Who are our consultingheads users anyway? A selected mix of (young) professionals and experienced experts. Among them was Andreas Fritz, IT and business consultant with a focus on SAP security. The only regular thing about his job is that, away from projects, his days are always peppered with a bit of marketing and sales. That’s why he reveals his tips & tricks and how you can get the most out of your project acquisition (thanks, Andreas!):
This article might also interest you: Successful Consulting with Method – Proven Techniques for the Consulting Three-Way Warrior.
The project is coming to an end. A follow-up order is not yet in sight. How could this happen? Now to find a new project in the short term, it will be very difficult. But consultants can achieve a lot here early on with persistence. This article provides tips on what project acquisition looks like in concrete terms in everyday consulting work.
Focused instead of random marketing
A website of my own, an article now and then, and every few years a talk at a conference. There is nothing wrong with this in principle, because they lead to one or the other new customer. But let’s be honest: that’s not the path that leads to steady, predictable contact with new customers, is it?
Please do not shut down immediately. “That’s really all I can do. I’m already overwhelmed. How am I supposed to do any more marketing?” I feel the same way from time to time. It’s not about doing more marketing either. But rather, it needs to be rethought – from haphazard to focused marketing for the perfect project acquisition.
Because random marketing is just that: it’s everywhere. We do a little here and a little there, but on an inconsistent basis. Random marketing is not very effective because it hardly gains momentum. Not enough is happening to really grab the attention of potential customers and then get them to act.
Focused marketing is different. It’s based on communicating very directly to a target audience over and over again, with a very specific goal in mind. For this, five points must be clarified in any case:
- Clear goals: Which sounds more confident? “I would like to win a few more customers for my company.” or “My goal is to win three new customers by the end of the year, each with an average project size of 30,000 euros.” A clear goal helps because you can now think about concrete measures. And that is what moves you to action. What is your focused goal in marketing?
- A specific target group: Again, this can be broken down very well, usually even to individual people. “I work with large companies that want to increase their productivity.” I think you’ll agree that this is way too general. It’s also hard for customers to grasp if you understand and can help them. Better is, “I help audit managers in banks do their audits faster.” When your prospects hear or read about your target audience, they need to think, “That’s us!” Only then will they sign up.
- Fixed services: General consulting or coaching programs sound something like, “I provide management consulting and training to companies.” A focused program or service is more tangible. “I offer wholesale acceleration programs for emerging leaders.” Each offering has very specific parameters, outcomes and goals. Precisely because they are, after all, intangible services, clear criteria make marketing easier.
- A clear message: Unfortunately, I constantly hear or read messages like “As an independent consultancy, we offer top quality” or “Intelligent insights into great management” This is completely meaningless to potential customers because the value is not immediately apparent. It sounds better to say, “Everything in one place that buyers need to win better contracts.” A carefully thought out marketing message can permeate every aspect of your marketing, from your website to your emails. It’s also a way to constantly remind prospects of the value you offer.
- A marketing strategy: random marketing is like throwing pasta at the wall in hopes that individual noodles will stick. A focused marketing strategy, on the other hand, is more like a theatrical production performed according to a script and fixed schedule. For example: three months with a targeted campaign and personalized emails aimed at getting appointments with ideal customers. A number of relevant questions are prepared for the discussions, so that offers can then be worked out with the interested parties.
Develop and follow through with routines
If these five cornerstones are in place for focused marketing, then they can be implemented. It helps to build small routines and integrate them into the daily consulting routine. Personally, I find it much more effective to work on marketing and sales a bit every day than once a week. After all, on such a concentrated marketing and sales day, day-to-day business tends to slip in between.
Then, depending on your current marketing strategy, that could be articles you write, calls to potential clients, adding new, relevant Xing contacts, proposal slides, etc. Whatever it may be, if you’re regularly spend one to two hours every day on marketing and salesthen the order books will be consistently well filled.
However, it is important that you cover both: Marketing and sales. The best website is of no use if you don’t get into conversation with potential customers. Likewise, it doesn’t help you much if you can have the greatest conversations, but no one in your target group knows you. But it’s rare that we as consultants are really good at both.
That’s why it makes sense to look for suitable partners for your own weaknesses. This can be a digital agency or a project intermediary – such as consultingheads, which matches consultants with projects. Cooperation with other management consultancies also makes sense if the relationship is based on partnership and trust.
Consistently pursuing issues every day is a form of perseverance that makes consultants successful. Outsiders may not realize at first glance that we are constantly hitting the same notch. But this is the form of work that bears fruit very quickly in a period of a few weeks.
Project acquisition: Where does persistence end and penetration begin?
Sometimes the acquisition of a customer or a large project takes much longer than a year. Decision-making paths are sometimes very long. And it takes time to find the right contact person who sees a benefit in the planned project and is willing to pay for it. So how can you tell if you’re close to the finish line with such long sales cycles, or if you’re just riding a dead horse?
A good way to determine this is through stage goals. Here, project acquisition is thinking backwards from the awarded contract: what does it take to get there? A convinced sales manager, the approval of divisional managers from other countries and an initial project plan? The sooner you can ask what is necessary for a successful conclusion, the better.
Now, if you are failing closer and closer to your actual goal, then you can appreciate that you are on the right track. Even if this can take months. That way, you’ll definitely know if your persistence is really paying off.
The only thing is that one’s own persistence can also quickly come across as pushy, for example when following up on offers. You can prevent this by announcing in advance in a short telephone conversation that you would like to continue the sales process. If you ask in a friendly but firm manner, you will rarely be resented.
You can also apply the whole thing to the work in projects. There it is regularly necessary to make agreements binding. One very simple point, for example: at the end of an appointment, I always talk to participants about the next step and, if necessary, about a follow-up appointment.
If I were to leave the appointment without a clear agreement on these two points, the thread of the conversation would be torn away again for the time being. I would have to make a tedious phone call again afterwards to get back into the conversation. The goal is to collect the red threads and not to let them out of our hands until the end of the project.
Perseverance does not guarantee you success in everything you do. With some things, failure is inevitable. But in sports, the saying goes, “it ain’t over til it’s over“. And this also applies to your own project, acquisition and consulting.
Andreas Fritz, www.beraterleben.net
Do you have ideas or other useful tips that you would like to share with our users? Let us know – by comment or email to [email protected]