10 Tips for Improving Consulting Sales

Aarni Heiskanen is a service innovation consultant and entrepreneur from Finland. His company, AE Partners, helps clients strategize and innovate B2B services.

Aarni has been involved in pioneering Internet businesses in Finland. And also runs, Thinking Business (In Finnish Language), which develops Internet software for managing project portfolios.


Here are ten tips that I’ve found invaluable in my consulting business.

1. Call your clients regularly
Calling your existing clients and asking how they are is the simplest means of getting new commissions. Don’t call them just when your backlog is getting thin, do it regularly. Your call can activate the client into thinking about some need or problem for which you could provide the solution.

2. Build trust with more than one person in the client’s organization
Nowadays people move from one position to another rapidly. The person that commissioned you might not be at the client’s organization next year. Widen the circle of people that know and trust you, and you’ll have a better chance of serving the client for years to come.

3. Sell something small at first
The more complex the professional service, the more time the client needs to make a decision about accepting it. By selling something small and easy to buy you start the trust-building process before selling something more extensive. It is, however, important that you charge even for the small service. Otherwise the client sees it as marketing and values it less.

4. Look for disruptions
All sorts of disruptions in clients’ organizations are opportunities. Changes in the management team, loss of business in some area, emergence of a new competitor etc. are all examples of situations where clients will need help.

5. Involve fresh minds from other industries
Consultants who specialize in a certain industry are in a danger of becoming narrow-minded. Go out and mingle with innovative people from other industries. Offer new, inclusive services that stand out from your more traditional competitors’ offerings.

6. Read a lot and pick up ideas for your business
There are plenty of good business books and research studies that you can use as inspiration for new service ideas. Authoritative sources can confirm your claims of value and benefits that your service can provide.

7. Make and publish surveys on current topics
Creating a survey online is quite easy. Ask your clients or email list about something that is interesting today or will be interesting in the near future. You can tip the media off about your study and get an interview or article written by a journalist. Furthermore, you can send the study to your email list, post it on your website, and use it in your marketing.

8. Productize your service
Service productization means the systematization of your marketing and service processes. A systematized process is repeatable and becomes more and more efficient every time. A productized service is easier to communicate and sell because the client gets a concrete picture of the benefits and results that you can produce.

9. Educate first
Sometimes your client lacks the confidence to use your services. They feel that they do not have the insight or knowledge to judge if what you are suggesting is something that is valuable for their business. Why not educate them first? Offer a client-specific training day that educates them about the subject and shows them how they’d benefit from a new solution. After that they’ll be much better equipped to make the decision.

10. Be the proactive initiator
Try to uncover emerging needs before your clients or competitors. Gather evidence of the need and how a solution will benefit your client. Be quick to create a solution that you can market and sell to the first, avid clients. The service does not have to be perfect or complete at once. Even a prototype service gives you and your client valuable experience and enhances your image as a leader in your field.

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  • Steve Norman

    Great article. I find #4 to be a strong value add area. We can always find some roadblock and help clients to get around it when working together.

  • Balasubramaniam

    Aarni, You are absolutely right about regular communication with the clients. Not only does it builds trust ,it builds a strong relationship and bonding!

  • http://www.expandeer.com Guido Picus

    excellent blogpost! They're actually practicle and easy to implement. I'm guilty of not keeping in touch with clients via the phone. Sometimes you get caught up in email newsletters, blogpost syndications, etc that you lose track of doing simple things like picking up the phone and speaking to another human being.

  • http://www.zionconsultant.com Zion

    very practical tips… I intend to put it on my file, so it can serve as a constant reminder

  • http://www.thestrategydoctor.com Bart Zych

    Separately all these tips are on the side of common sense, especially if you have experience in consultative sales. However, taken and implemented together systematically they will produce significant results over time.

    I find #8 to be a common challenge to new consultants/coaches. Often we know what we're good at, and how our past experience and education can help potential clients, be we have a difficult time communicating it succinctly to our prospects. Point 8 suggests a good way to 'package' a service in order to be able to define it and the value and results it provides to our clients.

  • http://twitter.com/aarnih @aarnih

    Hi all and thanks for the great feedback!

    Bart, you are absolutely right. A systematic approach is always better than "quick fixes".

    Aarni

    • http://www.consulting-business.com Michael Zipursky

      Nice comments! Aarni – thanks for generously sharing these tips with us.

  • Edmee Roche

    Very helpful tips, thx Aarni – #8 #9 & #10 have been very effective for us…will rt post.

  • Sri Ram

    Great stuff Aarni..thanks for sharing this.

    You hit the nail on the head with Produtizing Services-No better way to catch a customer’s attention !!

  • http://www.brainworkscanada.com Donna Bellamy

    Thank you so much for the tips. I recently started my own consulting practice after dabbling for the past 15 years while fully employed. I appreciate your insight and can't wait to put these tips to use to gain more business. Take care.

  • http://armaturecorp.com/home.aspx Clark Adams

    A business company can only be successful, if their improvement is continuous. It’s true that a good relation with the customers is one of their top priorities, since it’s their biggest source of income. Conducting surveys is really a good idea. A survey can be in different forms, whether questions, quizzes or even games, since most people like something different, right?

  • Mohamed Wagih

    thanks for the article,i find to be a proactive is a must ,followed by identify a need where you may show to your customer as an education ,through where u build the trust and support for you where later on you can use his testamonial as areferring

  • Anonymous

    Very good and practical tips for improving sales. I am new in sales and marketing and learning new things. Trust is most important thing which should need to develop between client and you.

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  • paul jose

    Hello Aarni,

    Great tips. If you want positive results you will have to work on it. Also create a good image in the market because it is the only things which make the reliability among the people.

    Thanks

  • Azeema Mohammed

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