Instead of writing yet another blog post with copy-paste tips on how to grow a consulting business, we created a definitive guide with expert tips from business and sales leaders, such as Gary Vee, Michael Porter, Jill Rowley, and others.
This practical guide is divided into five sections:
- How can I stand out from competitors?
- How can I attract more clients?
- How do I build credibility?
- How do I keep my clients happy?
- How do I scale my operations?
In this post, we’ll cover the most common questions about growing your consulting business and support them with practical sales tips from thought leaders.
33 expert tips on how to grow a consulting business
We get it, not everyone has time to go through all quotes and take notes. Sometimes all you need is a quick glance to understand if there’s anything that you are not doing yet and if it’s worth exploring further.
So if you don’t have time to dive deep into each of the sections below, here’s the full list of tips on how to grow a consulting business.
- Define what differentiates you from competitors
- Keep an eye on what your competition is doing
- Ask for referrals and show them on your website
- Find and address the most painful struggle of your client
- Do research, both qualitative and quantitative
- Use social media to learn more about clients
- Don’t try to target everyone
- Have multiple points of contact in one organization
- Work on marketing your services in a consistent way
- Tell stories that your clients can relate to
- Talk about your clients’ problems instead of yourself
- Be ready to face objections
- Keep both your outreach script and mind flexible
- Prioritize action over hope
- Deliver knowledge and expertise instead of sales pitches
- Build two-sided business relationships
- Don’t shy away from sharing success stories
- Keep your introductory calls straight to the point
- Know the answers to five Whys
- Be genuinely helpful to your clients
- Use facts and reliable stats in your presentations
- Build relationships by regularly checking in with clients
- Personalize your approach
- Speak your clients’ language
- Deliver exceptional client experience
- Learn your clients’ preferred communication style
- Aim for incremental changes to grow your business
- Have processes to know what you’re doing, how, and why
- Keep building repeat business even if client acquisition seems easier
- Invest in tools wisely
- Care about your team no less than you care about your clients
- Revisit internal processes regularly
- Keep your client database clean
If you want to know what business leaders have to say about each of these tips, how to actually implement them, and why every one of them is important, keep reading.
5 tips on how to stand out from competitors
The first set of sales tips covers advice on how to stand out from competitors. By making sure that your clients understand what sets you apart from the crowd, you can grow your sales revenue.
1. Define what differentiates you from competitors
There are a few questions that you can ask yourself:
- What is the new perspective that you’re bringing to the table?
- How can you communicate this new perspective in the best way?
- Why should your clients care?
Set some time aside to understand what makes your business different and how this difference can help you serve your clients better.
The good news is that it might not be just one thing that makes you unique:
“Approaches to differentiating can take many forms: design or brand image, technology, features, customer service, dealer network, or other dimensions.”― Michael E. Porter
2. Keep an eye on what your competition is doing
David Bowie is famously quoted as saying, “The only art I’m interested in is the stuff I can steal from.”
For example, did you know that the Avatar movie is often compared to Disney’s Pocahontas? Have you ever noticed similarities?
Stealing is not a solution to increasing your sales revenue but observing the surrounding environment can definitely help. If you are attentive to industry trends and your competitors, you’ll have a better understanding of the market.
Don’t simply copycat competitors. This won’t help you differentiate your services. By paying attention to your competition, you can find a unique angle, a niche, or a gap your competitors have not been addressing.
Otto von Bismarck never worked in sales but his quote still rings true in business: “The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”
3. Ask for referrals and show them on your website
There are not many things that are as powerful as a community.
If you run a small consulting business or work on your own, you’re no strange to referrals and how much they matter. Big brands invest millions into building a strong community of loyal fans.
“Nothing influences a person more than a recommendation from a trusted friend.”― Mark Zuckerberg
4. Find and address the most painful struggle of your client
Here comes a sales tip from Juliana Crispo, Founder of Startup Sales Bootcamp: “Have your buyer prioritize their pain points. Which would they choose if you could magically fix ONE today?”
If you know the biggest pain point of your clients, it’s easier for you to focus your messaging on it. Talk to your clients and find out what they’ve been struggling with the most (and how you can help them).
5. Do research, both qualitative and quantitative
“You can win arguments with data. Which is why I am in the data game.”― Rob Forman, Co-Founder of Salesloft
Bringing in data to understand your clients might not be feasible for every business (the amount of data you have depends on your business size and business model). But backing up any research with hard facts can help you refine your strategy and increase sales.
9 tips on how to attract more clients for your consulting business
New clients bring new revenue. That’s why so many businesses focus on attracting new clients. If done correctly, client acquisition translates to higher sales revenue.
Below are a few practical tips on how to make this happen.
1. Use social media to learn more about clients
Even if you’re not using social media for personal reasons, your business still needs an online presence. Besides, if you’re a consultant who wants to build a personal brand, LinkedIn or Twitter are two great platforms to start.
While it’s easy to disregard social media as a waste of time, consider it as a communication channel with your clients: both potential and existing ones.
“Social media is a slang term for the current state of the internet.”― Gary Vaynerchuk
After all, there’s a good reason why TikTok is often referred to as “Gen Z’s Google”.
2. Don’t try to target everyone
Everyone is not your client. Build buyer personas that make it easy for you to keep in mind the profile of your best client.
“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”― Peter F. Drucker
We can argue with Peter Drucker and say that understanding the customer is the aim of every successful business, not just marketing. Knowing your customers is also important for sales and customer service (and many other business departments).
3. Have multiple points of contact in one organization
If you’re in B2B sales, chances are, your sales process is far from simple. Brent Adamson, author of The Challenger Customer & The Challenger Sale, suggests finding out how many people are involved in the purchase decision when you’re talking to your prospects.
“Adding a second point of contact to a call doesn’t double, but TRIPLES your chance of closing an account.”― Craig Elias, the creator of Trigger Event Selling
Besides, even if you manage to get a connection with one organization, don’t forget to expand your network there. Your go-to person in the company can move to another organization. In this case, you’ll be left with no relationships in this company.
“Single decision-maker is extinct. How many people are involved in the purchase decision?”― Brent Adamson, author of The Challenger Customer & The Challenger Sale
4. Work on marketing your services in a consistent way
Make sure that your marketing is not siloed.
You need to have consistent messaging across different channels with both marketing and sales teams aligned.
“The new reality is that sales and marketing are continuously and increasingly integrated. Marketing needs to know more about sales, sales needs to know more about marketing, and we all need to know more about our customers.”― Jill Rowley, social selling evangelist
5. Tell stories that your clients can relate to
Your clients can relate to stories more than to a list of features your product has, your awards, or past experiences.
“You need to be able to paint a picture in a conversation. The lost art of sales is the storytelling side.”― Richard Harris, Harris Consulting Group
6. Talk about your clients’ problems instead of yourself
As Craig Elias, the creator of Trigger Event Selling, said once: “All decision-makers listen to the same radio station – WIIFM. What’s In It For Me?”
Talk about your client’s problems and find out how you can solve them rather than spend time talking about how great your services are.
7. Be ready to face objections
Brent Adamson, author of The Challenger Customer & The Challenger Sale, warns: “Left to their own devices, the one thing your customers want to avoid is change.”
When you talk to new or existing clients, be ready for some resistance from their side. Resistance to change is normal. If you look at your behavior dispassionately, you might notice that you, too, are not always open to changes.
8. Keep both your outreach script and mind flexible
“Too many salespeople have a script that they refuse to adjust despite the reaction.”― Gary Vaynerchuk
If something is not working, change it and refine it up to the point until you’re happy with the result. Your script is not set in stone, it should evolve, the same way your business does. And this is relevant not only to your call scripts: make sure that your email templates are also flexible. Keep your mind open to new trends and stay on top of the recent developments in your industry.
With the advent of so many AI tools, even if you’re a team of one, you can generate lots of different ideas, opening lines, and templates.
9. Prioritize action over hope
You can probably easily recognize the following situation:
There are moments of energy bursts. Your team is very energized, you are open to new opportunities and are ready to explore and venture out. You have regular brainstorming sessions and discuss all the different and new ways how you can be faster, better, more efficient, and so on.
But these periods don’t last forever. Daily routine tasks start taking up the majority of your time and it feels like all the good ideas are left for “later”. But this “later” is usually never specific enough.
“Often, in sales, we become prisoners of hope. Stop hoping, open more opportunities.”― Mike Weinberg, consultant, coach, and speaker
Sometimes you just need to take action.
Have you been thinking for a long time about starting a TikTok account for your business? Give it a try. Just start working on it, even if you are ready only for very small steps.
7 tips on how to build credibility in the consulting industry
To grow sales, it’s not enough to simply acquire new clients. You also need to work on retaining existing ones and nurturing connections with them.
Here are a few more tips on building credibility for your consulting business.
1. Deliver knowledge and expertise instead of sales pitches
If you’re a consultant, Gary Vaynerchuk has a very unusual sales tip for you: “Wake up every morning wanting to put yourself out of business.”
It might sound drastic but let this tip linger for a bit…
The goal of your business is to help your clients be successful, right? And being successful often means being able to stand on one’s own feet without any additional support. This is especially true for some consulting services.
Sharing your knowledge with others is not necessarily a thing that will put you out of business. Jon Ferrara, CEO and Founder of Nimble, had a very good observation during one of the conferences back in 2017: “If you teach people to fish, they’ll figure out that you sell fishing poles.”
After all, you need to create value. As Jill Rowley, social selling evangelist, fairly noted, “You need to lead with value – not with your company, credentials, awards, etc.”
2. Build two-sided business relationships
As with any other relationship, your relationships with clients can’t be one-sided.
“Think strategically, how can I help them generate business, before asking for theirs.”― Jack Kosakowski, CEO at Creation Agency
Giving is often so much more fun than receiving.
3. Don’t shy away from sharing success stories
What type of content do you have on your website? Do you mostly create SEO-optimized landing pages or blog posts for high-volume keywords? That’s great but this type of content is mostly focused on filling the top of your funnel. What happens once the visitor lands on your website?
Producing content for later funnel stages is often underrated. Case studies and success stories might not be very important for SEO but they can help you warm up new leads and convert them into clients.
While filling the top of the funnel is critical, it’s not the only thing that determines your sales success.
“Customers want a new experience. They don’t need to be sold to, they want to hear success stories”.― Jacco van der Kooij, Founder of Winning by Design
4. Keep your introductory calls straight to the point
Here comes another tip from Juliana Crispo, Founder of Startup Sales Bootcamp: “Leave the irrelevant features at home. Don’t think you have to overpitch, you don’t.”
When you talk to clients, don’t try to overwhelm them with unnecessary details. You’re there to help them solve their problems.
And this piece of advice works not only for your direct interactions with clients. When creating content, don’t go overboard with promoting your services.
5. Know the answers to five Whys
There’s a reason behind anything (or at least many things).
When talking to new leads or existing clients, Trish Bertuzzi, CEO and Founder of The Bridge Group, recommends keeping in mind the rule of the 5 Why’s:
- Why listen,
- Why care,
- Why change,
- Why you,
- Why now?
Do you have bulletproof answers to all of these questions?
6. Be genuinely helpful to your clients
The majority of sales tips mention the importance of including valuable information in your outreach emails.
But here’s one catch. Valuable information is a rather subjective thing. What is valuable for one client today might not be valuable for them in a few months. Their priorities change.
Sending your clients a 300-page book on sales success or marketing campaigns is not always helpful, even if it’s a very good book. Do you know for sure that they’ll have time to read the whole book and get some value out of it?
Here’s a tip from John Barrows, Founder of Sell Better by JB Sales: “Don’t just share e-books and webinars – advise what pages to check out or what minutes to watch.”
7. Use facts and reliable stats in your presentations
In business, we love numbers. Numbers help us plan, justify or improve decisions. Grant Cardone, CEO of Cardone Capital, mentions that there’s no harm in sharing the numbers with your prospective clients: “Present numbers to your customers! 72% of salespeople never present figures to their customers.”
72% is a convincing and alarming number, isn’t it?
One more tip: when using numbers, always mention the source. You might have heard the famous joke: 73.6% of all statistics are made up.
5 tips on how to keep your clients happy in a consulting business
Building credibility is only one of the ways to retain your clients. Here are a few more tips on how to delight your customers and keep them coming back to your consulting services.
1. Build relationships by regularly checking in with clients
“Saying hello doesn’t have an ROI. It’s about building relationships.”― Gary Vaynerchuck
You probably can’t measure how profitable a simple hello is but you can measure the power of regular check-ins with your clients. Even if it’s just a short email asking them whether they’re happy with your services or if they need any help.
You also need to keep a log of all client-related information. For example, if you regularly talk to different clients, you might struggle to remember which client has recently had a child or what the name of their dog is. Depending on who you’re talking to, these small personal details can make a difference in the way how your clients perceive your business.
2. Personalize your approach
Previously, in business, we talked a lot about B2B vs. B2C sales.
Then there’s D2C, C2C, B2B2B, B2B2C…
You get the idea.
In reality, no matter what abbreviation you use to describe your business model, you are still selling to people, even in the B2B context. Businesses are run by people. Important decisions are still made by people despite the recent AI frenzy.
“Not personalizing your message is the biggest mistake you can make while selling to enterprise customers.”― Lacey Bell, seasoned sales exec and sales manager
This is why the human-to-human (H2H) sales approach is becoming the center of attention. With the increasing robotization and automation of different aspects of our lives, the human element is even more valuable now.
“People, Processes, Technology – in that order. We need to have a more personalized approach to everything we do, the era of batch and blast is over.”― Kyle Porter, Founder of Salesloft
3. Speak your clients’ language
If you’ve ever been part of the daily stand-up meetings for developers, you might have noticed that they’re different from the meetings that a marketing team has. Depending on your background, you might have trouble understanding all the details, even if everyone in the meeting room speaks English.
This happens because even when we all speak the same language, we use different terminology.
“You get pushed to who you sound like. You have to sound like a CIO if you’re trying to get pushed to a CIO.”― John Barrows, Founder of Sell Better by JB Sales
If you’re selling consulting services to IT businesses, make sure that you understand and actively use their terminology. This will help you demonstrate a deeper knowledge of your client’s industry and position yourself as an expert on the subject rather than a mere service provider.
4. Deliver exceptional client experience
What situations do you remember from your personal life that you’d describe as “exceptional customer service”?
They say the devil is in the details. Sometimes small gestures go a long way. Being attentive to your client’s needs, using a polite and friendly tone, and having clear communication are the minimum requirements of good customer service. If someone reached out to you with an issue, it’s common sense to reply to them and follow up in a while, once the issue is resolved.
Exceptional client experience takes it a step further.
“You gotta give people what they expect, and then a little more.”― Rob Jeppsen, host of The Sales Leadership Podcast
It’s more about being proactive rather than reactive, anticipating questions and addressing them, alleviating concerns, and, most importantly, genuinely caring.
As Jill Rowley, social selling evangelist, noticed once, “If you don’t have a burning desire to help people, get out of sales.”
This can be extrapolated to broader advice: “If you don’t have a burning desire to help people, get out of business.”
5. Learn your clients’ preferred communication style
We are all different. Some of your clients might prefer a quick call, while others will opt for an email conversation instead. Find a communication channel that works best for your clients and use it. If they are not fans of newsletters, maybe they’ll be more interested in following your content on LinkedIn.
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”— Tony Robbins, motivational author, coach, speaker
7 tips on how to scale a consulting business
There comes a point when your consulting business starts growing and you might wonder: How do I stay efficient while expanding my business? Here are a few tips on how to scale your operations without causing any adverse effects.
1. Aim for incremental changes to grow your business
At OnePageCRM, we are big fans of David Allen. Our CRM system was inspired by his productivity methodology, Getting Things Done. And here’s a very good quote of his:
“You can do anything, but not everything.”― David Allen, author of the Getting Things Done
Whether you are a one-person business or you have a small team, it’s important to remember that you can’t do everything everywhere all at once (we don’t live in a sci-fi movie). Besides, any progress takes time.
By breaking down big plans into small and easily manageable steps, you’ll be able to execute better control over your journey towards changes.
“Have a bias towards action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.”― Indira Gandhi, politician and stateswoman
2. Have processes to know what you’re doing, how, and why
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”— Lewis Carroll
Having a well-documented process is a must for any business, no matter how big or small. It helps you stay consistent and organized and have a clear understanding of what should be done next.
3. Keep building repeat business even if client acquisition seems easier
61% of small business report that more than half of their sales revenue comes from repeat business. And to make things even more exciting, Bain & Company, a world-leading management consulting firm, reported that just a 5% increase in customer retention can boost profitability by 75%.
Back in 2016, during the Sales Kickoff Summit, Grant Cardone, CEO of Cardone Capital, also mentioned the importance of building a repeat business: “The second sale is the easiest, present new offers to previous buyers.”
4. Invest in tools wisely
By investment we mean not only your money but also time and focus. Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing what everyone else is doing. If everyone on Twitter is talking about a new tool, you might feel like you’re missing out if you’re not using it.
“If you’re not going to use technology to make your process and people more effective, don’t buy them.”— Trish Bertuzzi, CEO and Founder of The Bridge Group
Approach everything with a critical eye: Will it benefit your business right now or is it more of a solution for the future? You need also to assess whether the new trend everyone is talking about is useful for your small business or whether it’s more suitable for larger enterprises. Comparing yourself to large corporations is not fair.
5. Care about your team no less than you care about your clients
People are your most valuable asset, and this is true not only about your clients but also about your team. Improving your hiring and onboarding processes can pay off immensely in the long run.
“New hires should train like an SDR, onboard like a customer success manager, and think like an owner.”— Sean Kester, VP Global Partnerships at Stax
Creating a healthy company culture is also important for a growing business. If you have a good hiring process and you have faith in your team, make sure to show them your trust. After all, you’ve hired these people for a reason.
“Making decisions for your employees robs them of ownership.”— Aaron Ross, Executive Sales Growth Coach
6. Revisit internal processes regularly
It’s so easy to get caught up in daily work that sometimes we miss the bigger picture. Sometimes you need to set some time aside to discuss what’s been working and what needs to be improved.
Even if everyone knows that some processes might be more efficient than they currently are, as Rob Jeppsen, the host of The Sales Leadership Podcast, fairly noticed: “Common knowledge does not mean common practice.”
7. Keep your client database clean
As Ralph Barsi, sales and technology thought leader, puts it, “You can’t win if you don’t keep score.”
By recording and organizing client interactions, you can increase your chances of success. A simple CRM can help with this.
Here we have it: top sales tips from several business experts and thought leaders.
Whether you’re thinking about improving processes, getting new clients, or building credibility for your consulting business, we’ve got you covered.