#3: Part Three: Building your business as an independent consultant

In the previous article I outlined the first of the 3 constituent components of the framework, namely The Consultant Role. This time I will do the same for the second constituent component, namely Selling Consultancy Services.

In terms of Selling Consultancy Services, you will recall that you would firstly reflect on your routes to market; you would then move on to consider the sales process which you would adopt; and finally you would look at tendering for competitive bids.

You almost certainly have more than one route to market. I suspect there are 6 main ones. You will have “route 1” or the direct route, i.e. you selling direct to the prospect. You will also have an indirect route which is reciprocal i.e. you find potential work for others, and they will be more motivated to look out for potential work for you. You may find “sales agents” who would be prepared to identify work for you, but who would expect some form of payment i.e they might only do this on a retainer and/or success fee basis. There might be other consultants with whom you could collaborate to win work you could not win individually; you could enter into formal strategic alliances or joint ventures; and finally there are networks you can join to build you relationships and promote your business.

If we move on to consider the sales process, we would start with sales qualification – how are you going to turn complete strangers in to cash in the bank, weeding out potential timewasters and bad debts along the way. We would also look at sales pipeline – how will you manage the various targets and prospects who are at different stages of evolution in terms of whether they are going to hire you or not. And then we would look at the sales meeting – how you would handle the conversation and ask for the business without feeling awkward about it.

The third aspect of sales is tendering and competitive bids. This has greater relevance if you are pitching for large contracts and/or pitching as part of a consortium alongside other consultants. We would start by looking at what is often called the “Path to Assent” – how you play to the mindset of the economic buyer i.e understanding the prospect and his/her world. We would then look at writing a bid, and make sure that due attention is paid to bid process requirements and criteria. The third aspect would be considering the presentation of the bid – how to make best use of the limited time available to reinforce the key aspects of the bid.

These three aspects of sales will be developed in future articles.

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