How Great Consultants Can Stand Up and Stand Out

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:: As a strategic marketing expert, I help my clients get heard above the noise.

If we think of the marketplace like a large gathering—say a cocktail reception—it seems that today everyone is trying to talk at once. They’re using old and new channels to reach us—from mass media to mobile to social to IoT.

All of this chatter makes it really hard for anyone to hear—both prospective customers as well as the people who are trying to reach them. If you start to SHOUT, you just add to the cacophony and are likely to alienate your intended audience.

Instead, it’s important to do something different. Be creative. Do something unusual. Zig when everyone else zags. Then, when they start to zag, cut straight down the middle.

This is important for large companies as well as small ones, start-ups as well as established brands. And it’s important for consultants, too—in fact, maybe more so for us.

Why? Because when you are a consultant, you are the brand. Clients are not buying your firm; they’re buying you (or perhaps someone else on your staff).

That means they have to feel good about choosing you—when they first meet you, when you are working for them, and after you’ve left the premises. They need to feel that working with you and referring you to others who could use you are smart decisions that will make them look good.

How do you do this? Here are six tips to help you stand out:

* Be bold, be creative, be unusual. Just don’t be boring and bland. With all the options available to them, why would a prospect choose a consultant that fades into the woodwork and is totally unmemorable? Actually, they wouldn’t.

* Act like you’re the expert. Because you are. You’ve started a business to offer your consulting expertise. That must mean you know your stuff. It also means you shouldn’t wait for the client to outline what you should do. You shouldn’t ask them how to proceed. Instead, tell them what you recommend. When was the last time a heart surgeon asked a patient which type of surgery he’d prefer?

* Your first sale is to yourself. If you don’t seem confident you can help my business, why should I feel good about hiring you?

* No one wants a bargain basement, dirt-cheap consultant. If it’s important enough to bring in a consultant to help, we want someone who’s going to do a great job and solve our problem. We expect to get what we pay for.

* Price on value, not by the hour, or any other arbitrary time measure. Hourly fees are bad news for the consultant (there are only so many hours in a day—you will quickly run out of time to bill), but they put the client and consultant at cross-purposes. The consultant wants to bill more time to earn more money; the client is watching the clock and afraid to contact the consultant for fear of being billed every time someone sneezes. Pricing on value provided offers a good return for the client and fair compensation for the consultant.

* Become a thought leader. Speak, write, volunteer to lead others in your field. Let people know you are available to help them. Keep creating new intellectual property that will differentiate you as the expert in your field.

* Remember your arms are never long enough to take a great selfie. We can’t work as lone wolves and expect to be successful without engaging people we trust to provide relevant feedback on how and where we can improve. You need someone who can step back far enough to see your business from a broader perspective than you can.

Many of the suggestions listed here come from working for years with Million Dollar Consultant Alan Weiss as my mentor. Find your own coach or mentor who will be honest, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and direct. Choose someone who has already proven they know how to stand up and stand out themselves. Don’t take unsolicited feedback from people who aren’t qualified to tell you what to do.

These are just a few tips. Want more? Join me at the WIC General Meeting Thursday, November 16th at Michael’s at Shoreline in Mountain View, where I’ll be talking about how to build value, increase loyalty, and drive new business in 2018.

About Linda Popky

Linda J. Popky, a past president of WIC and the founder and president of Silicon Valley-based Leverage2Market Associates, helps organizations be heard above the noise. She is the author of the recently released book Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing That Matters. Connect with her on Twitter at @popky

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