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Episode #110
Cynthia Barnes

How To Land And Keep Long-Term Consulting Clients

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Consulting is a significant and growing business in this day and age. Founder and CEO of Barnes Sales Institute, Cynthia Barnes shares her experience in sales and how her consulting firm specializes in the principal issues and enhances the success of women in sales. Helping you land and keep your consulting clients, she discusses the formulas in marketing and knowing your target markets. Join Cynthia in this episode to learn more about how to efficiently keep your consulting clients and also effectively land your ideal clients.

I’m here with Cynthia Barnes. Cynthia, welcome.

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Cynthia, you run Barnes Sales Institute. You work with clients like Michelin, Toyota, Autodesk, Okta, AT&T and many others. Your focus is on helping women to thrive in sales.

We work with those companies to help them with four pillars of attraction, hiring, developing and retaining the women in sales.

We’re going to dig a lot deeper into that. I want to get started in the early days. Were you involved in sales from a young age?

The running joke around my circle is that I used to tell my audiences as a keynote speaker, “I have been selling for many years.” Until one day in the audience, a young woman said, “That’s longer than I’ve been alive.” I got my feelings hurt. From then on, I said, “I’ve been selling since Girl Scout Cookies were $1.50 a box,” and let the audience do the math.

If someone says no right now, it doesn’t mean it’s a no forever. Click To Tweet

Back in those days with sales and meeting with others and having those conversations of what is a product or service, was that uncomfortable for you? Did that come naturally to you?

It came naturally. I always thought of sales as having the ultimate influence. Sales to me and to people that I consult is merely influencing decision-makers to say yes.

The thing that stood out to me is that you were in enrollment for the University of Phoenix. One thing that caught my attention when I was going through that and doing some research on you was that you consistently won Retention Awards. What was that all about?

It was a matter of making sure that my clients, those students stuck and stayed. It’s no good to enroll them into a program only to have them leave. It’s much harder to get a client or a student in that matter rather trying to retain them. On a personal level, I got a lot of pleasure seeing them walk across the graduation stage.

That’s huge because client retention itself is important. Far too often, people are thinking about always bringing new clients and client acquisition. They are not often spending enough time on servicing their current clients and making sure that they stay around longer, increasing the lifetime value. What’s been your experience on that in terms of retention, doing more with current or past clients to increase lifetime value?

I look at the CLV, the Customer Lifetime Value, and I put a number on the actual dollar of what that client will bring me over the lifetime of our tenure together. When I have that dollar amount in mind, it’s much easier to develop programs, customer service levels around that because I know how much that relationship is worth. I also have a number of how much it cost to bring in a new client of that level. It reminds me I better take care of the ones that I have because it takes too much time, effort, resources and money to go out and replace them.

CSP 110 | Landing Consulting Clients

Do you find a lot of people that you speak with don’t have a clear understanding of what their customer lifetime value is?

They have no clue. Most times, they don’t even know what CLV is.

Take someone who might be a solo, independent consultant or have a consulting firm with five or ten people. How important is it to understand what the lifetime value of a client is?

It’s crucial. One of the cornerstones of a consultancy is you need to make sure that you understand that CLV. In certain circles, they think about, “What is this client going to do right here, right now?” In Asian cultures, they think about, “What is the decision that I’m about to make? How is that going to last seven generations down?” We tend to think about one generation, the here and now. If you take that same philosophy to your customers and say, “What is the legacy for not only my book of business but for whoever takes over my book of business seven generations from now?” That’s how long it can last if done well.

That’s powerful the idea and principle. Too often people are focused on the here now, making the sale. It’s more transaction rather than a relationship. What I’ve also observed and seen both on our business and many consultants’ businesses is that when you shift the focus away from transactions, more onto relationships, on providing value and servicing at the highest level without necessarily expecting a big return back right away, you end up creating more wealth and value. It brings you more referrals, business, and long-term clients. It’s this mindset a lot of people have where focusing on the now is holding them back from creating a value that can last them from the long- term. What’s been your experience or any thoughts you have on that?

It’s because someone says no right now, it doesn’t mean no forever. When you go into the beginnings of a relationship you have to think about, “How do I add value until the point in which they are ready to do business with me?” When you think about that five or six months down the road, maybe even two years down the road, and you keep nurturing them, giving them value when they come on board with you, it’s going to be a deeper relationship. Selling and business development is a lot like dating. You don’t ask someone that you just met whether they like to go away for the weekend with you. You exchange numbers, you exchange text, you have a phone conversation then you have some coffee. It’s a slow process. Those relationships and dating that are rushed are most likely doomed to fail. The same thing goes with prospecting and business development.

Selling and business development is a lot like dating, it’s a slow process. Click To Tweet

I’ve been over that dating game for quite a while now but I get what you’re saying. In your experience, how often should people expect to hear, “No?” I’m asking this because for a lot of people, the idea of hearing no is what holds them back from taking more action around their prospecting and outreach, follow-ups. Hearing no is a normal thing. It’s to be expected. Do you have any numbers? What percentage of time do you think people or have you experienced that no comes up, is it 40% of the time, 6% of the time? What are your thoughts on that?

It’s 90% of the time.

Ten people, nine of them will say no. One will say yes or they’ll be interested in having a further conversation right then. What does that mean? If we can break that down, if nine out of ten people say no, you and I both know that doesn’t mean it means no forever. It’s no, currently. What’s the best practice? What should people be doing when they hear no? What is the next step they should take to ensure that no can become a yes at some point down the road?

First of all, you have to welcome the noes. I need to back up and say if you hear no and it’s not your ideal target market then it’s almost devastating. If you know what granularity and specificity who exactly is your ideal target market, then those noes are not right now. It’s a numbers game. I don’t want people to think that I need to throw spaghetti in a wall and hope for a bunch of prospects, No, you have to know who your ideal target market is, then get 500 of them as leads. When you hear 90% no and a 10% yes, that’s 50 out of 500. If you only have 25 prospects and you hear no 90% of the time, then you’re starving to death.

What do you find is the best practice in finding those leads? Is it purchasing it from a list broker? Is it using some service online? What’s the latest and best of identifying leads?

I get all of my leads and all of my clients off of my LinkedIn Outreach. The first step is to create an avatar with the psychographics and demographics of the ideal client. If I were to put five of them around the table and you gave them your best slide deck and pitch, they would all say, “Do you accept Visa?” That’s what I do and then I create content, lead magnets, sequencing, nurturing around all the problems that keep my target market up at night. All of my messaging is around that.

CSP 110 | Landing Consulting Clients

There’s a formula in marketing that’s M x M = R. If you go back to ninth grade algebra, anything in algebraic equation set to zero means the whole thing is zero. The first M in the equation M x M = R is your message. What do you say to that target market to get them to stop the scroll? The second M is your media. Where do you put that message? Is it in a billboard? Is it in a journal? Is it on LinkedIn? The R in that equation, M x M = R, is the result. Unless your message gets them to stop the scroll and it’s in the right place, the media, then the result is going to get zero. Unless you know with granularity and specificity, my two favorite words, your target market, there’s no way that you can create that messaging to get them to stop the scroll.

People will go, “That makes sense. I understand that. What if I don’t know exactly who my ideal client is or I don’t have the perfect message to put in front of them because I’m not quite sure?” What have you found that is the best practice to number one, identify the ideal client and then number two, to develop a message that will get their attention and interest? These are big topics so I don’t expect to go too deep in each one. We certainly do a lot of work with our clients around these. Is there anything that you found to be helpful in terms of advice around that?

With our clients, we take them through a sequence of clarity exercises. For those reading, what they can do is they can Google an avatar worksheet. I think has one and it will walk you through the steps of your ideal client. When they do that, they have to make sure that they are not so married to their current client that they can’t envision their ideal client.

What you’re saying is find DigitalMarketer, a successful online training, products, event company. I’m sure there are many other sources out there. Essentially, finding a worksheet or someone that can take you through getting clear on who your ideal client is that will move people forward to at least greater levels of clarity than they currently have. I want to come back to digging to more on how you got to where you are now. Your focus is on women in sales. You go into organizations where they want to either recruit and attract or retain female sales superstars or salespeople. That focus is great because it’s a specific niche and establishes you as an expert in that area. Why did you choose that? Why did you decide to have that focus? There are many other sales consultants who are women who don’t have that specific focus. How did you arrive at that?

My customers told me what they needed. I had the association, the National Association of Women Sales Professionals, in which we provide them with professional development to reach the top 1%. Companies were coming to me saying, “Cynthia, how do we tap into your market?” My question to them was, “You can tap into our membership. What are you doing to help them stick and stay?” Out of that need, I created a consultancy.

What I love about that is you’re taking feedback from the marketplace. Too many people will say, “I’m going to put out this because it’s something that I feel good about or that I can do,” but they haven’t yet validated that hypothesis with the marketplace. It’s only when you take that idea to the market to get real feedback, do you know whether or not what you have is going to have ground to build upon. You heard from the marketplace and they said, “We want to help in this area.” What was the next thing that you did? How did you get the word out that Cynthia Barnes is now specializing and working with women in sales? What did that the next step look like for you to get on the radar of a lot of ideal clients?

A closed mouth doesn’t get bit. Click To Tweet

It was all through LinkedIn.

Walk us through. You identify your ideal client on LinkedIn. Are you using Sales Navigator to find them? What does your initial outreach or message look like? Is it a connection request to start with?

I have a specific connection request that I sent to them and they accept the connection request. I send a follow-up message a few days later. I tag them in a certain way to walk them through my sales funnel. I have downloadables and lead magnets. I have a call to action in those scripts. I move them through the top of funnel, middle of funnel, bottom of funnel.

When are you going into the ask? How much content are you using before you get to the ask? Are you going right into the ask?

It’s a three-step process. I’m not asking until day seven.

Are they getting two or three messages before you ask to jump on a call?

It’s three.

CSP 110 | Landing Consulting Clients

On the fourth it’s, “Why don’t we jump on a call and explore this?” or something along those lines?


Will you send that request or make that ask even if they have not responded to the three messages prior?

Correct. Yes, I will.

Each of those three messages, are you sending them to a specific content piece or you’re directing them to an article? Walk us through from a high level what you are doing in each of those three.

It’s all of the above. The first message is, “Let’s connect.” The second message is, “Thanks for connecting with me. Here is a downloadable for you.” I tell them to get foreshadowing, “I’ll follow up with you in a couple of days to see what your thoughts are.” They’re expecting another message from me. In that third message is, “What did you think of this?” I go into the pain point of what my target market is experiencing and ask them. “Does this challenge affect you too? If so, I’d like to hop on a call.”

You can struggle to survive or you can struggle to succeed. Click To Tweet

That’s the fourth message, that last.

Yes and, “Here’s another article for you.” I’m always giving value that taps into what’s keeping them up at night.

It sounds like our approach is aligned. We do a lot of work in our coaching program with consultants on exactly that step. I’m a big believer in the value relationship focus approach and not the transactional. We all get messages these days on LinkedIn from people who are essentially, “Here’s what I have, buy it.” It’s spam but done through LinkedIn. I don’t find it works because I would never buy that way. I don’t think any savvy buyer would. I appreciate you breaking that down specificity of how you go about that. You do a lot of work with women in sales. I’m interested because we have both women and men who are in our community who will be reading this and obviously need to make sales to grow their business. What are some of the big differences that you found that differentiate or maybe a difference in approach or a mindset that women have compared to men?

First of all, women experience unique challenges that men do not in the sales process. That comes in the form of microaggressions, implicit bias, unconscious bias, things that we have to overcome. As long as we’re aware of those things, we can overcome them. We also have innate strengths that are most times not amplified the way they should be. For example, women are wonderful at building relationships. In the sales process, it’s all about relationships so why not use that your benefit? It’s all about being aware. Where are the challenges? Where are the things that need to be amplified? Use them for your benefit.

We have a lot of clients, both men and women. One thing that I see with both male and female are hesitating to be direct or the concern of, “I don’t want to be too promotional, too salesy. I don’t want to appear needy.” What that then causes is hesitation and holding back, reaching out more directly to an ideal client or following up. I’m interested in your perspective and your experience. What would you say to someone, especially a woman reading, but it could be a man too? The things that are shared who says, “I know that I need to be following up more. I know deep down inside I should be more direct but I’m not doing it because I have fear or I’m concerned that I might say the wrong thing. I might miss the one big opportunity to make an impact or a mark. I’m not taking as much action as I should because I feel like I’m still missing some things and I need to have those in place before I go out and be more direct or take more action or follow-up more consistently.”

I’ll say two things. Number one, as they say down south in the Georgia area, “A closed mouth doesn’t get bit.” All the time that you are hesitating, you are missing out on opportunities because you’re not asking. The second thing I want to say is it’s like having a child. There’s never a good time to have a child. You can be prepared with books, bottles and all that good stuff, but nothing fully prepares you for it. You can read all the sales, you can listen to the podcast. The only way you are going to get confident is to do it over and over. Don’t worry about missing shots and missing opportunities, do it. Do the thing that you fear and the fear leaves.

Cynthia, I think you and I are connected in one way or another. Everything that you’re saying resonates with advice that we provide to clients and the belief, experience, and observations that I’ve had in businesses as well. I’m glad to have you on the show to be bringing your experience to everyone. Let’s talk a little bit more about your business. You mentioned and shared that the way you’ve built it was through LinkedIn. Often people will say, “My business is built through referrals and network.” I’m sure that you get referral business and that’s part of what you do. It’s nice to hear that you have been in control and intentional in building your business. It’s been years since you’ve started your consulting business. What are you doing to grow it to the next level or to make improvements? In terms of systems, tools, team members, processes, what are you excited about? What are you doing that is taking your business to that next level?

Sales is merely influencing decision-makers to say yes. Click To Tweet

In the beginning, we were helping with developing women in sales initiatives. After that, we have the only women in sales classroom training for these corporations. You get the women into the classroom to work on scripting, verbiage and things like that. You have to be thinking about what’s next because your competition never sleeps.

Some people say, “I’m in a good place. I’m doing well right now.” They’re not recognizing that you can’t stand still. If you stand still, your competitors are saying, “You’re going down.” You don’t stay here. When they’re coming up, you’re going down. It is critical. It’s important to be consistently planting those seeds, looking for improvements and ways to get even better. In terms of when you’ve identified this is an opportunity to go into these organizations to get their people into these classrooms, is that done virtually or is that done live? How are you delivering on that model?

That’s done MeetMe live. For example, Toyota. We go into their regional centers and we bring in all of their women the surrounding area. We go through exercises, classroom training, live training, there’s no substitute for it. We can’t work on scripting if you are across a Zoom channel.

Since you’re going in live to deliver this, are you doing all this yourself? Do you have other team members? Do you do the train the trainer type of model or people are going and delivering this content for you? What’s the approach that you’re using?

In order to scale and roam, you have to come up with systems. I physically can’t go across the country and do all of this. It’s a matter of training the trainer, finding those facilitators that we can train to deliver and maintain our branding.

You have a lot going on between the association. It’s Cynthia Barnes, National Association of Women Sales Professionals. You’ve got that. You have the Barnes Sales Institute. You’ve got a lot of stuff going on. What are you doing on a daily basis to maintain a high level of performance? Is there a specific habit, mindset, principle, or approach that you use to get a lot of good stuff done?

Have you ever heard of nootropics? They are brain food and supplements to keep that mental sharpness and keep the energy levels up. It’s also lots of cardio, strength training, self-care, eating right and surrounding myself with people that push me to the next level that don’t accept mediocrity.

How do you find the nootropics and the natural supplements? Have you noticed the difference when you’re using them?

When you compare yourself to yourself, then the sky is the limit. Click To Tweet

Yes. There’s no way that I could accomplish all that I have in the short amount of time if I had just gone with the status quo.

That’s an important mindset or belief to have. You can accept the standard, you can accept the status quo, you can stay where you are or you can choose to achieve greatness. For a lot of people, they’re not necessarily working towards greatness in terms of more money and wealth. Although I believe that can also create freedom. It might be spending more time with family and loved ones, traveling the world, making an impact on your community or a lot more money. Whatever it is that works for you and the area that you’re passionate about or excited about, that’s where you can choose to create greatness rather than accepting where you are and staying there.

When we talk about getting to the top 1% in the members of NAWSP, it’s whatever the 1% looks like for you. If you want to be the world’s best auntie, then do that and do it well. There are two schools of thought in the Metro Detroit area. Number one is, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” The other one is, “If it’s not perfect, keep working.” You’ve only got two choices. Which choice is the best for you? I encourage you to choose the latter and to keep striving for that 1%, whatever it looks like.

If I can add to that, it’s, “Perfection does not exist. It’s the journey, it’s the dedication to getting better, working towards the idea of perfection, but also recognizing there is no perfection.” Understanding it’s long-term. It’s a journey. It’s not something that you necessarily ever stop if you want to keep getting better. That’s also the exciting thing about it. You don’t need to have the best result tomorrow, next week, next month or even next year. You’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what better looks like and what that end result is. That’s life, that’s the exciting part. If you’re not progressing, then what are you doing?

It’s a commitment toward excellence of what you can accomplish. Don’t compare yourself to anybody else or else you are going to be head and shoulders above them. When you compare yourself to yourself, then the sky is the limit.

You can struggle to survive or you can struggle to succeed. I think success tastes a lot better. I don’t know if someone said that before or maybe I’m quoting that. I like the sound of it. Maybe I heard it somewhere else. I know both you and I and many others have chosen to struggle to succeed because that’s the journey. Success is much more enjoyable. Cynthia, I enjoyed this conversation. I want to make sure that our audience can learn more about you and everything that you’re working on. Let us know, where is the best place for people to go to do that?

In LinkedIn, Cynthia Barnes.

Do you want people to connect with you or say, “Hi?” Let them know what they’ve found most interesting about the session here, the interview and the show.

I’d love to know what actionable item they’re going to implement to take their business to the next level.

There you have it. That’s your challenge if you choose to accept it. I hope that you will. Reach out to Cynthia on LinkedIn. Let her know what one action are you going to implement, are you going to move forward with. What have you found to be most beneficial? What have you learned? Do reach out to her. Reach and connect with me as well if you’re not already or shoot over a message. This is why we do this. It’s always to help out more value. Your comments, your suggestions are always welcome. Thank you, Cynthia, for coming on. I enjoyed it.

It was my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

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