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5 Ways Playing Small is Sabotaging Your Consulting Success

mindset mastery Mar 09, 2020
playing small as a consultant and coach

"Playing small" is making choices that put a lid on your true potential. It's the part of you that wants to protect your comfort, security and validation in the short-term at the expense of what is possible in the long-term.

These feelings are particularly acute for both new and seasoned consulting and coaching business owners which in comparison to other business owners, growing to the next level is personal because your business is based on you. Your ideas. Your expertise. 

It's hard for everyone to step outside their comfort zone, but for you, it can be excruciating because it can feel that not just the business is at risk but everything you have worked so hard to achieve will come crashing down.

You're probably very well aware of the impact that playing small is having on your self-esteem and business results. You're not getting your website copy done, under-charging your clients, and taking work that makes you feel more like an employee vs. an advisor. 

Let me share with you 5 other ways you might be playing small.

1. Forming partnerships with other consultants and coaches, especially when neither one of you is attracting enough clients to sustain yourselves individually. 

I get how lonely it can be to run your own business, without colleagues to bounce ideas with. And I also get how valuable the right collaborations can be with individuals who offer complimentary skills that can expand the value of a client contract. Finding communities and strategic alliances is not the same as trying to partner up with other consultants to avoid the anguish of putting yourself out there alone in your marketing. 

Connection with others who get what we're going through and strategic alliances can be highly profitable IF you are developing relationships with people who are doing the same type of hard work that you are to build a credible online platform and faithfully put yourself in front of potential buyers. 

2. Getting certification after certification after you're already qualified in your technical expertise.

It's essential to be able to deliver on the promise you are making to your potential clients and if you truly don't have the skills to deliver the promised results, then it's essential to get trained. But do your clients really need you to have extra letters after your name to find your credible? Do they really want to work with you simply because you are TTI or Hogan certified?

In all of my years consulting to executives, I have never promoted that I have a masters' degree for one big reason: I learned early on that my clients don't care about my masters' degree.

My credibility isn't in my credentials. It's in my ability to understand what my clients want to achieve and give them a clear path towards achieving it. 

If you're going to invest in personal development, invest in the skills and tools you may not have like marketing and sales. If you're not sure how to attract leads and convert them into high-paying clients who are leveraging you as a strategic advisor and not an extra pair of hands, this type of development investment will create a much bigger return. 

3. Attending networking events with your peers vs. potential clients.

I get asked all the time about the value of joining professional associations and I would say join them if you are looking for the joy of connecting with like-minded colleagues. But this is not a profitable strategy if you want to join a professional association to find clients. The only clients you will find are subcontracting opportunities where you are likely to be paid by the hour or day for a specific task. If you want to own your client engagements, position yourself as a peer to the senior leaders, get out the "pair of hands" trap and earn the full value of the contract, you need to go to networking events that your future clients attend. 

4. Look for sub-contracting opportunities with referral firms as the primary way of finding clients vs. finding your own clients.

Many consultants and coaches think it's the dream to have someone else do their marketing and sales and just bring them clients. But I would ask you, "Is it the dream?" When you left your corporate job, did you do that so that you can be someone else's employee? Or did you want control over your career, time and earning potential?

To get that control, you have to own the entire consulting engagement - beginning with shaping the thinking of a future client through your marketing that YOU are their sounding board of choice. Your earning potential and impact is defined by the initial discovery meeting and how you frame what you'll do in your proposal. 

This is why you need to land your own work. Otherwise, you'll simply be the one implementing what someone else set up for you at a fraction of the fees that you could be earning.

5. Using the "regular marketing doesn't work for my business" excuse as a way to avoid the vulnerability of marketing.

It's not marketing itself that you might be resisting. It's what marketing triggers in you that you're resisting.

Marketing in itself really isn't that hard to understand or master because you use its tactics all the time. You forward posts on social media that you like, you post your own ideas, you write decks to influence your clients to action, you connect with people at parties and events and you accept LinkedIn requests on the daily.

What is really challenging about marketing is the exposure it creates. You are putting your own image out there subject to rejection. You are telling the world what you want to do and they will know if you fail at it. These fears are what are keeping you from marketing.

Marketing isn't slimy if you do it right. I'm marketing to you right now with this blog post. Why? Because I want to sell you a "used car" that you don't need or that won't work? If you have read any of my other blogs, you know that is not true. I am taking time out of my morning to write this blog because I deeply care about the empowered success of the purpose-driven consultants and coaches. If I had a magic wand to create the change I wish to see in the world, it would be that you believed with your whole heart in the true value that you bring to the table, that you would create an online platform that represented this depth of expertise so that...

...when you showed up with a potential senior leader looking for a consultant or coach YOU'LL be the one that wins the business.

Because when you succeed at this and can hold your own with this high-ego executive, you'll be able to influence the type of change you and I know both our short-term profit obsessed work world needs. The consultants in it for just the money won't have this vision. It's you who has to win.  

Think of all the employees who are investing the majority of their lives at work. Shouldn't this time be invested doing work that they love in an environment that is healthy, productive and of mutual benefit?

You have to win the business to make this happen AND you have to show up clear and confident in your positioning as a peer to the C-Suite.

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