Increase your billable rates by becoming an educated expert, working your network, and avoiding one major (but common) mistake.
I’m joined today by the CEO of Signorelli Consulting Group, Tony Signorelli. His consulting group focuses mainly on sales enablement and marketing, and they have been in the business since 1995. In this episode, we talk about the path that led Tony to sales and consulting, and he shares insights into creating a successful consulting firm within the corporate world. We examine the importance of taking action when securing new clients, and he shares the mistakes he’s made — that you can learn from — and the incredible importance of using your network to your advantage. Tony shares several of his secrets of success, including the ways that you can generate more revenue without adding more work hours to your day. You won’t want to miss the stories he tells in this episode of The Consulting Success Podcast.
A Creative and Curious Consultant
Tony has never worked as an employee for anyone else — from freelance writer and bookstore owner to organic farmer and poetry editor, his background was not exactly a linear approach to consulting. His work as a technical writer for a medical company quickly evolved into his involvement with every major product launch for the company, and it was at that point that Tony started to understand the importance of positioning himself as someone that could help companies solve their problems. Rather than approaching consulting with an extensive background of experience, he started his business with a “learn as we go” approach, and that approach has led his company to the successful place that they are in now.
Sometimes consultants are brought in to assess and validate ideas that the company already believes to be true. But the third, more valuable reason consultants are brought in is because a consultant can offer a level of expertise to a company that they aren’t getting internally.
For Tony, the driving factor behind his work was two-fold — curiosity and creativity. Once he figured a business out, he inevitably grew bored of it and wanted to move on to the next unknown. As he realized that the questions he was facing with sales and marketing consulting were growing, rather than being solved, he knew he had found a place that he wanted to fully dive into. Even today, the problems presented by companies continue to keep Tony’s attention.
He shares one specific event — the turning point at which he realized that he was solving a company’s problems without getting paid for it. Once he made that realization, the decision to fully commit to growing his sales and marketing consultancy was an easy one. As the business has developed, there have been various points when he and his team have been presented with new challenges, and from there the work continues to grow.
Traversing The Value Pyramid
Along his path to success, Tony realized that he needed to climb higher on the value pyramid in order to create greater value for his clients. The value hierarchy he refers to is a simple tool which demonstrates how you can charge your clients more money by systematically adding value in your business environment. The levels increase from providing your clients information and resources to giving them the tools and services they need to affect real and lasting change within their business.
It can be difficult for consultants to understand how exactly to move upward from where their business is to where it needs to be in order to be more valuable. Tony shares specific steps that he took to improve his work, starting with educating himself. He read all that he could about new sales methodology and began differentiating what ideas were actually novel or distinct from all of those available. From that point, he increased his understanding of building value with businesses and he was easily able to apply the most effective knowledge in each specific situation.
Bringing in new ideas such as Tony does is a key aspect of success for building trust, confidence, and loyalty with your clients. Even if those new ideas aren’t yours, you can still implement them with your clients and bring a higher level of value to their business.
Businesses tend to hire consultants for just a handful of reasons — often it’s because they need an extra set of hands to help get things done or to increase the overall capacity of the company. Sometimes consultants are brought in to assess and validate ideas that the company already believes to be true. But the third, more valuable reason consultants are brought in is because a consultant can offer a level of expertise to a company that they aren’t getting internally.
When you are able to position yourself as a consultant who has the expertise that companies are looking for, you have made your job easier. As a result. you’ll be able to move up the value pyramid that much quicker. Conversely, if you’re just working as another pair of hands, you will most likely find yourself moving down the value ladder instead. In the remainder of our conversation, Tony shares several ways that you can position yourself as an invaluable asset to any company.
Generating More Revenue Starts Here
Every consultant wants to position themselves in a place that allows maximum value for their work. The key to actualizing this goal is to become an expert in your field. Tony started out as a technical writer, which he recognized were a dime a dozen. Revenue only started increasing when he realized that he could charge more by fixing sales processes — a shift that did not require that he spend more hours working. The change simply meant positioning himself in such a place that his work was worth more to his clients.
By doing this he was able to truly effect change, and the same amount of work started producing far greater revenue results. You may have to start out charging on a rate basis, but it won’t be long before you will be able to switch over to a project basis instead. This pricing model provides higher returns for the same amount of work and this higher value proposition offers more to your customers as well as more return for you.
It may seem that, as the consultant, you need to impart to your client all of the knowledge you have through presentations and such, but Tony has a better idea. Asking better questions is an essential part of creating greater value and clarity for both you as the consultant as well as for your clients. Far more than any stories you may have to tell or claims you make are the questions that you ask — the questions will have the greatest impact on your clients.
Win Business Today By Taking Action
Winning corporate business — or any business — is not easily done, but in this episode Tony shares some of the ways that he has successfully done so. The first step shouldn’t surprise you — it starts with working your network. Making connections in every way you possibly can is essential to every consultant’s success.
Tony shares two stories that illustrate the importance of putting yourself out there however you can. After sending out a letter in the mail to over 100 people, one of Tony’s first connections eventually turned into a $2.5 million project with Medtronic. He also tells of a colleague that followed his networking advice and in turn, made an unlikely connection that led to a business deal with Hewlett-Packard.
I often tell people that taking action — even if it’s imperfect action — is the only way that you can really get started on the road to consulting success. If you aren’t willing to put yourself out there, you will never know who is who in your network of connections. You have to be willing to reach out in every aspect of your network. By doing so you will absolutely set yourself up for greater success. You’ll be surprised to hear how it worked for Tony, but he is great proof — it really does work.
Tips for Generating More Business
Once you’ve successfully started working with one company, the next step is to secure business with other companies in the same field. Tony shares two essential tips for making this happen. First, you have to leverage your success within a company to secure more business within that same company. There are strategies to help you move from business unit to business unit, to obtain more business from the unit you were working in as well as to travel up the chain within the company.
The second crucial step is to maintain relationships with the people that you have worked with at each company. As layoffs happen people will start working for other companies, remember your work, and you find yourself with new work in another company. This is the most effective way that Tony has found for organically creating new consulting opportunities.
If your business is in a place where you need to create brand new connections and generate new leads, Tony has advice for you, as well. Attending the right trade shows in your industry is key. A greater step is to take advantage of the resources that are readily available to you on LinkedIn. Tony shares the ways that he has used this tool to his advantage, and his approach has been tried-and-true over the years — identify the ideal client, invite a list of them to a local group, then create opportunities to meet in person and discuss relevant topics. You will definitely want to listen to how each of these steps has worked for him as he’s worked to create more business.
Avoid These Common Consulting Mistakes
If your goal is to do business with large companies, it is critical that you understand what kind of environment you are in. From answering RFPs to cold calling, seeking out decision makers to trying to get yourself on a preferred vendor list, there are a number of errors that can easily be avoided if you take the time to understand the nature of the large company environment.
Tony shares an example when he didn’t fully understand who he was dealing with and didn’t land a sale as the result. Let his mistakes be your lessons learned — and hear more about what works instead, in this episode of the Consulting Success Podcast with Tony Signorelli.
[:17] Meeting Tony Signorelli — Jack of all trades turned consulting expert.
[4:45] Tony’s decision to dive into sales and marketing consulting.
[7:13] Steps to successfully climbing the value pyramid.
[10:00] The impact of dedicating yourself to greater education and expertise.
[13:09] Successfully winning corporate business starts with working your network.
[17:16] How to generate new business and develop your network relationships.
[28:38] Mistakes consultants frequently make when growing their businesses.
[34:30] Connecting with Tony Signorelli.
Mentioned in This Episode:
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