The client-consultant relationship is a two-way street. Before you begin work or sign a contract, it’s important to learn the needs and resources of your client, including what they need to properly engage you, the independent contractor. When searching for new business, the last thing you want is to lose out to a competitor or find yourself working with a client who can’t afford your services. Follow these steps to properly qualify new clients and sell your consulting services.
To some, being a salesperson comes naturally. To others, it may be a bit overwhelming at first. Ensuring you’re landing the jobs you want, figuring out what consulting strategies you can employ to improve your sales, and landing new work faster and more frequently can sound like considerable tasks. Keep the process simple and start with qualifying. Qualifying is one of the first steps to consulting success, and will save you hassle and headache—especially when dealing with new clients.
Qualifying is determining a conditional understanding of the potential client and their needs to increase the probability of closing the sale.
Simply put, qualifying is figuring out what the client needs, how your business can meet those needs, and how likely it is that the client will employ your services. The goal is to make sure there really is a good business fit between your consulting services and what the client is willing and able to buy.
To qualify a lead and ultimately secure a deal, there are a number of details you’ll need to figure out. The simplest way to do this is to ask your client. It seems obvious, but it’s always best to start off the sales process by speaking to the decision-maker first, ensuring that you’re not selling to someone who is not in the position to buy.
Use the following questions to guide a conversation with your potential client.
By asking a series of qualifying questions, you’ll immediately know whether or not you can meet the client’s needs. If your services don’t align with what they’re looking for, move on to the next lead.
The questions asked in the qualification process are often referred to as the “needs assessment.” A needs assessment begins with broad questions to determine the potential client’s understanding of their own needs. As conversation grows and develops, it should naturally flow into a discussion of their specific needs. Throughout this process, try to be open and understanding, and encourage the client to explain and share in detail.
Example questions to begin this process include:
Once your potential client has answered these (or similar) questions, it will provide you with information to tailor your sales pitch. Ultimately, you’ll be able to win more deals and weed out projects that aren’t the right fit. As you learn more about potential client budgets, this will help you calibrate the right consulting rate in your proposals.
Qualifying doesn’t just stop there. Not only does it ensure that you’re pitching to more promising leads, but it also attracts new prospects. Sharing your qualification process with your clients shows an honest and transparent business practice, and gives them confidence from the outset. After all, the search for the perfect fit between client and consultant will benefit all sides if conducted earnestly.
Building a brand can help increase your visibility to potential clients. To learn more, read Building a Brand as an Independent Consultant.