How to Get Paid on Time

Get-Paid-First

The graveyard is filled with businesses that had cash flow problems.

If you’d like to avoid ending up with the same fate, make sure you’re not committing this classic consulting sin.

The reason most consultants don’t do this is because they are too scared to ask their clients.

Consultants ask me all the time, “my client was supposed to pay me a week ago, and they haven’t what should I do?”

That “one week” becomes two, sometimes three, six or more…

There’s a simple way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you – get paid up front.

That’s right; tell your client that you take payment at the outset of the project.

If you can’t collect 100% of the payment at the start, take no less than 50% (or 1/3 paid out evenly over the project at minimum).

The idea here is that you shouldn’t be doing work unless you’ve been paid for it. Continue Reading

Do Consultants Really Need to Specialize?

Choosing-to-Specialize

This is a conversation I have with consultants I coach all the time.

It’s a topic I’ve written and talked about on several occasions.

Positioning yourself as a specialist doesn’t put you in a corner. That’s a concern I hear all the time and it’s off the mark.

And it’s one of the biggest areas of misunderstanding for consultants.

The question I get is “do I need to specialize?”

My answer is YES, however, there’s more to it than that…

The Goal of Specialization

If your goal is to land more clients and you’re getting started in the consulting business, than yes, specialization will help you.

Why? Because once you’ve decided who your ideal clients are, what industry they are in and in what way you will help them – your marketing becomes more focused.

If you’re new to this business, or simply want to get more clients you need to market your services.

That means you must be clear on who to target your message to.

Let’s look at two examples…

In the first, a consultant wants to get clients. They don’t know who their ideal clients are and they haven’t decided what service offerings to focus on. They go do some networking. They try to get some speaking opportunities or write some blog posts.

In the second example, a consultant decides they will use their experience in online marketing to position themselves as an online marketing consultant. They will help companies to increase their online sales. Their ideal clients are e-commerce businesses. They write articles for e-commerce publications and speak at their associations. They go to events related to that topic.

Now, which consultant do you believe will see greater success?

Which will spend less money trying to reach their ideal clients? Continue Reading

Shortchanging Yourself on the Road to Success

Shortchanging-Yourself

Too often consultants make poor decisions when it comes to growing their business and becoming more successful.

Society pounds us with sayings like “every dollar counts.”

Your decision should always be based on value. What is going to help you to get where you want to go as quickly and effectively as possible.

And it’s true, it does.

Yet this saying is dangerous when it comes to investing in your personal development, business and success.

This saying pushes us to the lowest dollar option. To the cheaper solution.

Let’s say you’re thinking of improving your skills in a specific area this year. You find two programs that can help you. One is for $500 and the other is for $750.

That’s a $250 difference. Does it matter?

It shouldn’t! Your decision shouldn’t come down to a difference of $250, or even $500 or $1000.

Your decision should always be based on value. What is going to help you to get where you want to go as quickly and effectively as possible. Continue Reading

Bad Clients Don’t Get Better

Bad-Consulting-Clients

If you’re dealing with a prospect that is giving you the run around it’s unlikely that they’ll ever become a client. So don’t waste your time on them.

Don’t spend your time thinking that bad clients or prospects are suddenly going to get better.

The tell-tale signs of this include:

  • They say they are too busy and that you should check back in a few months
  • They want to think about how to present the idea of hiring you to their board
  • They ask for a proposal without wanting to meet you first
  • They tell you they’ll call you back on a certain day or reply to your email and never do.

Am I suggesting that any prospect that shows the above signs will never become a client? No. What I’m suggesting is that you figure out as quickly as possible whether or not a prospect is actually serious about doing business with you.

If you see signs that they are, take immediate action to move things forward and setup a meeting with them.

If you’re getting the run around and feeling like things are going nowhere, it might be best to move on to the next. Continue Reading

5 Ways to Get More Consulting Clients and Stay Top of Mind

Stay-on-top-of-mind

When you don’t turn that prospect into a client right away, what do you do?

One of the most common reasons consultants fail to land more clients is because they lack a clear follow up plan and strategy.

The incorrect assumption people have is that if you don’t win a client early in the relationship the chances of winning them decrease over time (as shown in the diagram below from a study by Marketo).

image-1

The truth however is the exact opposite (as seen below). The longer you nurture a relationship and stay top of mind with your ideal clients, the greater the chance you’ll have to win them as a client at some point. It might take, weeks, months or years. Continue Reading

When to Offer Consulting Services for Free aka. Pro Bono

Consulting-for-Free

Don’t shoot the messenger though let me tell you, you can and sometimes should offer your consulting services for free, also known as pro bono.

The singular goal when it comes to your marketing in the early days is to get noticed.

That’s right. It’s not for everyone and should be avoided by most consultants.

Yet there is a time when offering your services for free not only makes sense, it can pay big dividends.

“I’m not offering anything for free” yells the consultant in the back.

I hear you. In fact, I’ve written many times that you shouldn’t do work for free.

However, there is a specific time when it’s a good idea.

And that time is when you’re just getting started.

Multiple Directions

When you’ve just launched your business, in addition to going after paid projects, you should also consider throwing some pro bono work into the mix.

The reason is simple. The singular goal when it comes to your marketing in the early days is to get noticed.

If your ideal clients don’t know you exist, they can’t hire you.

Strategic Offers

Think about approaching: Continue Reading

How to Get Past Your Failures and Become a Great Success

Get-Past-Failures-to-Success

Revlon, GE, FedEx, Microsoft all share something you may not know…

Put any excuses that are holding you back aside. They’re not doing you any good.

While they are all successful companies, they also were all started during a recession.

Proof that great companies can arise from times of hardship.

Maybe your last business didn’t succeed or you were fired from your job.

It doesn’t matter.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

If you hang on to the past too long it begins to dictate your future.

Clients care much less about your past position or failed business than they do about what you’re doing now.

Put any excuses that are holding you back aside. They’re not doing you any good.

Identify who your ideal clients are.

Figure out how to get in front of them.

How to show them that you are an authority and expert in your area. Continue Reading

Are You Losing Clients Because of This Technology?

Technology

You can use all the technology in the world yet it can’t replace the power of meeting with your ideal clients face-to-face.

I’ve heard from many consultants, “why would I get on an airplane or drive 100 miles to meet with a prospective client when I can just email them or give them a call?”

What matters is the result. If spending $600 leads to landing a $60,000 project who cares about the cost of the ticket.

Because it raises your chance of winning their business, that’s why!

I know it’s easy to sit behind a keyboard or tap out a message on your phone. It’s comfortable and convenient. It’s what most people do.

None of that replaces a face-to-face meeting.

Business is still and always will be about relationships. People want to work with you because they like you. Because they trust you. And because they believe that you can provide value and results.

Two scenarios:

a) You meet someone at an event and have a conversation with them
b) Someone sends you an email trying to initiate a conversation

Now, which scenario results in greater trust between the two people involved?

That’s right, without a doubt it’s the first one.

If it’s so clear that meeting your ideal client face-to-face is so much more effective why don’t more people do it? Continue Reading

Asking for Referrals: How It’s Really Done

Refferals

Most consultants misunderstand the referral process.

You see, there are two kinds of referrals:

a) The ones you initiate;

b) The ones that come to you.

The vast majority of people think about referrals as the ones that come to you.

That’s fine if you’re business is well-established, you have a pipeline full of business and a busy schedule. If a referral comes to you and it’s a good fit, you accept it and follow it through.

However, if you’re just getting started or don’t have enough clients it’s unlikely you’ll be getting referrals that simply come to you.

If you want more clients you can’t sit back and wait for referrals to come to you.

It’s up to you to initiate those referrals.

How can you do that?

Here’s the secret sauce…

Make a list of all your friends and colleagues. Your past employers, clients and contacts.

Now one-by-one call them up and ask them for a referral. Continue Reading

Stop Giving Advice Away for Free

Free-Advice-Dont-Do-It

Have you ever noticed that when you give someone advice for free they don’t take action on it?

When someone pays you for that same advice they are much more likely to use what you’ve shared with them and benefit from it.

Those kinds of people do exist. They just want to get what they can for free and aren’t serious about hiring someone.

This isn’t a universal truth that applies to 100% of people. It is however what happens in the vast majority of cases.

It happens so often in fact that what’s revealed is a bigger issue…

People don’t value what they get for free.

When you give your advice for free, people may say “thank you” and “I appreciate your time”. Pleasantries are nice, but you’re not giving advice to have your ego stroked (at least you shouldn’t be).

You’re giving advice because you want the person to benefit from it. To take action on it, to implement and to get the result they are looking for.

Consultants often ask me, “Michael, my clients and prospects always want my advice but they’re not willing to pay for it, what should I do?”

My answer…

Get a new client!

Sounds harsh, yet it is a real option.

You see, if you’re dealing with a client or prospect that is just looking to be a leech and suck away your time and knowledge they may never be willing to pay you for help.

Those kinds of people do exist. They just want to get what they can for free and aren’t serious about hiring someone. They’ll try to do everything themselves and will end up taking three times as long to get where they want to go and often won’t ever reach their destination.

Instead of giving away all your advice for free, ask the buyer as many questions as you can to understand their situation.

If you sense that’s who you’re dealing with, it’s time to move on and find a real client and buyer that needs help and wants to hire someone that can deliver great value. Continue Reading