Independent Consultants are Terrible Sales People

Author : Rolf Gerritsen
Published: June 04, 2012

The great marketing material that you had prepared has gained the attention of the prospective client who wants to have a meeting discussing future possibilities. They are very seriously looking at hiring you for a 6-month assignment, on a day rate of £600. What do you do?

Typically, the freelancers that I consult with follow this scenario:

They first ask their prospective employer a few intelligent questions. They then proceed to tell their prospective employer of their ability and their capacity to utilize their great experiences, expertise, and superior capabilities in order to do the job. Within the one-hour given for the meeting, they had already talked for a solid 59 minutes. That sense of euphoria that comes about them after that meeting is only shattered by that letter two days later from that potential employer – thanks, but no thanks. They are left puzzled and questioning, “what had went wrong?” The answer: They had spoken too much. They had given away too much and they had effectively told the employer that they could do those 6 months of work in about an hour. Even though they had success in their sights, they had shot themselves in the foot.

What makes consultants bad sales people:

Most independent consultants become who they are in the first place because they have an expertise, a unique capability, and a sought-after skill upon which they could monetize. But, typically, they do not know how to sell. They confuse selling with impressing. They convince themselves that they need to show off all their expertise. They believe that anything and everything that they have ever done, however irrelevant, will land the assignment. But it’s really not so. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

How to handle a first meeting with a prospect:

A really successful sales meeting, which is how any independent consultant should look at interviews, has the prospect talking for roughly 80% of the time, while you speak for no more than 20%. How do you do that? To avoid a lot of awkward silences, you must ask the right questions.

To ask the right questions you must have the right information (preferably before you meet) - that is to say prepare beforehand!. These are the preparation essentials:

• You must know about who you are meeting (the name alone is not enough – what is their job, what are their likely concerns and aspirations)

• You must know about the firm (where it sits in the market, any news items you have heard about it, strengths or weaknesses)

• You must have a game plan to secure the assignment (“I need a job” is not a unique selling point) It depends upon the situation; however, you must answer what you can do for them with your abilities.

• You must be able to tell a really compelling, short, to-the-point story (save the rambling for weekends) These stories will get people more interested in you as a person and as a potential partner.

Getting it right is all about knowledge and preparation.

If you have any questions concerning this article and what I have entailed through my work, don’t hesitate to contact me for an informal chat about how to resolve certain issues particular to this field.

(Consulting Café Editor's Note: Check out our Sales Presentation amongst others)

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