When selling your consulting services, the right match means everything. A client-consultant relationship is, of course, a two-way street. Has the consultant properly sold his/herself as someone that can meet the client’s needs? Has the client appropriately laid out their needs and the resources they have available to properly engaged an independent contractor? The last thing a consultant wants to do is lose to a competitor or find themselves working for a client who cannot afford their services. The information below takes a look at how independents can properly qualify potential new clients.
To some, being a salesperson comes naturally. To many others, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. How can you ensure you're getting the jobs you should? What consulting strategies can you employ to improve your sales? How can you get to "yes" faster and more frequently? One of the first not-secret steps to consulting success: you must to qualify! Qualifying is a critical step in the sales process and it will save you a lot of hassle and headache, especially as you deal with new clients. This step will help you reach freelance success quicker and easier.
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 client will employ your services. The goal is to make sure there really is a good business fit between the consulting services you have to offer, and what the client is willing and able to buy.
To quote a friend, when discussing relationships, “It’s not about ‘good enough,’ it’s about fit.”
What do you need to do to qualify a lead and ultimately ensure you get the deal? You'll need to determine a number of things. The simplest way to do this is 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 only selling to people who are actually in the position to buy.
Next, you'll need to get answers to the following questions:
By asking a series of qualifying questions, you will immediately know whether you can meet the client's needs. If your services are not in alignment with their needs, you will be able to quickly identify that this is not a highly probable opportunity and you can move on to another lead. The questions in the “needs assessment” below serve as good examples.
The questions asked in the qualification process are often referred to as the “needs assessment.” It typically begins with asking broad and gentle questions to determine the potential clients' understanding of their own needs. The conversation will naturally grow and develop, and eventually, you should organically come to discuss their specific needs. Throughout the process, we suggest being open and understanding, encouraging them to explain and share in detail.
This step will not only help in understanding clearly their situation, but it also allows them to conclude that their situation is significant enough to require action. It gives them an opportunity to hear their situation aloud and to confirm the need for action in their own voice.
Example questions to begin the process include:
"Would you describe what your current environment looks like?"
"What does your ideal solution look like?"
"Would you explain to me your 6-12 month strategy?"
"How much is the problem costing you?"
"What is your budget range for this consulting project?"
"What kind of growth are you anticipating from your ideal solution?"
"Who in your organization would be the primary point of contact for this consulting project?"
"Have you worked with consultants on project before? What worked or didn't work for you in that scenario?"
Once your potential client has answered these (or similar) questions, it will provide you the information needed to allow you to tailor your sales pitch to every customer, ultimately winning you more deals while weeding out the projects that don’t fit. Further, understanding their budget (and ability to pay) will help you calibrate the right consulting rate in your proposals.
Qualifying doesn't just stop there, though. 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 your clients confidence from the outset. After all, the search for the perfect fit between client and consultant will benefit all sides if conducted earnestly.
Looking to learn more? Our team is glad to discuss with you how processes like qualifying - and our services- can help you save your business time, money, and heavy administrative effort.
Independent consultants should consider these eight things before creating a business plans.
News and notes for the independent workforce and their clients. This is the October 24, 2016 edition.