Starting a consulting business is something many aspire to do, but few do well. It’s often fraught with challenges that can make or break your business, like how to identify your core offerings, find clients, and create your pricing structure.
Michael Zipursky is an author, entrepreneur, and the CEO of ConsultingSuccess.com. He’s written 5 books on consulting and marketing, including his most recent best-seller, The Elite Consulting Mind.
In this episode, he shares important tips and perspectives on what it takes to build momentum for your consulting business, and businesses in general, in order to reach your full potential.
The Journey from Entrepreneur to Consultant to Both
From an early age, Michael’s business and entrepreneurial drive was evident. In his school days, he worked jobs in warehousing, yard care, and retail. As he puts it, “anything to make money.”
He was a self-starter. He launched his first business, a web development firm, just out of high school with his cousin Simon. Their partnership resulted in several successful consulting companies, and each of those entrepreneurial ventures were predicated on the principle of being relational at their core. Building and maintaining relationships permeated through everything they did. In fact, one of his earlier companies was called Kankei Culture, a marketing company getting its namesake from the Japanese word for relationship.
He and Simon launched consultingsuccess.com initially as a content network, where they shared advice and observations on what was and wasn’t working in the world of consulting. It was only after they created a consulting course and sold it to their first customer that they started transforming the business into an online coaching system.
Now, he’s a consultant’s consultant and has helped 300+ consultants from around the world in over 50 industries add six and seven figures to their annual revenues. On top of that, more than 35,000 subscribers read his weekly consulting newsletter.
What’s Holding People Back?
Having worked with hundreds of consultants, Michael has observed the challenges holding many aspiring and established consultants back from reaching their potential:
Mindset: People often lack confidence, so they think small, or spend too much time on little things because they’re too apprehensive to go out and talk to people. They know what actions to take but don’t take them and let excuses get in the way.
Ambiguity: Beginning consultants don’t usually focus on one core audience or service. Therefore, they try to offer too broad a range of services to too many people, and then they plateau. Without a target audience, they can’t create offers and messages that resonate.
Fear: People often cast a wide net when trying to find clients because they’re afraid of missing out on an opportunity. But when that happens, your quest for visibility actually makes you a small fish in a big pond. People also fear the unknown, so they end up doing the same things they’ve always done without risk taking.
Depending on Tactics and Tech: Conversely, some consultants may try to get ahead by investing in new technologies and trying out every new tactic that’s being used to capture attention. But if you’re not using these to get the right message to the right people at the right time, then its a waste.
What can be done? It’s about changing that mindset, overcoming these fears, narrowing your audience, and understanding your true value to really drive business forward.
Building Relationships, Helping People, and Knowing Your Worth
Fear and confidence are inherently linked, and these both relate back to that consulting success mindset. Prospecting for new business or trying to close business can create a lot of fear, especially if you feel like your business is on the line and you need to make the sale fast.
But, as Michael suggests, use the perspective that there is a person in need and you are able to help them. Build a relationship based on a value exchange. Then you can rationalize your “sale” as “value,” and your “fee” as an “investment.”
This arrangement makes it easier to talk about price, too. Now you’re charging as a percentage of the value you bring, instead of an hourly rate. And once you explain the expected return, your “fee” is simply a contribution to get them there.
Relationships are everything in the consulting business. And it’s not about transactions. Put yourself in a different mindset and actually just try and serve, collaborate, help, and look for ways of really solving people's problems.
Listen to what people really want and what they need, so you can make significantly more impact, create more value, and grow your business as a result.
If you've been having like a challenging time really getting attention and interest from your ideal clients, it's most often because you're messaging isn't resonating with them.
Narrow your focus by prioritizing your core audiences, services, and business goals. The most successful businesses in the world, and especially when they're starting off, apply subtraction over addition.
You don't need to be spending tons of money on advertising right away. You don't need hundreds of clients. You don't need thousands and thousands of leads. If you get very focused, there will be a simple approach to attract more of those ideal clients, and you don't need to create these complex funnels and systems all the time to make that work.
Using lots of tactics and tools won’t lend to your success. What decides your success is the foundation of clarity on your ideal client, having messaging that resonates with them, getting in front of them to have a conversation, and then having the right offers to present.
Look at prospecting in the way that these are people that you believe that you can help, and it would be a disservice to not reach out to them. Because, then, they'd still have to deal with that problem they have.
Don’t be afraid to talk to people. If people are dealing with a problem, or they're looking to achieve some kind of result, and you can help them, at least, have a conversation, and then they can decide whether to engage with you or not.
“No one wants to put money out when they just see it as a cost, an expense, a fee. But when you just change even just the wording to investment, all of a sudden, it changes the whole mindset, the whole dynamic, and there's a lot more value connected to that.”
Connect with Michael via his Website