Following yesterday's post: To sell your consulting services you need demand - people won't hire what they don't want or need. And there are only two ways to increase interest in your offerings:
- By capturing existing demand in your market.
- By creating new demand for your services.
Let's talk about the first option. Capturing existing demand, as we will see in the upcoming posts, is fundamentally opposed to the idea of high-value, upstream consulting. But there is one important advantage to it.
What's the easiest way to sell something? Offer people what they already want.
Identifying Existing Demand
There are many ways to understand how much existing demand there is for a given offering or service:
- Look at existing competition: What's the size and maturity of your niche? The more consulting firms that sell similar services you can find, the more likely it is that there's a strong interest in hiring those services.
- Look at what clients say: Use social media platforms and online communities to find executives who are sharing challenges to perform that service, or asking for recommendations of consultants to deliver them. Check their job openings to see which professionals they're hiring.
- Look at how clients behave: Search for relevant RFPs (requests for proposals) online. Ask potential prospects: "What problems have you found so pressing and important that you've actually spent money bringing in outside help to solve them over the past years?"
Taking The Shortest Path To Market
The biggest (and only meaningful) advantage of going after existing demand when you sell consulting is the shorter sales cycle. You will win or lose engagements much faster when compared to the time it takes to create demand.
One of our biggest challenges as consultants is to help clients see the need to change. Keeping the status-quo and doing things as usual is the easy alternative. People are rarely blamed for it, the business costs involved are hidden.
When a company openly shares its interest in solving a problem, however, they are already convinced that a change must be made. There's urgency in the process. Things move fast.
That's why tapping into existing demand is an important strategy you can adopt if you're in financial trouble - maybe you just started your consulting practice with no savings, or maybe your firm is under pressure to make payroll. If you put more fuel into your marketing engine, you can boost revenue fairly quickly.
The Ugly Part...
Now, don't get me wrong. Many healthy and profitable consulting firms are built on the back of RFPs. This is mostly the case for highly technical consultancies, that operate in regulated markets and sell 6 or 7-figure engagements.
For the vast majority of boutique firms, the story is different. In the next post, I'll share the downsides of relying on existing demand to grow.