In this special feature of 'Ask Entrepreneur,' Facebook fan James Schulman asks: For a consulting service, how do you make the sale without giving away expert advice for free?
Customers will not appreciate you, your company or for that matter, your advice until they pay for it. The greatest challenge for the expert is not giving away free information but that most have not taken the time to become great at closing the deal. Here are some tips that will ensure you begin making the sale.
First, make sure the prospect knows what you can achieve. Present proof of the results you have obtained for clients or even at a previous job. Do as much as you can to let them know you have a solid record and are going to be a safe "bet." Include the names or logos of these companies in your presentation and get permission from clients to lists quotes of successes or endorsements.
Next, aside from preparing a brilliant presentation, do your homework about the people you will be meeting and look for ways to find common ground. For example, maybe you both love the NFL or are alumni of the same university. These kinds of personal connections can prove vital, especially if it is the first time working with them. I say this because clients have often confided in me that they work with or buy from the consultant, team, or company they like. Find a way to deepen their understanding of you by discovering what they are passionate about.
Finally, and this is really important, know when to draw a line in the sand. You can't expect people to respect you, if you don't respect yourself. Let the prospective client know that you are the most capable, dedicated and solution-oriented consultant they will find and that you normally charge X-amount for your time. Then, go right for the close. Fortune favors the bold and you need to confidently let them know that they will get the greatest results by initiating a working agreement.
Looking long term, undertake thought leadership initiatives like publishing a blog, becoming a contributor to a magazine or trade publications that position you as the go-to expert in your industry. Look for speaking opportunities to raise the awareness, reputation and equity of your brand. Volunteer your time in industry associations that will elevate your value in the marketplace. Remember, customers will not completely benefit until you convince them to use your service -- and persuading them to do so is a vital skill. So approach them with confidence, sign them up and close the deal.