Almost every individual consultant has experienced it. At the bottom of the hill, they put all their effort into selling. Then they get clients and head uphill. Then, at the top of the hill, they put all their effort into doing the work for their clients. Then, when the work is finished, they have no more clients and head back downhill to start the cycle all over again. To get off the roller coaster they have to be different, strong, and committed. Or, they need to be something else.
The five BRAVE questions apply: Environment – here to play? Values – What matters and why? Attitude – How to win? Relationships – How to connect? Behaviors – What impact?
Environment: Ask what currently unmet problem you can solve for your customers? If there isn’t a pressing problem or someone else is already solving it well, there is not a business. Stop.
Values: Figure out why you care about solving this problem for this set of customers. If you’re not clear about what really matters to you and why, don’t waste your time or money. Stop.
Attitude: You must be able to explain what you do and how it is different from everyone else. Without differentiation there is no value. If you don’t have that, stop. BE DIFFERENT.
This gets at core positioning: target, frame of reference, benefit, support. Get this right before you do anything else or you’ll be competing on price. Focus on an unmet need or new way of meeting needs.
Relationships: If you can’t connect with your customers, suppliers, allies and own people, you will fail. Teams beat individuals every time. BE STRONG.
Teams with Tactical Capacity beat individuals as they design, produce, sell, deliver, support.
Get a partner or ally so you can get better together, continuously selling beyond your own individual capacity and smooth out the highs and lows of the roller coaster.
Behaviors: Follow through. Relentlessly. Evolve your strategy as you learn. Evolve your organization in line with your strategy. Strengthen your operations on a continual basis. It never ends. Someone in your eco-system needs to be committed to designing, building, selling, delivering and supporting.
To customer satisfaction. It’s why you exist. If they don’t get value, you don’t have a business.
To continuous improvement. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting relatively worse.
To business development. #1 job of a company is to create a customer. If you don’t love selling, go do something else.
Every sales funnel that ever existed is based on some variation of AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action.
Planting seeds for the future is the top of the funnel. It’s about getting the word out and building your database.
- Provide general assistance to people facing the problem you solve. Note this is about giving, not selling.
- Give talks to groups of people facing the problem you solve and to people supporting and influencing those people.
- Provide workshops and seminars to all those same people.
- Write, post, publish articles.
- Post LinkedIn comments, references, answers.
- Tweet items appealing to those concerned about the problem you solve.
- Comment on and forward others’ blog posts, articles, Tweets, etc.
Water those seeds by starting conversations with people interested in what you have to say.
- Give out books – preferably ones you’ve written.
- Send out book summaries.
- Write and post articles and comments on your website and other appropriate websites.
- Connect with those in your database on regular basis through ETCs: excuses to contact.
- Explicitly ask for introductions to people with an urgent need for your help.
Nourish sprouts by digging into those with an urgent need for your help.
- Follow up on any and all requests for more information. These are calls for help.
- Offer your specific help to people facing the problem you solve. This is still giving, but setting up some sort of trial.
Support plants with momentum sales.
- Offer some sort of trial device that is valuable on its own and whets their appetite for more.
- Give more to those that really need it – and charge them appropriately.
- Over deliver on every assignment so people are surprised and delighted by how you helped them.
Or be something else. If you can’t do all of this, look hard at joining a going concern, effectively paying someone else to do your business development.