The number one way that really smart consultants get in the way of their own success is struggling with the fear that that they don't have what it takes.
Despite years of education and experience they stay up at night wondering what is the best way to let their future clients know about how much they know and what they can bring to the table. They pursue certification after certification hoping that one of them will be the silver bullet that will make them irresistible in the marketplace.
But here's the thing - your clients don't care about how smart you are. And the more you worry about it and try to force yourself to shamelessly self-promote and showcase what you think is all that you know you can bring to the table - you have already sub-optimized your effectiveness.
Again, your clients don't care how smart you are. They don't care about your certifications or even your degrees.
Instead this is what they care about and what they really want to know about you:
The biggest branding roadblock all of the consultants I mentor experience is creating their ideal client archetypes. It can be incredibly difficult to step aside from trying to sell your expertise to pause for a moment and think about who your ideal client - from both a demographic and psychographic standpoint and really listen to them and their needs.
This challenge shows up in marketing and in the contracting processes. In marketing it shows up in explaining your value proposition with methodologies and tactics you can offer. In contracting it shows up with only listening to the client describe their issues and challenges enough so that you can start to pitch a service.
Instead what they really want to know is:
Your client gets that you are in the business to make money but they also know you have lots of choices to that end. They want to know if you have chosen to consult in general and expressed desire to consult with them specifically because you care about them or their needs or if you are just doing it for the money.
They have lots of choices when it comes to pursuing change work that you can help them with. They can choose to work with another consultant and they can also choose to do the work in house. They can also choose to do nothing.
But they will choose to work with a consultant if they know for a fact that the have a partner who cares about the results that matter the most to them as much as they do. They don't want your advice. They want your partnership.
Therefore, before pursuing any client, ask yourself - do I care? Am I more connected to earning money for myself or am I pursuing this work because there is a need that my future client has that I can deeply about helping them meet?
When I first started consulting, every client system that I engaged in started with the same disclaimer, "I know you have been working with [insert literally any industry], but we're different and here's how [insert qualities that make them just like all of my other clients]"
I heard this so much that I half-considered creating a tagline that said, "Because you really are different."
The truth is there are commonalities that cut across all organizations and similarities between the issues and challenges by company size and industry. But at the same time - every company like every person, every fingerprint, every snowflake is different.
They all have different personalities, points of departure, history, power structure, preferred styles and so on.
Your client wants to know if you can:
Many consultants experience angst around proving their own credibility. But the credibility that matters to your clients is THEIRS. Many times they will reach out to a consultant because having an outsider enhances the credibility of what they want to do. Therefore they want to know if they hire you will you:
The issue that takes place during negotiation for options and fees isn't about the actual price you are asking for. It's whether for that price you will deliver on your promises.
They don't ask for referrals because they want to know if you are smart. They ask for referrals because they want to know if you will deliver.
That's why how you show up in your marketing and in your contracting is essential in demonstrating that you are someone who can deliver on significant promises.
Your content and marketing copy offers a big promise to your client that you might have that roadmap to success that they are looking for. But your responsiveness to their inquiries, the quality of the support you offer during the contracting process and how open you are to negotiation and finding win-win solutions sends out big time messages of how well you can and will deliver on those promises.
Launching and growing a consulting business may feel like its about you and your visions and goals. But its really not. It's about offering a valuable service and personal support to a client that needs your help desperately - and in the process empowers you to achieve your own visions and goals.
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