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.