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Don’t Focus on Leads For Your Consulting Business (Until You’ve Done This)

By Michael Zipursky

Any consultant whose gone independent understands an important truth:

You’re not just in the business of consulting. You’re in the business of marketing.

Without marketing — generating conversations with buyers (leads) — you cannot generate revenue. And without revenue, you don’t have a business.

But marketing is much deeper than generating conversations with buyers.

Generating leads is an important part of your marketing.

But unless you build a foundation on which to generate said leads, your leads won’t develop into new business.

In this article, you’ll learn how to build that foundation.

You’ll learn what you should do before you generate leads — so that when you do start your marketing efforts, your leads will develop into new business.


The marketing mindset of an inexperienced consultant

“If only I head more leads…THEN I’d have a successful consulting business!”

This is how consultants inexperienced in the area of marketing think.

They believe that all they need is more leads. Then, they will get more clients.

They are right about one thing — generating leads and having conversations with buyers is critical.

But focusing on the volume of these conversations is a misleading metric.

Your volume of leads doesn’t mean anything unless you’ve set the stage for effective lead-generation and are able to win the business.

Consider the following metaphor…

Mark built a beautiful boat. It had all of the fancy bells and whistles. It was the prettiest, most eye-catching boat at the docks.

But when he took it out to sea, it sank.

He was focused on all of the shiny objects and didn’t focus on the most important part of the boat: a sturdy hull. The hull was weak and full of holes.

Mark was too busy making it look pretty.

Katherine also built a boat. Unlike Mark, she made sure that her boat was built fundamentally sound. She focused on getting the foundations right. It wasn’t a very pretty boat, it looked rather basic.

But when she took her boat out to sea, it didn’t sink. It moved gracefully and sailed as she desired. Once it passed the sailing test, she knew she could enhance its appearance.

consulting marketing boat metaphor

In the context of marketing, your consulting business is like a boat. Unless your foundations are set, your lead-generation efforts will look like Mark’s boat. It will be full of holes, and business opportunities will leak right out.

Effective lead generation for consultants is built on top of these 5 fundamentals:

  • Identifying your ideal client
  • Crafting a compelling message
  • Creating a strategic offer
  • Understanding the meaningful sales conversation
  • Mapping out your proposal process

Once you have these pieces in place, your lead-generation strategy will be 10x more effective.

Without these, your lead-generation (and consulting business) will sink.

Step 1: Identify your ideal client

Marketing and lead-generation begin with identifying your ideal client.

And I don’t mean on a surface level.

I mean truly understanding who your ideal client is — as well as their desires, problems, and uncertainties.

Identifying your ideal client is an exercise in disqualification. Elite consultants are very focused on who they serve. They understand that most prospects aren’t a good fit.

You want to know basic information like…

  • Industry
  • Company Size
  • Location
  • Seniority
  • Job Title

And you also want to know qualitative information like…

  • What problems and pains they are facing in their business
  • What their desired future looks like
  • What’s holding them back from getting there

When you know this information, you’ll have a much better understanding of your ideal client.

Everything in your marketing starts from here.

Learn more about how to identify your client.

Step 2: Craft a compelling message

Now that you know your ideal client, you must craft a message that intrigues your ideal client.

If you’ve done the above step properly, this should be easy. You have the information you need — you just have to put together a message that grabs their attention.

Here’s a formula you can use to develop your messaging:

I help IDEAL CLIENT to SOLVE PROBLEM so that OUTCOME. Over the last # YEARS I’ve used a PROCESS to RESULT in # weeks.

Fill in the underlined words by using what you found in your ideal client profile.

This is your core marketing message.

compelling marketing message example
A real-life example of a compelling consulting message

It’s not designed to sell. It’s designed to get the attention of your ideal client.

A compelling message will get your ideal clients to think…

“How do they do that?”

It gets them curious about how you can solve their problem — and get them results. It evokes them to reach out to you.

Remember — don’t just store your value proposition on a piece of paper. It should be visible and consistent across ALL of your marketing material: your LinkedIn profile, website, etc.

If your ideal clients can’t see it, then it won’t work for you.

Learn more about how to craft your value proposition.

Step 3: Create your strategic offer

Have you thought about how you actually deliver your consulting projects?

Many consultants just “freestyle” their offer. They don’t put enough time to think about how to make it profitable.

A strategic offer helps you maximize your time, impact and income.

If you want to create a profitable consulting offer, you must learn how to…

  • Package your service
  • Position your expertise
  • Place value on your project
  • Price your offer
consultant strategic offer
Example of a productized consulting strategic offer

When you do this, you’re more likely to offer something that your prospect wants and buys.

A strategic offer helps you escape scope creep, avoid trading your time for money, and deliver the most value to your clients.

Learn more about how to create a strategic offer.

Step 4: Understand the meaningful sales conservation

You can acquire all the leads you want.

But do you know how to guide your prospect to discover the value of the engagement through a meaningful sales conversation?

If not, you’ll have trouble turning leads into consulting work. And even if you do win the business you’ll end up leaving a lot of money on the table.

It’s no secret that sales are challenging for many consultants. If you can’t sell, you’ll lose out on business.

A meaningful sales conversation is where you ask the right questions to identify the ROI and the value of the project.

It’s not about making a pitch. It’s about working together with your prospect so that you both understand the value you can create.

meaningful consulting sales conversation

After a compelling sales conversation, your prospect is excited about working with you. Why? Because now, they understand that you can help them reach their desired future goal.

Learn more about how to have a meaningful sales conversation — and ask the best questions.

Step 5: Map out your proposal process

Increasing your proposal acceptance rate is one of the quickest ways to pick up more consulting projects.

To make sure your proposals are accepted regularly, you’ll need an approach and process for delivering them.

Writing proposals can be a time-intensive, difficult task.

But when you have an effective proposal strategy that doesn’t eat up all your time, you’ll feel much more confident writing and sending out winning proposals consistently.

I wrote an article to explain how to write consulting proposals that win business.

You’ll want to write down each step you take when writing a proposal. This document is your proposal process. Whenever you write a proposal, refer to your process.

consulting proposal template by consulting success
Our consulting proposal template

And as you get better at writing proposals, tweak and perfect your process.

Don’t let your proposals bottleneck your consulting income. Take it as seriously as the other parts of your business, and you’ll benefit tremendously.

Step 6: Generate leads — nurture them, and follow-up

Now, after completing the previous 5 steps, you can start to generate leads with confidence and make the most of them.

Keep in mind no matter which lead-generation strategy you choose, you must nurture and follow-up with your leads.

Very few of your clients are ready to work with you right away.

As a consultant, staying top of mind is essential.

When your client does have a need, your nurture and follow-ups help you stay top of mind so they hire you.

Don’t be afraid to follow up 7-12 times with a good lead over the course of a year. Often, this is what it takes to turn a lead into a paying client.

And you can do it in a non-spammy, non-promotional way. Focus on adding value with each of your follow-ups.

Learn more about effective lead-generation from our marketing for consultants study.

Action Step: Set your consulting business foundations

Before you think about generating leads, take a step back and look at your consulting business.

Ask yourself these questions…

  • Do I know exactly who my ideal client is?
  • Do I have a consistent message that gets the attention and interest of my ideal client and is it in all my public-facing marketing material?
  • Do I have the expertise and offer that will add value to my ideal client’s business?
  • Do I know how to conduct a meaningful sales conversation by asking the right questions?
  • Do I have a process for writing proposals that close business?

Until the answer to all of these questions is a confident “Yes,” don’t spend all your time on lead generation.

Get the fundamentals right first. Then you’ll see the real benefit of doing lead-generation.

If you’d like a proven step-by-step system to get this foundation in place for your consulting business keep reading…

Momentum – The Proven System For Setting The Foundation To Attract Consulting Clients

We’ve launched a new online implementation program to help consultants nail these fundamentals.

It’s called Momentum.

momentum course for early stage consultants

And it will help you build the momentum you need to become a successful consultant.

If you want to…

  • Get crystal clear on your ideal client so you never doubt who it is you should be going after…
  • Write messaging that gets clients coming to you (instead of you always having to go to them)…
  • Create strategic offers that help you deliver profitable consulting projects that 2, 3, or 5x your income…
  • Master the art of sales and close more consulting business at a higher rate (even if you’re an introvert who hates typical sales)…
  • Close more of your proposals while writing them more quickly and efficiently…
  • Generate more leads — and learn how to nurture and follow-up with them so more of them become high-value clients…

…then we built Momentum for you.

Learn more about Momentum — the bestselling course for early-stage consultants.

9 thoughts on “Don’t Focus on Leads For Your Consulting Business (Until You’ve Done This)

  1. Zilkerpartners says:

    thanks for the information

  2. Very good and explained article, indeed!
    Congratulations once again for your contribution to everyone’s progress!

  3. Doresa Ibrahim says:

    This a very well thought out and well written article! You’ve provided a lot of great advice. I love all the different examples and illustrations in the article. I especially love the example about Dauwn Parker.

  4. Great post. This post will be very useful to me. Thanks, Dear Author for this rocking post. Can you explain how to choose the consultancy in India

  5. Thanks for sharing great post. This is very informative and helpful to build successful strategy for business.

    • Appreciate the comment Peter and you’re very welcome. Glad you enjoyed it and found it helpful.

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