[Day 3/4] Answers to your toughest consulting questions on getting clients

Consulting help

Today’s post will to continue the consulting questions & answers series, since you’re sending in some great consulting questions (keep ’em coming!). Today, I’m going to answer just one question, because it’s an excellent example of what goes on for us when we first start our business (and it’s a lot like what I went through when I started out). Let’s get to it.

Today’s consulting question

This consulting question is from Judith S.:

Consulting questions email 2013-03-06 (Judith)

This is really interesting, and how Judith feels about marketing is what I hear from most of you: you hate it. 

Or in Judith’s words, she “hate hate hates” marketing. (I used to feel that way too, but now I actually LIKE marketing. Keep reading to find out how I created that change).

She also mentions feeling like she’s bothering people when she’s doing sales & marketing for her consulting business.

Why is that?

Probably because we tend to think of sales & marketing like this:

sleazy salesman

And that’s DEFINITELY NOT how we want to be perceived. We can all agree on that.

Judith also says that in her niche, she has “a ready made pool of clients that I have known for years.”

Again, this is really interesting, and it’s similar to the situation I was in when I started. And it still took me 5 months to get my first client.

Why did it take so long to get my first consulting clients?

Well, there were a number of reasons.

But if I was starting from scratch today, without any prospects, I’m confident I could enter a market and get clients MUCH faster.

I’m confident I could now get clients within 30 days, since I’ve got strategies that have proven time and again to work.

But back to where Judith is stuck and where I was stuck when I first started out: lots of expertise and warm leads, but no (or very few) clients.

So how do you get clients?

What NOT to do

First, let me tell you what NOT to do, based on what I did when I started out.

I had a list of warm leads: former clients who knew and trusted me.

Promising, right?

That’s what I thought, until I started making calls. (Except I didn’t make any calls for about 2 months. Which essentially meant I wasn’t earning any consulting income for 2 months. Eeesh…)

See, I hate hate hated the idea of selling myself, even though I knew I could help these people.

Every time I thought about calling, I’d get anxious, feel the butterflies in the pit of my stomach, and my thoughts would skitter around as I struggled to know what to say. I had never done sales before, knew I wasn’t a “born salesman,” and was terrified of being rejected.

There were lots of times I chickened out before even dialing the phone number for a prospect.

I’d kick myself for not calling, and decide to spend more time tweaking my website and brochure (which I never sent out…). It felt safer doing business-like tasks instead of calling and talking to prospects.

Finally, I got up the courage to call some prospects. And they were all very nice, friendly, and encouraging when I told them I was available for consulting projects.

But not one of them had any consulting work for me.

I was crushed each time.

So each time I made it past my huge mental hurdle of calling, I was incredibly discouraged, since all that effort wasn’t paying off.

I began to believe that there was no way I could possibly create a business. I didn’t want to believe it, since I’d wanted and planned it for so long.

But I seemed to have the facts staring me in the face: My best prospects, my best chances for success, hadn’t panned out.

I was ready to give up.

Small (but very important) detail: How many prospects did I call? About a half dozen.

Why so few?

Because I could barely get the courage up to call even a single prospect. And after calling each one, I was soundly rejected.

How much more rejection did I want to take?

It’s incredibly frustrating.

Have you felt this way?

My guess is that you have.

And that frustration was one of the reasons I started this blog: to prevent YOU from having to go through the same struggles and make the same mistakes I made (and so many other people make) starting a consulting business.

It can be brutal if you don’t know tried & true strategies.

Let’s dig deeper

Now, for Judith’s question, I’d ask her:

  • What specifically do you hate about marketing? 
    • Finding prospects to contact?
    • Figuring out how to contact them?
    • Starting the call/conversation with a prospect? 
    • Asking if they have any needs you could meet?
    • Telling them what services you offer?
    • What exactly do you hate, makes you squirm, or gets you anxious about marketing?
  • How do you feel when you’re talking to prospects? 
    • Scared?
    • Anxious?
    • Unsure?
    • Lost?
    • Desperate?
  • What thoughts are going through your mind when you feel these things? Be as specific as possible here. If you dig down, you might be thinking:
    • This person doesn’t want to talk to me.
    • I have nothing to offer them.
    • I’m bothering them.
    • I desperately need to get some work–ANY work.
    • I’m failing.
    • I have no idea what I’m doing.
    • I can’t succeed at this.

Identifying your limiting beliefs is extremely important. These thoughts can hold the key to unlocking your progress. For example, Judith mentioned she thinks she’s bothering people when she’s marketing. Here’s a framework you can use for this or any limiting belief: 

  • Is this true?
  • Is it really true? 
  • How do you know it? 
    • Did someone tell you they were bothered? 
    • Did someone hang up on you when you called them to market? 
    • Did EVERYONE you call tell you to screw off?

First, we ask if our limiting belief is objectively true. Where’s the evidence to back it up? (Or are we fabricating evidence where none exists?) 

Next, look at past situations where you’ve succeeded. Review those successes. They’re real. You made them happen. Those are examples of what you can do, how you can help clients.

For Judith (and probably your situation too):

  • Can you provide value to your prospects?
  • Have you provided value to them in the past (you said a prior client was very happy with your work)?

I actually LIKE marketing & sales


Yes, that’s right. Now, I actually LIKE marketing & sales.

What changed?

First, I’ve learned how to talk to prospects and clients so that I have a very high chance that I’ll get consulting projects. I’ve systematized how I talk to clients, the kinds of questions I ask, and my expectations when I talk to clients.

Second, I realize that I provide value to prospects and clients, even if the prospect never becomes a client. I know I can provide huge value, and it feels good to help people.

Sure, there are times when a prospect isn’t a good fit. That’s OK.

But I know I can provide value to others, and that belief makes it frankly easy to call prospects.

Ask yourself:

  • Would this mindset change your business?
  • Do you think you could get more clients if you had this mindset and knew how to talk to prospects?

Here’s what I want from you today:

STEP 1: Tell me about your experience trying to get consulting clients. What frustrations and limiting beliefs have you experienced?

STEP 2: Leave a comment below telling me what most EXCITES you about having a thriving consulting business. (BE SPECIFIC! Tell me a story. Include details.)

Don’t be shy.

There are thousands of readers & subscribers of this blog, and some of you have been reading it for a long time. Maybe it’s time to come out of the shadows and share why you want to have a consulting business.

Be brutally honest! I read every single response (yes, really).

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