If You Want to Start Your Business, Selling Consulting and Custom Projects Is Step One, Right?
A common myth among service providers is: the easiest way to get started is to just sell consulting.
A lot of entrepreneurs think that in order to get their business off the ground as quickly as possible they should start selling one-on-one coaching or custom project work. After all, they have a skill, they’re high valued, and they can put it to use anywhere. By leaving the offer open they’re able to pick up as many leads as possible because they don’t have to turn anyone away.
The problem with this isn’t that you can’t pick up an occasional lead here or there. The problem is that you can’t sustain that.
Because you’re not able to identify exactly what it is that you do, and explain it in a way that makes some sense to your prospect, you’re the “I can do it” guy or gal, and therefore there’s no particular reason to pick you over anybody else.
Think about it this way. Let’s say you’re a web designer and you’ve decided that you’re going to just pick up any custom web design project you can in order to pay the bills. How are you differentiating yourself from the millions of other web designers out there? Without some very specific listing of the outcome that you provide to your prospects, you’re just like everybody else. While it’s true that you’re not disqualifying anybody because you’re willing to take on any project, you’re also not attracting any clients either.
Most entrepreneurs find that in this particular scenario their lead generation process becomes random. People who have consulting businesses will tell you that generally speaking lead generation is something they can’t really plan on.
Referrals come in, the phone rings, occasional outreach and networking results in an unplanned series of new projects. But if you’re planning on building a business you’re going to be stuck in a “feast or famine” model if you rely solely on this approach.
What you need to do is find a way to break out of the “take all comers” approach.
There are 3 things that you need to have in place in order to stand out – in other words, have your product or service stand out above the rest.
1. Define a transformational outcome
It’s not enough to say that you do something like “design websites” or “manage social media”. You need to identify the actual outcome you create for your clients.
The fact is that your prospect generally only cares about one of 4 things. They want to make money. They want to save money. They want to stay out of jail. Or they want to have a better life. If you can’t articulate what you do using one of those four descriptors, you’re going to have a very difficult time selling your services.
Most entrepreneurs who have a high-value skill believe that there’s value in the skill itself. You want a copywriter. You want a designer. You want a programmer. While it’s true that we might identify those skills like we might look something up in a phonebook, it not actually what we want. What your prospect really wants is something else – a specific positive outcome: more leads, lost weight, annual vacations with their family. Identify that something else, craft your service around that outcome, and you’ll have a very different conversation with your prospect.
2. Outline the steps to get there
The difference between somebody who promises the moon and somebody who creates transformation in people’s lives is the plan to execute it.
Think about conversations you’ve had with people who have promised you the ability to make more money or lose tons of weight or become the charismatic speaker you want to be. Without a plan of action is that promise really credible? Maybe it was enough for you to get sucked in the first or the second time, but probably by the third time you started to doubt whether or not somebody could actually make good on their promises. You need the ability to prove that you can get your prospect from A to B.
If you think about guidance in terms of driving, there’s one tool that many of us rely on on a daily basis in order to get us where we want to go. That’s our GPS system. What is it about a GPS system that makes it easy for us to follow? It’s turn-by-turn directions. You need to create those turn-by-turn directions for your client in order to go beyond the “blue sky thinker” to somebody who can demonstrate the credibility to actually get the prospect where they need to go.
Contrast that with the standard consulting approach which is to have a “needs assessment meeting” in order to really understand what the step should be. Nobody wants to have a meeting just to have you figure it out “in the moment”. They want to know you’ve done the work upfront and know exactly what it takes to get them their desired outcome. If you can articulate those steps in a way that is clear and makes sense, you’ll have won the prospect over because they’ll see you as their own personal GPS unit that will get them from where they are today to where they want to go.
3. Create a delivery model which is scalable
Back to the assumption that all you have to sell is your time. There’s a related assumption that most entrepreneurs make: “what people really want is to spend more one-on-one time with you.”
I don’t know about you but as a busy entrepreneur I don’t want anything to take up more of my time, and I don’t put an inherent value on the time that somebody spends with me. Most successful people are the same way. The value is all in the outcome. If you can get it to me faster, cheaper, and easier, I’m still going to pay you.
The reason that we think that most people want one-on-one coaching or custom project work is because we haven’t given them anything different to value.
If someone really wants to work with us but they don’t really know what we’re doing, the only thing they can measure is how much time we’re spending with them. But that’s not really what they want. They didn’t hire you for your friendship or companionship. They hired you to get results.
You should be choosing from delivery methods that don’t require your time. The definition of a scalable business is this: when you add a new customer, it doesn’t take any additional time.
Of course you’re going to spend time servicing your clients, but as you grow your business you shouldn’t have to spend additional time as new customers come on board. That’s not to say that there won’t be people who do that, but you as the entrepreneur and the business owner shouldn’t be spending that time.
There are ways of delivering services in a scalable way. Yes you can create done-for-you services that create outcomes for your clients as if from an assembly line. That’s one way to accomplish it. But that only gets your clients so far. They may need other things from you such as skills, mentorship, or accountability. In that case, you may need to use other methodologies such as masterminds or group coaching or virtual training or even live events or workshops to get the job done. Each of these methods provides you the opportunity to get your clients the results they want without making you spend additional time with each individual.
If you leverage these 3 principles you’ll break out of the trap that you have to capture every possible lead by being everything to everyone.
You will not be able to make the money that you want by simply offer non-descript consulting or hiding the fact that you don’t have a plan by doing “one-on-one” coaching.
You need to have a very specific delivery model that achieves a meaningful outcome for your client in a way that doesn’t take up your time. That’s the ticket to a successful revenue generating business.