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How to get high-paying consulting clients

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Copper Staff

Contributors from members of the Copper team

One of the problems you might be dealing with as a consultant is how to find high-paying clients. Note the emphasis on high-paying.

You’re in the business of selling your knowledge to others, which is a commodity clients should be willing to pay good money for.

The only thing is, if you haven’t positioned yourself as an expert, or haven’t taken steps to get in front of the right people, you’ll end up serving clients who don’t value what you bring to the table and who aren’t willing to pay you well for your services.

But you know that you offer a high-value solution. Now, you need to figure out how to get high-paying consulting clients interested in working with you.

This requires a multi-pronged plan of attack:

  1. Put yourself in a prime position to land high-paying clients..
  2. Help consulting clients find you online..
  3. Find new consulting leads..
  4. Win over your leads.

Put yourself in a prime position to land high-paying clients

Step 1: Be clear about your area of expertise

There are many kinds of consulting. Management. Marketing. Sales. Financial. Tech. And so on.

But it’s not enough to work in one of these broad categories. There’s too much noise when you try to operate in such a big space. And, really, it’s going to be too hard to try to be all things to everyone.

Instead, you need to get clear and very specific on where your real specialty lies. This is the website of Kristine Petterson, a sleep specialist and consultant who focuses strictly on infant and toddler sleep habits:

By choosing a narrow focus, this allows Kristine to clearly convey her value in solving a specific problem for a specific type of client. As you can imagine, this makes it much easier to sell consulting services.

Step 2: Pick your ideal client

When it comes to picking your ideal client, don’t focus on who has the biggest wallet. Instead, look for people who you (and your area of expertise) can provide the most value to.

The reason for this is simple.

There’s a big difference between finding clients who can afford to pay exorbitant fees for now and those who’ll stick with you long term because you deliver the best return on their investment.

Once you have a good sense of the general type of person you can help, don’t be afraid to narrow it down even further.

For example, this is the contact page for Padgett Business Services:

Not only does this company narrow down their ideal client to small business owners, but they specify the locations they serve, too.

Step 3: Create your elevator pitch

You know what you do, why you do it, and who will benefit. Now, you need to sum it up in a 30-second elevator pitch (when speaking to prospects) or a brief mission statement (for your website).

David Asarnow is a monetization expert and business consultant. Here’s an example of text from his website that could work for an elevator pitch:

One that would work even better—because of how specific it is—is this:

These statements clearly state three things:

  • Who (is this consulting for)
  • What (results they can expect)
  • How (does the consultant make it happen)

As you craft your own elevator pitch or mission statement, aim to hit those three points. And never forget that this is about the value you deliver, not about how amazing you are. (More on sales pitches here.)

Step 4: Set your prices

If you want to get high-paying consulting clients, your fees should be in line with the level of service you provide.

While you don’t need to publish a pricing sheet on your website, you should have one for your own internal purposes. This’ll help you and your team consistently quote prospects while also providing you with the security and stability of set rates.

If you’re thinking about publishing your prices online, you can definitely do that. This way, you can save your prospects (and yourself) from having extended conversations about costs during your discovery call.

Prices are laid out plain and simple, which allows them to self-qualify while giving you the ability to say, “These are my prices and I’m sticking to them.”

If you sell consulting packages or products, you should think about sharing details of what’s included in each package, as home-organizing consultant Lisa Tselebedis does:

What’s nice about displaying consulting packages this way is that you can clearly show prospects what they’re missing out on by not upgrading to a more expensive package.

Step 5: Get your ducks in a row

In order to provide a high-value consulting service, you need to run a buttoned-up operation (even if you’re a solopreneur).

This goes beyond just giving off the impression that you have your ducks in a row. If you can streamline your business, it’ll be much easier to work at a higher level of efficiency.

Before you start approaching high-paying consulting clients, review the quality of processes you use for tasks like these:

  • Client onboarding
  • Project and team management
  • Customer relationship management
  • Marketing
  • Finance management

Don’t forget to review the tools that power these processes either. You might discover new and improved ways to get things done.

For example, by using a CRM like Copper, you can bring some much-needed order to your sales pipeline and keep track of your leads more effectively.

The more repeatable processes you can create for your business, and more templates and tools you can leverage, the less time you’ll have to spend on tedious administrative tasks.

That’ll then free you up to provide the white-glove service your clients expect.

Help consulting clients find you online

Once the positioning piece is in place, it’s time to work on what’s known as inbound marketing and sales.

These are all the things you can do to establish a credible online presence, encouraging prospects to take the initiative to reach out to you.

Step 6: Create a website that speaks to your target client

Think of your website as an extension of everything you did in Steps 1 through 5. That means your website should accurately explain what you do, who you serve, and make it easy for self-qualified leads to get in touch.

The Deep End website is a good point of reference for how to do this:

Just from the birds’ eye view of this page, you can see they have all the key elements in place:

  • A simple and clearly labeled menu.
  • Pages that answer the most common questions consulting clients look for: What are the services? How much do they cost? How do I know it will work?
  • A bright call-to-action button that’s always present.

This page has another element you could add to your website: the appointment scheduler.

There was a time when you would’ve had to play phone or email tag with leads, hoping to get just a few minutes of their time so you could pitch your consulting services.

However, with more user-friendly website building tools (like WordPress or Wix), it’s much easier today to add an appointment scheduling system to your site. Once set up, prospects can book a discovery call at a time that works best for them and when you’re free.

Step 7: Share proof of your prowess

As a consultant, you should leverage client stories through testimonials and case studies, along with other proof that you can do what you promise.

Dog trainer and animal behavior consultant Melanie Cerone does a good job of this. This is a testimonial included on her home page:

What’s great about this is that it isn’t some generic “She helped my dog be better!” statement. The testimonial provides specific details about the process of working with Melanie, which goes a long way in selling others on hiring her as a consultant.

Melanie uses other trust marks on her site, including a list of her certifications in the field. This also demonstrates her willingness to learn more about her specialty at conferences, workshops, and seminars.

Further down the page, she includes a list of membership and credential logos:

Even if you can’t provide a photo or video of your consulting services, that doesn’t mean you can’t use other eye-catching imagery to call attention to your qualifications.

Step 8: Publish free advice to your blog

Another good way to demonstrate your skills as a consultant is to publish content to your blog.

Content marketing not only shows off how much you know, but it allows people to take this “free” advice and try to apply it to their own lives.

Think of it like a teaser of your services. Once they see how much work really needs to be done, and how difficult it is to do on their own, guess who they’re going to reach out to?

One thing to keep in mind is, in order for this to work, your blog posts can’t be a dead-end street where visitors read the post and then move on to the next thing.

Hello Marketing Consultancy, for instance, uses a pop-up message to sign people up to its newsletter service:

Notice, however, that this isn’t just a new blog notification service. Hello Marketing promises to send subscribers valuable content.

This is a great way to start building a list of warm leads in your CRM.

Step 9: Give something away for free

Another way to grow your email list is by giving something of value away for free on your website. This is what’s known as a lead magnet.

This is the one Jon Schumacher uses:

Lead magnets enable you to start the conversation off on the right foot with leads.

When you follow up over email or phone, it won’t be a surprise since they demonstrated an interest in getting help by requesting the download and sharing their info with you in the first place.

Plus, since you’re being proactive about helping them take it a step further, it’ll be hard for them to say “no” (though you might need to try a few times to get past the “not right now” response).

Step 10: Cut to the front of the line in Google

Creating a website that educates and sells prospects is just the first step. You should also optimize it so that it appears in Google search results.

This way, you don’t have to do all the work of putting the website in front of leads. They can find it on their own!

There are a few ways to do this. The first is with SEO, which isn’t the easiest of strategies to master, but there are tools that can help.

If your website is built with WordPress, for instance, the Yoast SEO plugin is useful:

The more content you create, the easier it’ll become to master these essential search optimization tasks.

You can also cut to the head of the line by using paid ads in Google. For example, this search for a “small business consultant” displays two paid listings:

By claiming one of these top spots, you won’t have to worry about how long it will take for your website to naturally get to the top of search results.

That said, SEO is still important to do. Paying Google all the time just isn’t sustainable!

One other thing you can do if you work with local clients is to use Google’s free business tool called Google My Business.

When you create your business profile with this tool, it helps your website get found in local searches like this:

Not only will prospective clients get key contact details (including a link to your site), they’ll also see reviews you’ve received from former clients which can help in the decision-making process.

When people search directly for you, your full business profile will show up, too. It’s basically an expanded view of what appears in map results. Just remember to fill out all of your details and actively work on collecting reviews from clients.

Step 11: Give your social media pages a good scrub

Before prospects ever speak to you, they’re going to want validation that you’re the real deal.

Your website will be one of the main sources they turn to for help along with your testimonials and reviews. They’re also going to look at your social media.

It can be tricky finding that balance as a consultant. How much do you share from your personal life if it’s something you draw from in your work?

Really, the best thing to do is to keep them separate. Let your consultancy get its own social media pages where it shares relevant and useful content regularly with others.

Publicis Sapient has a nice example of this on Facebook:

Their social posts are well-planned, well-written/designed, and are scheduled regularly. You can see here that they get engagement (Likes), too.

That’s the ultimate goal. You don’t want social media to be a one-sided conversation.

Take some time to pull this together so that you have accounts that prospects (and even clients) can’t help but follow along with. You should:

  • Spend time only on the social media platforms that make sense for your business (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram).
  • Design banners for each page that match the branding of your website.
  • Write a succinct bio for each account and make it consistent with the rest of your brand messaging.
  • Connect each page to your website and invite followers to connect with you there.
  • Post regularly, but also engage regularly—follow others, like their posts, etc.

If you want to expedite things and boost your brand awareness on social media, you can use paid ads, too.

Find new consulting leads

The work in Steps 6 through 11 will relieve you of some of the responsibility to find new consulting clients. But not all of it.

Here’s what you should be doing while your website and digital marketing machine work in the background:

Step 12: Reach out to people you know and trust

You want to work with high-quality clients—ones who are invested in making improvements and won’t try to get free work from you or be flaky in general.

Once you get to a point where you can charge top rates for your consulting services, this will become less of a problem. In the meantime, though, look to your personal and professional network for help in getting new clients.

Friends, family, former colleagues, former classmates—these are all great resources for finding the kinds of clients you want to work with. Just be clear in what exactly you’re looking for so these contacts connect you with people who fit your niche.

Step 13: Ask former clients for referrals

Former clients will also be useful in this case. But be careful about who you ask for referrals from.

If your goal is to get high-paying consulting clients, don’t tap former clients who paid you lower rates, who didn’t have as much success as you’d hoped, or who weren’t easy to work with. Their experience with you will affect the quality of leads they refer.

Step 14: Partner up

One of the problems you may run into as a consultant is that prospective clients want more they what your consulting services include.

So, let’s say you provide SEO audits and optimization. While you can certainly pitch your consulting services as a one-off solution to businesses with an established website, it might be slow going at first.

It might be easier to piggyback on top of someone else’s services. Like a web designer or agency.

By partnering up with a service provider that complements your own services, the two of you could fill in the gaps for one another while putting more money into each other’s pockets.

Step 15: Search social media

You’re already on social media to further your brand’s presence, so why not use it to find people looking for someone like you?

Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are especially good for this as people post “I need a…” requests like the following all the time:

You can use other search phrases to identify potential prospects, too. Think about phrases like “need help with…”, “does anyone know…”, “how do I…”.

Even if all they’re looking for is basic guidance or an answer to a quick problem, don’t be shy about raising your hand. It’s a lot like blogging. Provide them with some free value now and it’ll be easier to sell them once they realize how hard it is to do on their own.

Step 16: Peruse blog comments and forums

Another place where you might find prospective clients asking for help is in online forums and the comments section of blogs.

Again, it might not be as explicit as them asking “where do I find a ______ consultant?”, but the answer you give could eventually lead to realizing that’s the solution they need.

Pick one forum you like and have seen questions about consulting on before. Like Quora:

Schedule time once a month to search for the kinds of questions that allow you to enter the conversation and possibly present yourself as the solution.

Then, pick a small handful of blogs that cater to your target audience and sign up for their newsletters.

When a post is published that’s relevant to what you do, scan the comments section to see if anyone’s asking for help. Provide a response that’s helpful and casually mention that you’d be happy to chat with them to see if you could help further.

This is all about finding people in those moments where, they know they need help, but they have nowhere else to turn but online. Watch for these opportunities closely as these are the kinds of bottom-of-funnel leads that would be easy to convert.

Step 17: Meet prospects in person

Prospecting isn’t just about who you can find online. If you want to work with local businesses, entrepreneurs, parents, etc., it’s a good idea to get out there and meet them in person.

There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Attend a relevant Meetup.
  • Go to local conferences for your niche.
  • Join your local chamber of commerce.
  • Work from a co-work space.
  • Get a speaking gig or teach an on-site course.

You never know where you might find your next client, or someone who knows someone else who needs your help.

How to win over your leads

Finally, you need to be able to close the deal once high-quality leads start to enter your funnel. Here’s what you can do to improve your sales funnel conversion rates:

Step 18: Make a memorable entrance

In some cases, your website, social media, and overall digital presence will do the work of making a memorable first impression with leads. In other cases, it’s up to you to start the conversation.

When sending an initial pitch or invitation to chat, choose the platform that makes the most sense to do so. Email, Facebook Messenger, and another social media DM platforms are a good way to get the conversation started.

Then, get straight to the point. This is where your elevator pitch enters the picture.

Be personal.

Introduce yourself.

Acknowledge their problem.

Present your solution.

Invite them to a free discovery call to learn more.

That’s it. It isn’t too invasive, especially if it’s a warm lead whose already familiar with who you are. You put the ball in the court and then move forward accordingly based on their response (or lack thereof).

Step 19: Get on a discovery call

Whether the prospect initiated the discovery call from your website or you convinced them to schedule it over email, there’s no getting around this step.

So, make it as welcoming for them as possible. You can start by hosting the call on a platform that’s easy to get into, like Google Hangouts.

What’s nice about using Google’s video chat and conferencing solution is that it can sync to a CRM, like Copper:

This makes adding new contacts to discovery calls a breeze. All you have to do is locate the “More Options” button (the three vertical dots) beside a lead’s profile, click “Start a Hangout”, and hop on the call.

On the call itself, invite them to talk about their current problem.

It’s not like you don’t already know what their pain is, but everyone has a unique story to tell. Listen to what they have to say and then discuss how you can work together to solve it.

At the end of the call, don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. If you’ve been on the same page until that point, the answer will be something like:

“Send me your quote and proposal, so I can take a look over what we discussed one more time.”

Even if the answer is a little unsure (e.g. “I need to think about it”), that’s okay. You have a process in place that shows you how to follow up no matter the response.

Just keep at it until you get a firm “Yes” or “No.”

Also, remember to log into your CRM after the call (if it’s not still open from starting the Hangout), so you can add your notes and set up follow-up reminders for yourself.

Step 20: Send a signature-worthy proposal

Once you’ve got their attention and they’ve asked for the proposal, have it ready to go. Also, make sure it eases any remaining doubts so that the signature is nothing short of certain.

Getting 110% clear on expectations will help with this, so you’ll want your proposal to include things like:

  • A summary of your consulting services and the goal you’re working towards.
  • Scope of what’s to be “delivered” to the client (e.g. hours of consulting, implementation, reporting).
  • Fee structure and schedule, including any upfront fees owed, late payment penalty fees, and so on.
  • Start and end date.
  • A list of anything you need from the client to get started.
  • Expectations regarding client behavior and accountability as well as your own.

Something else you can do to ensure you’ve created a signature-worthy proposal is to use a template.

You can easily do this with a platform like AND CO:

By creating a standard proposal template, you’ll save time in creating and sending out proposals to prospects after your discovery calls. You’ll also ensure that you don’t miss any pertinent details.

What’s also nice about using this proposal generation software is that you can create everything you need to pitch your consulting services, get a signature, and send the first invoice.

Start landing high-paying consulting clients this month

The steps above aren’t meant to be one-off suggestions to get you a bunch of new leads.

Each step builds atop the previous one so that you have an iron-clad system for attracting the right kind of leads and then converting them.

So, when building out your own process, make sure to include as many of the 20 steps as you can. They’ll help you simplify marketing, streamline sales, and make it much easier to get those high-paying consulting clients you’ve always dreamed of working with.

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