An entry offering is a service that's specifically designed to show clients the value you can bring to their business and what it looks like to work with you.
The goal is simple: Make it easier for buyers with low interest, trust, and urgency to hire you - while proactively generating demand for more work. Examples include analysis or diagnostics, short workshops and training sessions, or even the facilitation of strategy and planning activities.
Depending on the type of service you provide and your current situation, it can have a dramatic impact on your consulting practice. When correctly designed and delivered, entry offerings lead to higher sales effectiveness, faster sales cycles, and a larger client lifetime value. Not bad right?
Based on my experience, the fact that many micro consultancies lack an entry offering is a symptom. And the real problem is the inability of founders to put themselves in the place of consulting buyers. They forget that:
Entry offerings help you address all of these three.
They help you educate prospects and clarify the value you bring to each one of them. They provide you with an opportunity to spend more time with buyers and demonstrate to them why you can be trusted. And they make it easier for buyers to start engaging with you through a lower-priced service.
This last one is more important than one might imagine. Getting the client to pay for something is a big bridge to cross. That's the reason many firms call their entry offering a “paid selling effort” - you’re actually getting paid to grow the relationship.
If you sell to larger companies and organizations this bridge is often the longer to cross, but entry offerings also work to reduce friction for future work. A small service will make it easier for you to get into their system as a vendor. Get the initial legal requirements signed. And they also create a subtle shift in the mind of the buyer: you’re not a person selling to them anymore - you’re part of their team.
Of course, there are challenges. You don't want to create a low-price anchor for clients. You don't want to overpromise and underdeliver on your first paid engagement. And you don't want your client journey to end there, after a single small entry offering.
While I highly recommend you hire specialized help to do so, the process of designing entry offerings is simple.
First, you start with your big, ideal engagements. Assess your last projects and bespoke engagements to identify similar client needs. Ask, "what data, insights, and evidence do I need to get them interested and make a clear business case for hiring my main services?" Then you reverse engineer it into a service that has a small and fixed scope. You need to be able to deliver it quickly and cheaply. It has to deliver high value and a great experience to make a distinguished first impression. And it needs to promote change, highlighting the cost of inaction.
Pro tip: Start with a price that is easy for the decision maker to say yes to without going through a long and formal approval process. Then build the scope around the price.
“Engaging any new professional service company is a leap of faith. You can shorten that leap of faith with the stepping-stones of offers and experiences that demonstrate your value.”
It is 3 to 10 times more effective to sell 5-figure services to clients who purchased lower-priced offerings than to directly sell them to new prospects.
These are the numbers from 36 micro consultancies that collaborated with BCC. If you know of any larger research or publication that looked at the effect of entry offerings, please share it with me. This is definitely a topic that deserves more formal research in the consulting space.
What is the one insight that, when presented to prospects, makes them much more likely to engage with you?
If you're a marketing consultant, this might be comparing their performance with industry benchmarks.
If you're a D&I consultant, it may be an internal discussion or survey that points to how the client teams feels about their workplace.
If you're a cybersecurity consultant, a short report listing what kind of data is in danger and how easy it would be for external actors to exploit it.
All of these will get your client's interest. Will allow you to turn words into dollars, and estimate the actual impact your services can deliver. And will demonstrate your expertise and client orientation.
More often than not, by the end of this first engagement clients will look at you and say: "So, how can you help us solve this?"