Archive for the ‘Sales’ Category

Starting a consulting practice is easy…

The tough part is making it a success.

Recently ran across a blog post on business startups. The author suggested consulting, since it was so easy that anybody could do it. Of course, the author had never started and run a full time consulting practice himself. Go figure.

So, time for a short rant…

But the author is right. You can start a consulting practice right this instant. Just call yourself a consultant, order some business cards, and you’re in business. The telephone should start ringing any minute, right?

It really is that simple. Except it isn’t.

Unfortunately, this is a common misperception, particularly by those with lots of credentials (letters that can be put after their name.)  Having already achieved some career success and prestige, they assume the rest of the world will immediately recognize their expertise and abilities.

It is the mousetrap syndrome. You know, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” Wonder who cooked up that piece of fiction?

No, it doesn’t work that way. You need customers. Furthermore, you need customers who are willing to pay you, too. For solutions. Not ivory tower lectures or esoteric theories, but real world solutions to their real world concerns.

So how do you get those customers? You market. You sell. You peddle your butt off. Hmmm, not so simple anymore.

Maybe, like any business venture, it takes some plotting, planning, and old fashioned hard work. Sorry, THIS blogger is not offering any magic miracles today.

At the fundamental level, all businesses have three components:

  • Products or services to sell
  • Customers or clients who will buy those products and services.
  • A way to connect the parties (aka a marketplace.)

Really, that’s it. Congratulations, you’ve just earned your One-Minute MBA.

Now let’s dig a little deeper, using the old reporter’s method of 5W/H – what, who, why, where, when, and how.

  • WHAT do you have to sell? As a consultant, it is your expertise and advice. So what do you have that others might want and be willing to pay for? What are you really good at, AND that has value in the marketplace?
  • WHO might buy your expertise? Ah, now you are starting to identify your market or markets. Can you identify niches? i.e. – business/consumer, local/national, demographic, etc.
  • WHY would they buy your services? Do they have problems to solve? Or prevent? Do they have dreams to pursue?
  • WHERE do your customers hang out? Can you identify groups or organizations do they belong to? Media they read – magazines, newspapers, web? Do they use social media?
  • WHEN do they buy? Short or long sales cycle? Seasonal? Impulse?
  • HOW do you reach them? Having answered the 5W questions, you may already have a good idea HOW to start. But starting is not enough — you need plan, and then you need to execute the plan, over and over. Wash, rinse, REPEAT.

Ride along here and I’ll do my best to help you understand and address these questions. Ultimately, however, the specific answers will be yours. Incidentally, I’ve been at it this game for over 30 years, and I still ask these questions myself.

Thus ends the rant.

Yes, it IS easy to START a consulting practice, and anybody can do it. The real question is can you BUILD and MAINTAIN a successful consulting practice? It takes time and effort. Just like anything else worthwhile in life.

Happy New Year! Is 2013 the year you make your JumpToConsulting?

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Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Create Your Sales Collateral…

When you finally make client contact (marketing becomes sales), you often need simple stuff you can hand out or mail – business cards, brochures, folders, letterhead, envelopes, labels, etc.

Since these create first impressions of your business, they should be an integral part of your sales and marketing process.

These items are often referred to as sales collateral. Some people include web content, pricing and data sheets, white papers, and more in this definition. In this post, we’ll focus on the simple printed materials.

Before we get specific, here are some general comments:

  • Keep it simple. Like a doctor or lawyer, you are trying to present yourself as a professional.  One exception — if you are in a highly creative business, you may want to showcase your creativity. Otherwise, simpler is safer.
  • But don’t skimp on quality. This is NOT the place to cut corners. Go with high quality paper stock with a fine finish, such as textured or matte. Just make sure the printing looks good on it. (I prefer a light colored stock to plain white.)
  • Coordinate the look and feel. This applies to both printed and electronic marketing materials. You want consistency among the colors, fonts, and logos (if applicable). Subtle, but this is all part of your branding process.
  • Put contact information everywhere! One of my biggest pet peeves is having to hunt for contact information. This is particularly true with web sites, but I’ve also had to hunt on printed brochures and even letterheads. In the latter case, I suggest full contact info on the bottom of the page — address, phone number, and web site.

Here are some suggestions based on what we have done:

1. Business Cards - Don’t be cute — use a standard size in a suitably heavy stock. You don’t want your card to feel flimsy, and you want to make it easy for people to file or scan. Although increasingly popular, I prefer NOT to use a picture on the card (but definitely put that in your brochures.)

We settled on a  light gray linen finish with two print colors — dark gray and dark blue, with a simple dark blue logo. Although the second color adds a small cost, we felt it conveys a more professional image.

2. Letterhead/envelopes – Should match your business card, although the paper stock may be lighter. We use 20#  stock which feeds well with most printers and copiers. We also use a matching letterhead for electronic communication, which we usually send as PDF files.

3. Brochures – Should also match your business card and letterhead. As a minimum, I feel you should have a simple three fold brochure that fits in a standard envelope. Yes, many argue this is not necessary with web sites, but there are times when a printed brochure makes sense.

Keep the content simple. Include a BRIEF background with a professional photograph. The photo can be black and white, but you will also want matching color copies for article biographies, press releases, etc.

The rest of the brochure should be simple too. Use bullet points to summarize capabilities, and include a short testimonial or two if available. Regarding clients — get permission FIRST if you use their names. Incidentally, we do NOT use client names to protect confidentiality. Instead, we include a list of typical past projects.

In addition to a general brochure, we also developed a special brochure describing our training classes. We also developed a special mini-brochure with some tables of technical information.  Dubbed UBI (Useful Bits of Information), we find our engineering colleagues often keep these for years – long after throwing out cards and brochures.

Of course, ALL of these brochures should have full contact information on both sides, as people often photocopy them. Always make it easy for potential clients to contact you!

4. Other - These can include mail labels, presentation folders, etc. Once again, these should match your other printed collateral. As an aside, we rarely use presentation folders any more, but when you want to make an impression, they are very useful. We printed a couple hundred with our name/logo for a nominal amount, and they have lasted us for years.

Some final thoughts. You may want to engage a graphics designer for help. We did, and got good advice on colors, fonts, and even a simple logo. It was money well spent.

We also use a small commercial printer. Nothing wrong with the large print chains, but we’ve found the extra service invaluable. They have also referred us to other vendors as needed – mail houses, etc. In fact, our graphics designer was on their staff.

So what is the cost of all of this? Depending on quantities, you should be able to outfit yourself for $500-$2000 depending on quantities and amount of graphics design.

Remember, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Establish your credibility — fast

An important sales lesson …

As a brand new sales engineer, I was on my way to meet with meet with an important prospect.  Fresh out of training, I was ready to dazzle and amaze them with all sorts of technical details about our new test system.

Fortunately, I struck up a conversation with my airplane seat mate.  Always curious, I asked him what he did  for a living.  He politely explained that he specialized in financial planning for small business owners, focusing on those with a net worth of  1-10 million dollars.  He had been at it for several years, and was achieving some good success.

He then asked about me, and I explained how I was an engineer that had just gone over to the dark side of sales.  As a newbie, I then asked if he had any advice he could share.

He smiled, and replied, “Establish your credibility — fast. That is what I did with you. Without that, you might have just considered me another peddler.

Wow! Based on that advice, I tried a brief experiment in my sales call.  Rather than jumping right into the technical details, I gave a little personal background on myself.  How I had a BSEE degree, was a registered PE (Professional Engineer), and had spent the last 10 years in design positions. And how this reflected my company’s commitment to serve our customers.

It took less than a minute, but you could feel the change in the room.  I was no longer “just another peddler”, but rather a fellow engineer with credibility.  And yes, I eventually made the sale.

How would you establish your credibility?

Copyright © 2014, jumptoconsulting.com. All rights reserved.

Coming Soon…
  • Seven Steps to Selling
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