Guest post from the editors of RainToday.com.
Oily. Smarmy. Phony. Mendacious. Two-Faced…
Right or wrong, these words are often associated with salespeople. They are also the first words that come to mind for many consultants (along with images of the overly aggressive, overly slick, walking sales cliché) when they are told they need to sell.
While being salesy is ill-advised for almost any sales rep, it is particularly bad for consultants.
Buyers of products often say, “I don’t like the sales rep, but I can tune her out for the next few minutes and simply evaluate her product against the competition.”
Buyers of consulting evaluate the sellers. Why? The seller is often the service provider. The relationship does not end when the sale is completed – it is just beginning. Thus, the foundation of trust set up between the buyer and seller in the sales process is of paramount importance.
There is Nothing Wrong with Selling
Quite the contrary, the act of selling, when done well, adds a significant amount of value. A well-planned sales conversation can help even sophisticated buyers make smarter decisions.
And, you can be effective without sounding like a used car salesman. You can and should sell with high integrity, and high success, and do it without snake oil tactics.
In fact, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: you can apply the same skills that make you a great consultant to help you succeed in selling—all you need to do is sharpen them to apply them effectively.
As a Consultant You Already Have Many Skills You Need to Be Great at Sales
Here are four ways you can apply consulting skills to your selling process:
1. Sell as You Serve: Many consultants who have never sold think the purpose of selling is to part someone from their money at any cost. They believe that to be successful at selling, consultants must leave their values and everyday personalities at the door and adopt a sleazy persona and voice, one that would naturally say something like, “What’s it gonna take to get you into this shiny, red, pre-owned sports car today, ma’am?”
Nothing is further from the truth. The best rainmakers bring in new clients because they are no different when they sell their services than when they deliver their services.
Great consultants create better futures for their clients that the clients didn’t know were possible.
The best rainmakers meet mutually-set expectations over and over again, building trust, relationships, and confidence. The best rainmakers are ethical at all times.
The skills that make you a great consultant can make you a great rainmaker. Sales is about helping clients and prospects find solutions that solve their problems and help them succeed.
2. Sell to Need: Great consultants are masters at uncovering clients’ goals and challenges and helping them to make the changes necessary for success.
Great rainmakers are no different. However, many consultants feel uncomfortable making connections, uncovering needs, and working closely with people they don’t yet know well. Too often the first conversations go awry when they don’t need to.
The same skills you use to get to the root of your clients’ problems and develop solutions to help them meet their goals are the ones you can use to uncover prospects’ needs and propose winning solutions. You just need to recognize what you need to do and bring these skills out at the right time and in the right way.
3. Communicate the Value: Great consultants understand the value they provide to clients. They craft compelling solutions based on their clients’ unique needs, and communicate that value to clients clearly and articulately.
Selling is no different. You must learn to lead discussions that influence direction and outcomes, and you must advocate your services and communicate your value. Just like when you advocate new ideas to your clients when you work with them, you must be persuasive, confidence inspiring, and empathetic all at the same time when you sell to them.
4. Plan for Success: It’s been said that if you don’t know where you’re going, then any road will get you there.
Great consultants have a clear process that they follow. Each project has a specific objective, timeframe, budget, and resource allocation. Rainmaking is no different. Like consulting, selling is a process, and it’s waiting for you to master it.
Make the Transition from Consultant to Rainmaker
To help you figure out what that selling process should look like and to make the transition from consultant to rainmaker, we’ve written a free 27-page report, Selling Consulting Services: Forget Everything You Know About Sales and Begin to Sell Without Selling.
This report will give you a proven process you can use to start bringing in more new business now. Plus, you’ll learn:
- • How to avoid being “salesy” (which will actually lead to more sales)
- • A proven process that will get you started bringing in more new business today
- • How to uncover the full set of your clients’ needs (most sales advice only gives you half the story)
- • Whether or not cold calling is dead
- • The best kept secret in leading successful sales conversations
Download the Selling Consulting Services free report now.
Disclosure: As a consultant whose expertise is in helping clients with online marketing, social media and SEO — not selling — I know how difficult this can be for service providers. While RainToday.com has offered to pay me a small commission for anyone who signs up for their training program, I wouldn’t have published this post if I didn’t believe that this is an excellent program for talented but sales-challenged consultants.