Excerpted from the book on conscious entrepreneurship and business management, Business Black Belt.
A consultant is someone who saves his client
almost enough to pay his fee.
~ Arnold Glasow
If a consultant asked me to consult him or her on how to build their business, here’s what I’d say.
To me, the word ‘consultant’ is a big turn-off. I often don’t want to see consultants, talk to them, or pay their fees. It’s a matter of semantics and an attitude, all in the word “consultant.”
When I first started my business, Tools for Sales, I termed myself a marketing consultant and nobody wanted me. They all said, “I don’t need one of those.” If you’re a marketing consultant, I recommend giving your company a name and listing several specific things you do either in a tag line beneath your company name or as bullets on the back of your business card. A “marketing consultant” is way too general. For example: I called my company “Tools for Sales.” When people asked what I did, I told them I made data sheets, brochures, and mailing pieces… you know, tools salespeople can use to sell with. A potential client would think of similar things he or she needed and ask if I could handle them. “Do you do advertising or telemarketing training?” he or she might have asked. I responded, “What exactly do you need?” Then tailored my pitch to their immediate needs. The idea is to first get them interested in what you do as opposed to what you are. You’re much more likely to have a new client or be referred to one.
The idea behind hiring a consultant is to bring in someone with expertise to handle specific tasks for a fixed amount of money and, when it’s done, they leave. We’ve used these experts very effectively many times. The trick is to write down exactly what it is you’re going to do and the price on what you’re going to deliver. That way you’re out of there as soon as you’re finished. This is what we clients hope to get. Even though you may return for a repeat performance like handling my taxes every year, it’s difficult to bring on a consultant if I think they’ll stay forever or be difficult to get rid of. If you help me define my project completion criteria, cost, and timing—it’s much easier to hire you to get started.
Big company expertise just part time
On the other hand, we hired one management consultant part-time who, if paid full time, would cost about $150,000 a year. However, we arranged that he come in two half-days a week and we get the benefit of a senior financial manager for $1,500 a month. In his case, we have enough ongoing activities needing his expertise to keep him productively busy. Some months it looks like he’s done nothing. And other months, he’s earned his keep for an entire year in one conversation. In his case, we have a Fortune 500 financial officer available to our small company without having to hire him full time.
If you come from a high-level job in a big corporation, possibly many companies would appreciate the sophistication you bring. Without looking for project after project or a full-time job, you might consider working one day a week for five companies or some kind of combination. They could afford you, you’d enjoy a variety of clients, and the sum total of your fees could add up to much more than a single full-time job. A small company could easily afford $500 a day which adds up to $120,000 per year and $1,000 per day brings in close to $250,000 per year.
That kind of consultant works very well. Especially with the virtual corporation model described in the chapter “Be Part of a Virtual Company.” Small companies don’t need and cannot afford to hire a lot of expensive employees. Clients can get as much expertise as they need and pay as they go. And, this concept is relatively easy to sell.
The first hour is free. . . that’s it!
Many consultants get stuck pitching, pitching, and pitching, and giving too much away for free. How do you get your potential client to sign you on? The first hour is free—that’s when you go find out what the problems and priorities are. Before the hour is up, figure out what small project can be accomplished for only a few hours of your time that your client can afford, maybe $100 to $500. This should be a project that by itself has value to your client whether or not you continue to work together. It could be a simple component of the big picture you want to work into. In my marketing business, I offered to develop a data sheet—something relatively simple, inexpensive, but useful and, in itself, complete. This gave my client a feel for working with me and for the quality I delivered. It’s also easy for a client to commit to and pay for. And it’s a painless way for you to gauge your working relationship as well as your client’s responsiveness to your invoices. The next step is working on the next larger project.
Too many consultants come in and paint a big expensive picture, only to lose the opportunity because they fail to break the project into bite-sized and affordable pieces.
Business Black Belt Notes
- Define the project completion criteria, cost, and date
- Assure clients that you won’t stay forever
- Can you provide needed sophistication on a part-time basis?
- Sell your services in stages
- Sell your efficiencies