How to get more consulting work WITHOUT doing sales: Jedi mind tricks & magic elves

magic elves

What if you could get more consulting work from clients & prospects WITHOUT doing any “sales”?

You probably hate the idea of doing traditional sales–cold-calling, prospecting, and all the rest. I hate it too.

magic elvesBut how do you get more consulting work without being sales-y?

The trick isn’t to pitch the client something that they probably don’t want or need. That’s exactly what comes across as sales-y.

Instead, get the client to tell you want they want, and–at the same time–convince themselves that YOU are the right person for the job.

This isn’t a Jedi mind trick. But it’s the closest thing I’ve found so far.

I do this all the time–it’s a part of my routine now–and it’s the easiest, most reliable way to get more consulting work and grow your consulting business.

The first step to more consulting work: pain points

Here’s the secret:

When I’m on the phone with a client or a prospect, I pay close attention for pain points. Don’t know what a pain point is? A pain point is a source of frustration, irritation, stress, or desire that someone wants to fix.

And, the bigger the point point, the bigger the opportunity. Big pain points might not turn into big projects, but they can certainly turn into big wins.

And big wins get clients who love you and are happy to give you work again and again.

How to identify pain points

Now, people almost never say, “Listen up: here’s my biggest pain point!”

Instead, you need to be attentive to what clients say and how they say it. You can also identify pain points by watching how clients do their work (I’ve done this lots of times to identify tedious processes that I can automate).

Be on the lookout for frustrations and inefficiencies. Ask what their biggest, most urgent, or most important problems are. Ask the client if they have any wishlist items that they’d love to take care of or fix.

Listen to their emotion when they talk about the issue.

What get’s them riled up or fired up or excited?

Sometimes if you pay more attention to the emotion rather than the words, it’s easier to hone in on those pain points.

When you hear some emotion, ask questions about the issue. Get the client to elaborate on it. Paraphrase your understanding of the issue.

Make it clear that you truly understand the issue and why it’s such a big problem.

This is a HUGE part of the process: make absolutely clear that the client knows that you understand the problem.

Have the client describe their ideal solution

After you’re sure that you completely understand the problem, ask the client what their ideal solution would look like.

Sometimes the client may not even know. In these cases, you can suggest some options. You could say, “What if we did something like _____?” or “I wonder how doing _____ might work?”

Throw out a few ideas. Brainstorm with the client.

Narrow down the solution so that it’s fairly specific (you can get even more specific after the client says they’d like you to work on the project).

If the client already has an idea of how to fix the problem, fine. But again, make sure you understand their solution, how it’d work, and how it’d address their pain point. Make sure you understand the specifics of the client’s solution.

You also want to make sure the solution is feasible.

Magic elves who do your accounting reconciliation while you sleep isn’t feasible. But it might be feasible to create an automated accounting reconciliation process. And that almost as good as magic elves.

Again, you’ll want to make sure that the client feels like you completely understand what a realistic, feasible solution will look like–and how it addresses their pain point.

Why YOU are the best person to do the consulting work

If you’ve:

  • listened closely to the client’s pain point,
  • made sure the client feels like you completely understand the problem,
  • have explored specific solutions with the client,

then the client will intuitively feel like you’re the best person to do the consulting work.

Once the client knows you understand their problem and the solution, there’s no need for them to shop around.

At that point, it’s a simple matter of closing the deal. You can say something like, “It sounds like we just need to nail down a few details, and then get started.”

How it looks in practice

In reality, the process is usually a lot simpler than what I’ve laid out–at least for the type of consulting work I do.

Typically, either the client or I will identify a pain point, we’ll talk briefly to figure out a solution (usually I’ll give the client a few options for the solution), and then the client will either ask for an estimate and/or ask how soon I can implement the solution.

See? More consulting work–without having to be sales-y.

At its most basic, it boils down to:

  • understanding the client’s pain point, and
  • exploring the solution with the client,
  • while making sure the client feels understood throughout the discussion.

It’s really less about sales and more about being empathic and educating the client about what’s possible for fixing their problem.

I hate sales, but enjoy educating people, so this approach is a much better fit, and best of all, makes getting consulting work easy.

I’ve talked before about treating your clients and prospects like an orchard–where you plant seeds, nurture them, and then enjoy the fruits of your labors. This is one more way to tend your orchard. Understand your clients and their needs & wants, and show them how you can make their problems go away.

And guess what? You’ll eventually have an on-going stream of business–without having to use Jedi mind tricks. Although at some point, you will wish you had magic elves to do all your work.



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Jason Fonceca - February 8, 2012 Reply

I love this!

Consulting feels like an abstract and misunderstood niche, and I’m glad you blog about this.

Feeling sales-y often feels bad to the seller and the buyer, so this is win-win.

I’ll try it on my next consulting lead 🙂 Thanks, Greg!

P.S. I found this through Danny Iny, which says lots 😀

    Greg Miliates - February 9, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for your comment!

    I totally agree about the traditional sales process–it often feels like one of the 2 parties is on the losing end, when it should really be about finding common ground.

    Glad you found me through Danny. He and I took a course together, and he’s been doing some impressive stuff.

      Jason Fonceca - February 12, 2012 Reply

      I’m all about win-win, and looking forward to checking more of your stuff. 🙂

      P.S. Would that be Jon Morrow’s course?

        Greg Miliates - February 12, 2012 Reply

        Danny and I actually took Corbett Barr’s ThinkTraffic ( course. It’s a bit pricey, but very comprehensive, and includes interviews with several A-list bloggers.

Want Passion? Take What You Know And Share It With The World | Barrie Davenport | The Life Passion Coach - February 27, 2013 Reply

[…] a great article on some techniques for securing consulting work. If you are really thinking about consulting work, […]

Dave - April 4, 2013 Reply


A good start…but look up the David Sandler Selling System…his genius is to use a four-part selling system: identify pain, find and present only to the decision maker/s, determine the budget then make an upfront contract–to do a presentation only if agreement up front with the prospect to say “yes” or “no,” after the presentation, but never “I want to think it over .”

There is more to it than this but this works!

    Greg Miliates - April 5, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for your comment! Yes, his system is similar to what I described here–though like you said, any selling process has more to it than can be described in a blog post.

    The problem I see too many consultants struggling with though is trying to sell their expertise instead of focusing on the prospects’ biggest problems. That paradigm shift is a big one, and it’s one of the things that separates successful consultants from those who struggle.

It's February Already? Best of the Web! - September 27, 2014 Reply

[…] How to Get More Consulting Work Without Doing Sales, Jedi Mind Tricks and Magic Elves ( […]

Rudy Jessop - May 11, 2015 Reply

It sounds like a good approach. it reminds me of the approach of the business model canvas figure out what your customers what and provide them the solution. Not nessary selling to them but more letting the solution sell itself.

    Greg Miliates - October 12, 2015 Reply

    Hey, Rudy, precisely. If you can get the prospect to articulate the problem and the benefits, they sell themselves–rather than you having to force the solution down their throat.

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