“Rainmakers” make rain — they bring in the vital resources to keep things growing — in this instance, clients and billable work. In sales jargon, “you eat what you kill.”
If you cannot make the rain come, or bring in the food to eat, that is, if you cannot pitch and close your prospects to make them paying clients, then do not become a consultant.
A significant majority of your time consulting is spent pitching and closing (including networking, hunting, and screening your prospects first). If you are not comfortable “selling,” even high-end, “negative” selling wherein you bring the client to you without chasing after him or her, then you will not be able to successfully consult on your own.
Here is what you must be able to do, in comfort, with confidence, again and again, to network and to “work a room” ~
- Walk into a room filled with professional strangers, confidently, and join a group or an individual and begin a conversation.
- Determine through initial conversation if the group contains any one who might be a prospect for your work. If not, politely move away to join another group.
- Create conversation that will focus your interest in those strangers who may be prospects, and lead the conversation to business, in particular to your unique value proposition.
- Screen the potential prospect to know if he or she is in a position to need your services, and to receive the message of your value proposition, and if he or she is the decision-maker or check-writer for your services.
- If possible, isolate this most likely prospect from the group for a deeper talk.
- Create easy conversation, low-key, not “salesy,” about your work, the value you deliver to your clients, and a success story or two, without dominating the conversation. This requires that your value proposition is prepared as a series of sound-bites that build interest and more detail.
- Lead the prospect to ask for more information about your services, and to ask for a meeting to follow up this conversation.
- Follow up contact with the prospect the next day to move the sale forward to a close that brings you billable work.
Now, all of these skills –defining your unique value proposition, working a room, screening the prospect quickly, leading the conversation in a low-key way, creating interest, and following up — all these skills can be learned with the proper training.
What is more difficult to learn is the confidence to self-promote, the ease of talking to strangers, the intrinsic belief in your own value which you will pitch, and the ability to “ask for the sale” (to close), without showing need, without chasing the prospect.
Many of my colleagues are highly skilled and competent in their expertise, and they know it. But they cannot work a room, cannot lead the conversation into a low-key pitch, and cannot ask for the sale. They need a rainmaker — some partner or associate to whom they can be a “sub-contractor” to the work that person brings in. This makes them dependent on another for their livelihood. Or they should consult in a big, branded consulting firm, where they are assigned projects brought in by the branded firm. That condition loses both the freedom and the wealth creation available to solo entrepreneurs who consult.
So, much of this can be learned, but if you know yourself to be unable to close, choose another path to using your expertise.