Career Reform: Selling your Way Out of the Paper Bag

One of the things that all consultants have to accept is that selling is a part of the territory. Doesn’t matter if you are a solopreneur or an associate consultant in 10,000 person firm, selling is an everyday occurrence.

Sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. Everything a consultant does or says is part of their ongoing selling process. Skills and experience must constantly be sold to customers.

It’s hard to sell, if you stop and think about it. You have to convince people, strangers, that you or your firm have the skills to solve the problem that the customer has identified, and to demonstrate that you can identify and solve problems that the customer may not know they have.

How do you do it? There is no easy answer. My experience is that selling customers is often not about the products or services themselves, but about selling the value and the solutions that your experience brings to the equation on top of the products or services. Selling is about believing that what you can do for the customer is beyond what they could achieve themselves, but which will make them far more successful than they would be on their own.

Selling Consulting services requires self-confidence, and a willingness to leave your ego at the door. What the customer thinks they need, and what they position with you or the sales team that they have been working with, are often only their tactical, short-term needs. Customers often are unwilling to accept the solution they really need. Sometimes, the consultant has to accept starting with the partial solution sale to get the customer to accept the larger problem.

Leaving your ego at the door makes accepting the initial compromise easier to accept. Good consultants see the short-term, tactical project as the way in. But if that’s all that you are able to sell, then you may need to reflect on how you are positioning yourself.

Selling consulting is a process that is continuous, even with customers that you are already working with. Being a consultant means that you must always listen, observe, and sell. Reputation, relationships, and experience/skills only get you so far. Selling it, be it yourself or the solution the customer really needs, is what takes you the next step.

How do you sell consulting services? How do you sell yourself as a consultant?

Categories: Work

1 Comment

  1. andreamulligan

    2010-03-29 — 23:24

    Here-here Stephen. Whether you are in a “consultant who sells” role, responsible for driving PS bookings, or a delivery consultant “gettin' it done,” you have to constantly sell your client on your ideas, your approach, your expertise, and your value. Selling doesn't stop when the ink dries on the contract.

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