You may know the secrets of getting new clients but getting them and keeping them are two entirely different things. The relationship between a consultant starts as soon as a prospect visits your website, social media page, or clicks on an ad. As a management consultant, being at the top of your game throughout every stage of the relationship is the best way to turn clients into devoted fans. Here’s how to make sure that happens.
Being a founder of CleverX I work quite closely with business executives and consultants, and these are some of my learnings.
- Make Yourself Available, but Not Too Available
Unreasonable clients can get into the mindset that they are paying you a lot of money as a business consultant, and this should make you available to their every beck and call.
If things get too difficult, you will need to decide for yourself if it’s worth continuing as their consultant. You will also need to find line between making yourself accessible, while still keeping your personal time to yourself.
Email and smartphones can be answered anytime and anywhere, but reasonable clients won’t always expect an immediate response because they know you’re busy. However, you should strive to make your replies as quickly as possible.
Quick responses reinforce to the client that you value their time.
- Help Your Customer Out of a Sticky Situation
Contradictory to the above statement of not making yourself too available, there will be occasions where a customer will call you up on a Saturday morning with an emergency; they need your business consultant skills to solve a problem right now, and it can’t possibly wait until Monday.
You could no doubt come up with a million and one reasons about why you shouldn’t go in, but this isn’t always the right way. Did you have big plans for the weekend, or were you sitting down for a binge session on Netflix? If you don’t have anything special going on, then helping your client out of a sticky situation isn’t such a big deal. However, it will be a huge deal to them, and your value will rise significantly. Plus, think of all the recommendations that your client will be gushing at every dinner conversation or business meeting.
- Going Above and Beyond
Business consultant may be your official title, but to many business owners, you could be the lifeline that saves their livelihood. Doing a little extra will show them that you have their best interests at heart and that they are more than just another pay check.
It’s not about bending over backward and running yourself ragged to please your client. It’s more the little things like sending them an article that relates to their business, or even a special deal that could help their business while saving them money.
- Communicate Well
Have you ever seen an email similar to the one below?
It’s an email that’s not going to win any points for personality. It may even cause your brand new client to think about what they may have gotten themselves into, and not in a good way.
Try the following:
Good Afternoon John,
I hope this email finds you well. Please find attached the quote we discussed on Friday. Thanks for your time by the way, as I know how busy you are. I’m confident I have included everything we talked about, but if you have any queries at all, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
The second one is an email that I would like to get, but I would probably feel a little underwhelmed if I was the recipient of the first example. You want to stand out from other consultants or firms, so add the personal touch to every communication you send.
- Stay in Touch
Once you have secured the quote, the deposit is in the bank, and you have started work on the project, make sure you connect with the client at regular intervals. You may be busy getting the job done, but the client doesn’t know that.
Regularly provide updates on where you are with the project. Discuss what you’ve done so far, and what you plan to do next. For a personal touch, you can use the phone, but an email will work just as well at keeping your client’s mind at ease and assuring them that you haven’t taken their money and done a runner.
- Do Something for Nothing
There are plenty of extra things you can do as an consultant for your client that won’t cost you anything extra and will take very little time, but adds heaps of value in the eyes of the client.
For example, if you’re an marketing specialist tasked with optimizing your client’s website, you could share their social media posts on your profile. You could also recommend them to other businesses who would benefit from their services.
By looking after your client’s business, you are looking out for your own. If you help them make money, then they have more resources to keep you on for more management consulting services or provide support in some other way. It’s all about the service, and it’s how you can compete with and beat even the top consulting firms operating in your industry.
Help them make money
- Don’t Play Favorites
Incentives, deals, and specials are always going to be marketing strategies you rely on to fill your sales funnel. You don’t want your regulars thinking that only your new customers get all the fun, though. After all, they are the ones who have been supporting your business all these years.
Show support for your regular customers by adding loyalty programs or other incentives that send the message that you appreciate their business.
- Always Try Beating the Deadline
Working as an consultant means you need to be able to stoke the motivational fire without relying on a boss or supervisor breathing down your neck. Don’t let an approaching deadline be the only motivation to get in and do the work. Your work quality will suffer if you rush it, and your clients will notice.
Instead, learn to prioritize; delivering quality work early on will serve to highlight your work ethic, and if it’s a first-time client they will be suitably impressed.
Delivering quality work early on will serve to highlight your work ethic.
- Listen, Listen & Listen
Always listen to what your customers are telling you and focus on their needs. Yes, you’re an expert, but don’t let your ego get the better of you so you jump to possibly inaccurate conclusions.
Your job is to make your client’s vision a reality. Show that you are listening by taking lots of notes and asking heaps of questions so you and the client can align your goals — which is to get the best possible result out of the project.
- Be Invested in Your Client’s Success
You can always spot those consultants who are in it for themselves, and are only planning on delivering just enough to get the paycheck. Consultants who operate with this mindset don’t last long in the management consulting business.
Show how much you are invested in your client’s success by freely sharing your expertise that will help them improve their operations. Be sure to mention that you believe in their project, and ask for updates on their latest meetings.
- Present Yourself Well
Don’t just hand over a bare-bones proposal about your plans. Instead, add detailed write-ups about the thought processes behind the strategy. A little extra detail goes a long way into making sure you and the client both know what is required to get the project up and running.
- Take Criticism with Dignity
Despite your best efforts, there are occasionally going to be clients who don’t like what you’ve done and will request a few modifications. Accept the criticism and consider it an opportunity to learn and improve your service.
If you walk away in a huff, you’ve probably lost a customer who will have nothing good to say about your consulting firm or services. But, if you work with the customer until they are satisfied, then you may score a good review, and repeat business. Of course, you also have the benefit of a lesson learned, and this can only help you grow in the long run.
In the end, consulting is a people business, and succeeding will largely depend on how well you develop your relationships with your clients.
Consulting is People business