How To Get Clients For Your Consulting Business

How To Get Clients For Your Consulting Business

Let’s build a pipeline of new potential clients coming to your consulting business.  Find out how in this episode of Profitable Joyful Consulting👇

The most fundamental consulting skill is the ability to get clients. Some leave corporate with a network of good contacts they can call on immediately – and ongoingly – for work. But others struggle to find clients.

Which best describes you? Are you able to bring new clients into your business? And if so, do you have as many as you want?

You CAN have a continuous flow of well-qualified clients coming to you. In this episode, I teach you what you need to be doing to have as many clients as you want.

Key areas discussed in this episode

  • 0:00 The most fundamental consulting skill
  • 0:34 The two camps consultants usually fall into when they first come to me
  • 1:57 The harsh truth about what it means to be a consultant
  • 3:07 Continuously attracting clients as the lifeblood of a consulting business
  • 3:55 The basics of client attraction
  • 4:31 Getting clear on what the right things are that actually bring clients to you
  • 5:55 How to generate leads with visibility strategies
  • 9:34 Discovering the main kind of visibility that generates leads for you
  • 11:07 How to convert your leads into actual clients
  • 12:21 How to know it’s time to raise your prices
  • 12:32 How to ensure the leads you’re getting are well-qualified
  • 14:20 Five steps to get you crystal-clear on how to build a continuous pipeline of well-qualified clients in your business

You’ll leave this episode with ideas and actions you can implement immediately.

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Podcast Transcript

Hey there, I’m your host Samantha Harley. Today on the Profitable Joyful Consulting Podcast, we’re going to talk about what you need to do to build a continuous pipeline of new potential clients coming to your consulting business. 

This is season 11. We are talking about consulting skills, and the most fundamental consulting skill is the ability to get clients. Are you able to bring new clients into your business? And if so, do you have as many as you want? Is this a thing that comes easily to you? Today I’m going to talk about what you need to be doing in the business so that you can have as many clients as you want to have. 

I find when consultants come to me, they fall into one of two camps. One camp is where I have clients coming out of my ears. I’m so overwhelmed. I don’t have any time to grow the business. I’d like to have more revenue coming in, but I don’t have time to grow my business because I’m too busy with client work. So that’s one group. 

The other group are those who would like to have more clients and they have some, but could I please have more? When I recently polled my consulting coaching group about this and asked, “Where does everybody land on this for themselves?” They said, “I feel like I’m on a scale of 0 to 10 with zero being like, Oh, dying to ten being like I’m flooded and overwhelmed with clients where they fall.” And they said, “You know, really about 3 to 4.” So most of them felt like they had referrals coming in or they would get clients from, you know, sometimes from LinkedIn or from their website sometimes. But a lot of it was referrals or, or past clients. And so I said, “What would it look like if you weren’t 8 to 9 on that scale, what would you really want to have in your business?” And they said that would look like weekly leads, a continuous flow, continuous pipeline, and not just of any clients, but well-qualified clients coming to them. So I said, “Okay, let’s talk about how to make this happen.” And that’s what I’m going to share with you today. 

So the first thing I want to say is a little bit of harsh truth. And I’m going to tell it to you and tell it to your face. And I will be the person who will be honest with you, brutally honest. If you have only had a single client, long term client, or you’ve only ever worked with one client at a time or maybe two, then you don’t really have a consulting business. What you are is a freelancer who has worked for a couple of other companies. And it doesn’t turn into a consulting business to me, really, until you have three clients that you’re working with all at the same time. I will tell you why. 

Because when you have three clients and you are delivering for all three or advising all three, you have to manage that time and you have to manage them to where they’re not all of your business. And then you have to manage your own business. Are you really juggling four balls at the same time right here? It teaches you how to manage your time. It teaches you how to manage client work and hold a lot of different things in your head. And once you have three, you can grow to many. But if you only have one, you still haven’t proven to yourself that you necessarily know how to continuously attract clients. And continuously attracting clients is the key to having a consulting business, this is the lifeblood, the fuel, all the metaphors here of what feeds the business. So we have to know how to get clients. So if you’ve had a long term single client, now is the time to go and get a second one and have two clients at the same time. And then once you have that, you have to get three clients at the same time. So if you’ve been in business for a really long time and you’ve never really had more than one client at a time, then I want you to really think about if this is the right profession for you or if it might be a better fit for you to find an employer. Or find a couple more, you know, work for a consulting company that will help you to find clients. That’s a skill, and you might have pushed to the limits of your ability in that skill. 

I always say that the basics of client attraction are charm, charisma, magnetism, the thing that kind of draws people to you. Just a basic ability to talk about what you do so that people are interested in it. And then a basic ability to be like, “Do you want that? Here’s how much it is and here’s how we would work together.” So those basic business skills are what gets somebody started. And then the part that we’re going to talk about today are the pieces that are going to really accelerate you into the few hundred thousand and low millions if you choose. These are the things that propel a business forward. 

One of the first things that I ask my clients when I begin to work with them is, “Where did your last five clients come from?” The answer to that question tells you what is working in your marketing. You can pause here and even answer that question for yourself. Where did your last five clients come from? 

When I was about seven or eight years into my business, I did this exercise and I said, “Where do my clients come from?” And I went back as far as I could remember. So there were like 20 something clients and I looked at where each of them came from. And in some cases I would say, “Well, that one came from a referral. And I’d say, Well, who is it a referral from? What was a referral from so-and-so? And how did I find them? Well, they actually saw me speak.” So really, this referral was actually a result of a speaking engagement that I did way back when. You can do the same thing, look at every single one like who is it a referral from? And then how did you meet that person? And then how did that person come to you? And so on.

So when you do this, you have this kind of like taxonomy of your leads, like how they come to you and then what’s working in your marketing. It’s easy to say that if you don’t have enough clients, then you’re not doing enough marketing. But it’s really not necessarily about doing more things, it’s about doing the right things, the things that are working for you and then being consistent about that. 

So the big topic here is, of course, lead generation, “Like how do we generate leads?” Leads being potential clients and lead generation being, “What are the marketing techniques, the business development techniques that you’re doing that are bringing new people into your business?” Whenever I do this, you know, a lot of people call this top of the funnel because it’s like how people find out about you way up there before they get in here and are nurtured. I also think of it as the fingertips, my fingertips are way out there, like where are our clients? Getting discovered is where lead generation begins. Like we love the idea of them coming to us, but before they can come to us, we’ve got to figure out where they are and what they’re doing. And so in the beginning, it looks a lot like figuring out where they are and how we can get to them. 

So often nowadays this is on social media. Like what social media might they be looking at? And are you on there with text and video and all the things? In a lot of cases, the CEO that you’re looking to connect with might not be using social media. So we need to be realistic about that. Who is looking for you and where are they looking for someone like you? I mean, are they doing a Google search? Are they doing a LinkedIn search? I had a lead last week that came in seemingly through my website, but I could tell by the time I had a conversation with him that he actually found me on a LinkedIn search, followed me to my website, and then filled out the form there to speak with me. So look at those kinds of chains to figure out where they’re searching, where are they? 

Publishing is huge for consultants. And again, that can mean putting your content onto social media where it’s seen, but it can be in publications like trade journals or magazines that they read online or offline publications. It can look like writing books, being part of other people’s books, writing articles. So keep in mind that a lot of times publications are a way to reach your perfect clients. That’s not going to be something that’s going to get you clients tonight. But it is something that is a good idea for your future and for creating credibility in your future. 

All of the things that I’m talking about right now with lead gen are visibility strategy, how are you visible to your perfect clients and where they are? So referrals, a lot of consultants get their clients through referrals and that is fabulous. But referrals can be a very passive way to get clients. So if we get clients through referrals, first of all, I try to turn those more into strategic alliances so that it’s a more formalized and ongoing relationship. And then I would also like for you to consider how do you stay top of mind with those people sending you referrals or referral partners? Are you in touch with them on an ongoing basis? Do they get your newsletter? Like, we need to have a visibility strategy that is specific to referrals, if that’s going to be a major lead generation source for you. 

I talked last week about networking. Networking is incredibly important, as is speaking, so I love events whether live or in person, like webinars with whatever euphemism we use for webinars nowadays, training or a round table. So basically let’s all get together in a meeting on a Zoom, or let’s get together for a meeting in person at a conference or in a classroom set up where you’re teaching. So hosted events or things. What are the visibility strategies that you can use to get in front of your perfect clients? Visibility is the key to lead generation because they can’t reach out and learn more about you unless you’re discovered by them. 

We’re going to talk in a future episode about video and about the rise of short form content. Short form content are things like reels and shorts and stories. So little videos as opposed to long form videos. What’s good about little videos is if you’re brand new to someone, they don’t want to watch 10 minutes of you because they don’t know you yet. And if they hit play on 10 minutes of you, they’re like, “I don’t know how far I can get into this?” It’s not really hard to get into a short video of a minute, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, it is a great little sampler to get you in front of somebody and to get them interested in your longer content. So a lot of people are pooh poohing shorts for work like ours, you know, for consultants. This isn’t really respectable for us. And, you know, is the CEO really going to watch the shorts? If you are targeting your content correctly, put it in the right places, put it in front of the right people and have the right stuff in it. Then you’ll find that it will be the gateway to your longer form content. 

So those are all kinds of ways to become visible. There are more kinds of visibility that might be a fit for you. But what is going to be the main kind of visibility that is going to generate leads for you? That is the big thing that I want you to be thinking about. 

The second piece of getting more clients into your business is the ability to convert them. It means you are able to have sales conversations in which you get someone to say yes. And you may have formal training in this, or you may just be able to say, “Yeah, let’s just go ahead and do this,” whatever that is. Preparing for having more clients, getting more clients is really about having more leads and turning more of those leads into your clients. And on the sales metrics episode, I talked a little bit more about what your measurements should be as a consultant, because it’s not like we close every sale. I think in general for consultants, really, if you are getting in a steady stream, this continuous flow of leads that we’re talking about, and you’re scheduling about four conversations a month minimum, I think you can expect to conclude to close or enroll at least one of them, 1 to 4. I think it’s a really good ratio for consultants for conversations to onboarding new clients. Hearing that you might think, “I don’t have capacity to enroll a new client every single month,” then which is a good consideration for you? Or like, actually, I need to have more than that. I need to do better. Or you may say, you know what, I close like three out of four people I talked to. Perfect, whatever it is that works for you. By the way, if you close three out of four people you talk to, you need to raise your prices. But the ability just to be good at enrolling clients is important. 

And then the last thing is, when I talked about the outcome that my clients wanted, they were very clear that well-qualified leads are important. So I don’t just want a bunch of people coming to me. I want well-qualified leads. The key here is between having a bunch of people show up who are like, “I don’t know what you do, but I want it.” And you’re being like, “That’s not what I do.” This really comes down to messaging. So in the content that you’re putting out there, make sure you communicate what you do, who it’s for and who it’s not for. You need to say what problems you solve and what problems you don’t solve, and what outcomes you can get and what outcomes you don’t get. So it’s really important to be clear in your messaging about who’s a good fit for you, about the results that you get. This can be in case studies or testimonials. Take down testimonials on your website that speak to results that you no longer are interested in getting for your clients about work that you don’t want to be doing anymore. Be really clear about that and discerning. 

Make sure your message is, you might not want to push controversy, but it’s okay to be polarizing in terms of sending away the wrong people. So you’ve heard me talk a little bit about how if somebody has never gotten a client, and they’ve been at it a really long time, I’m not necessarily a consultant to help them. I also don’t work with consultants who are brand new. Why? Because that’s what this podcast is for. I want you to hear this. I want you to go get three clients. And then when you come to me and say, “Hey, I got three clients can you help me grow my business?” “Yes.” So it’s okay to say this is not a thing I do and this is a thing I do, and I want you to be intentional about that in your messaging. And we’ll have other episodes that are about sales conversions and about messaging. Today, specifically, I only want to talk about things that you can be doing to get more clients. It’s so much about lead generation. It’s so much about being willing to do the business development. 

So homestretch here, five things for you. First question is almost always and this is another one of those things that I hate to hear: “What do you know you should be doing that you’re not doing right now?” Right. We all hate this advice. Stop confronting me with my own avoidance. So there’s usually something that you know you should be doing and either you are not doing it, or you’re not doing it as much as you should be, or you’re avoiding something. Or you were doing it before, but then you fell off the wagon. What’s that thing? What do you know you should be doing or doing more of what you just aren’t. And don’t shoot the messenger. I have to hear this advice for myself as well. I did answer that question for myself. 

A second. I think most of us are about 25% as visible as we should be, definitely less than half as visible as we should be. So if you were to be twice as visible as you are right now, what would you do? How would you do that? To your perfect clients. I want you to think, where is the buyer of my services? Where is she? Is she doing Google searches as she is mousing around websites? Is she on social media?  If so, which platform? Where is she looking for someone like you? Is she talking to her colleagues? Is she networking? Is she a member of a trade organization, or trade association that you can be a part of? These are the questions to ask yourself. And how can you be in front of her more, twice as much as you are right now? 

Third, make offers. What’s really interesting is in Internet marketing, businesses make offers, and in consulting, we tend to take orders. You submit a “come to me and then tell me what’s broken, and then I’ll tell them how I can fix it.” But we still have to have calls to action. We still have to invite them. So your content, all of your outreach, if you want them to be inbound, you have to tell them what to do to have them reach out to you. So what does that mean? You can invite them to schedule a consultation. You can have resources that they can download, or give them something appealing that they can go and download. You can invite them to coffee chats. You can invite them to hosted events that you’re doing. You can invite them to engage with your post. Make offers. You can even sell a course, you know, for 99 bucks, for 900 bucks, for whatever you want to do, but make offers because you want to train those who are seeing your content that there’s always something cool going on over there. There’s always a cool invitation. And so you want them to pay attention to that. And if we’re not making offers, how can we expect people to feel invited? So have inviting energy. 

It sounds like I’m saying to do more stuff. And someone today revealed that when she hears about these conversations, she’s like, “Oh, I wouldn’t be doing that, and I shouldn’t be doing that.” It’s not about doing more. What I want you to do instead is choose the lead generation, business, development, marketing, whatever you want to call it, technique that is in your joy and genius zone. So the thing that you love to do and you are awesome at doing, and then I want you to double down on that as long as it’s working, as long as it’s the thing that’s ever brought clients to you, I want you to double down on it so that you can see it doing more for you. It’s not usually about doing more things, more varied things. It’s most often about doing the right things and doing more of that. So doing it twice as much. So if you love writing and you love posting on social media, then I want you to do that twice as much. If you only post on LinkedIn, then I want you to start commenting because that’s another great way to be visible and to bring people to your posts and your profile. So if you hate writing and you hate posting, then you don’t need to post. Do the thing that you love. Maybe it’s video content, so get on video. Have an assistant help you, but get that video posted on LinkedIn. And if you love events, do more events. You guys, we have to do these things and if we love them, they’ll be more fun and then we’re more likely to do them. The opposite of that is like if you hate doing the things and you’re like, “I feel like I should be doing this, but I really don’t like doing this either,” choose to do it enough that you start to build the muscle and you get better at it. Then maybe you enjoy it more or don’t force yourself to do things that you’re not going to do. Because if you’re not going to do them, then they’re not going to work for you. I think it’s important that as consultants, we fall in love with business development, we fall in love with marketing, and that we dedicate a third of our business to our own. You dedicate a third of your time and your work to business development, working on your business, growing your business, and whatever marketing techniques you need to do in order to bring new clients to you. 

Last of all, to quote James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, “Consistency is more important than intensity.” So it’s better that you do one small thing a day, or you do one small thing three times a week than doing a marathon one day and then you never do it again. So find the things that you like to do, things you enjoy doing, and that you can do consistently. Because whenever I hear, “I don’t have a consistent flow of leads,” I think, “Are you consistently doing your marketing?” I often hear, “Well, when I get a client, I stop marketing.” So of course you’re on a revenue rollercoaster. So consistency is better than intensity. You don’t want to be like, market, market, market, get a client and stop marketing. Oh my God, I’m unemployed. Get a client, stop marketing. That is the key that’s going to keep you on a revenue rollercoaster, that feast or famine cycle. It’s super frustrating. So if you can find ways to be consistently marketing and then you get a client and I keep my marketing and then I get another two clients, then hey, you have a real business almost. Then market, market, market to three clients. Awesome. Now you have a great consulting business. That is the way to build a consulting business that is going to sustain you as you grow and continue to have that continuous incoming pipeline of well-qualified leads. 

So if you want to know more about how I can help you with this, you will find more information on the super page at my website. It’s called samanthahartley.com/super. There are ways that I help consultants to build their businesses along with some other really great resources from the show.

I would love to hear from you: “What are your takeaways from today? What activities are working to get you clients and where are you on the 0 to 10 scale of feeling like you have a pipeline built?” 

I’m always excited to hear from consultants because you teach me things that I can use to help other consultants. And with that, I am wishing you a Profitable and Joyful Consulting Business.

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