How to Be a Consultant to Clients - Differentiate Yourself

Many sales professionals, advisers and even consultant realize that they have to act more like a consultant to clients in order to trusted and have credibility.

While this is not news, what is troubling is that just because one sees themselves as a consultant, the client may not view you as one.  So how do you go about being viewed as a consultant?  First off, it take time and it takes a thoughtful approach to how you go about doing your work.

In this post I am going to layout a few guidelines that you can follow and put into practice immediately so you can become that elusive "Trusted Advisor" everyone always is talking about.

  1. Know your business (consulting services, professional services, solutions, accounting, etc) cold.  Know it inside and out.
  2. Related to the above - Know the 10 reasons why your services fail. Be able to articulate these to the client.  Most people are afraid to say: "This is why it won't work" because they want to come across as positive, upbeat and optimistic.  But your clients are smart. If you tell them why it won't work - they will understand that you know your business and you are not just selling them.
  3. Understand the 10 reasons why your services do work. And under what conditions. 
  4. Be able to articulate these - to the client - very, very well.
  5. Take the time to understand the client's business issue. Meet the people, hit the issue head on, pick up all the information you can.
  6. Understand the people's personal concerns and their professional concerns related to the problem at hand. (personal example - I cannot get home by 6PM to watch my son's Little League games as the problem is keeping me here at work; professional example - I want to be seen as a fixer, doer, and reliable - if I hire you will that make me look weak?)
  7. Above all else - the client's interest is Number 1.  It is not making the sale.  It is about placing the client's interest above your personal interest or your firms interest. Every decision you make is viewed from the client's interest first - when proposing work and when you are performing the work you were contracted for.
  8. Related to #7: You may have to walk away from work because someone is better suited for the project. Or you have to walk away because the client is just going to be a bad client.
  9. Be able to articulate clearly what you have done for clients with similar problems. This means being able to talk about results or what I refer to as Measurable Business Results (MBRs).
  10. Don't talk technology - if you have to talk about your technology (your project plan, your software, your approach, your tools, etc) and how you do what you do, you are either talking to a technician (you're at the wrong level in the organization) or you are still a technician and have not learned how to talk results.
  11. Related to #9: You may have to talk technology only to "validate" that the assumptions and approach will work in the client's environment. But don't allow technicians to pull apart your solution. Stand your ground if you know your approach works. If you allow the technicians to pull apart your solutions, you are not results driven or your results are weak.
  12. Be a Peer to the person making the decision. It is the Economic Buyer who ultimately decides. Act as his or her peer; not as a lapdog, puppet, or syncophant.
  13. Remember - and this is key - clients DO NOT want to be sold. Put away all your books on closing techniques, enticements, special deals of the month, and so on. What client's want is they want to be helped.
  14. Be perceived as state of the art, cutting edge, knowledgeable and understanding of the latest rules, compliance issues or whatever is facing your market and creating challenges for your client.  Leverage all the latest and greatest - why these will work or why they won't. What the government is saying regarding compliance or what the industry is now doing. Be up on the events and issues in your field as it relates to the client issues and your services.
  15. Be an authority in your field or niche. Do you have a website? Do you have a white paper? A position paper? Do you speak at conferences? Do you know the ins and outs of whatever is going on in your field?
  16. Never come across as desperate or needy. Carry a small air of indifference - act as if - you have business, even if you are starving.
  17. Never let your guard down. We all have chinks in the armor, but telling the client where they are is not going to help you. Don't talk about your company or other professionals.
  18. Never talk out of school - never talk about previous clients or prospects - especially - not negatively or in a joking manner. "If you talk about others, will you talk about me?" the client thinks.
  19. Bury your ego. Be a little humble - but be confident. Strike a balance between the two.
  20. Referral marketing - market your firm, yourself, based upon your image and reputation by heeding the advice outlined above.  Get your name out there by speaking, writing, networking, researching, making a contribution to your field.  Cold calling is dead ("Hey John, you don't know me but can I have an hour to talk to about me?).  But that doesn't mean you can't call people or email them - given you do this properly.
  21. Have a strong air about you - that you can help the client - It's like knowing the client has a curable disease and you and your firms is one of only a few that can get them the help they need. It's about a doctor specializing in a certain area and is one of the world's leading physicians - and this patient (client) has the exact ailment you have cured others for.
I hope this helps you and provides you a path to run on.

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