chooses who his company wishes to work with.
Leave Ego Behind in Follow Ups
Steli Efti followed up with an investor 48 times before he got a meeting and eventually got funded by the same person.
James Altucher wanted to work for a billionaire investor. He got his foot in the door by cold emailing the guy for a whole year.
I followed up with a prospective customer for almost a full year, until he reverted saying, "I was finally ready to start my app development project and funny I received this email from you now." He's a client now.
Leave your ego behind closed doors, where it belongs. People aren't sitting by their computers to respond to your emails as soon as it hits their mailbox. Go by the assumption they're busy and have more important things to handle at this time than to respond to your email.
Drop them a note again. And again. And again. Until you get a response. It's a well-documented statistic of a shocking percentage of sales people or founders giving up after the first 'no' or lack of response, losing a stark amount of business that could be their had they persevered. The fortune is in the follow up.