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How to Start a Consulting Business: 3 Steps to Booking Your First Sales Call Learn how to connect with your target audience - without cold calling.

By Terry Rice Edited by Dan Bova

Connecting with prospects can be intimidating. But, what if they reached out to you instead? You could immediately establish rapport, then focus on diagnosing their challenges and offering a potential solution.

One of the most effective ways to make this happen is to develop a lead magnet, valuable content you can share in exchange for the audience's attention and contact information. For example, a Personal Finance consultant could provide you with a guide that helps you determine how much money you can afford to spend on food and entertainment while still reaching your savings goals.

Now, some business development gurus will say "You don't need paid ads or a lead magnet to get new clients. You just need to attend this free webinar where I'll teach you a simple process . . .", and they'll often say it in a paid ad promoting their lead magnet.

Yes, there are other ways to promote your business; such as speaking, writing and appearing on podcasts. Try them out. But, these methods may take longer to implement and they often work better if you offer a lead magnet at some point.

You know what's easier? Putting up a post on social media that says "Hey does anyone want a guide that helps you determine how much money you can afford to spend on food and entertainment while still reaching your savings goals"?

So, how do you do it? No need to sign up for a webinar, just read below.

Related: How to Start a Consulting Business: Your One Page Business Plan

Step 1: Develop your high-impact lead magnet

A lead magnet only works if it solves a high-impact problem for your audience.

Back when I offered Digital Marketing consulting my lead magnet was a checklist, "40 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Digital Marketer". My audience was eCommerce companies that needed an outsider's perspective on how to leverage Digital Marketing, one of their most challenging and expensive problems was finding someone to manage these ads. My guide was an obvious and impactful solution to their problem.

How can you determine your lead magnet? I wrote an article, How to Create an Irresistible Offer by Surveying Your Audience on LinkedIn, that will help you better determine the problems you solve. From there, choose to solve one through your lead magnet. You can also research the lead magnets offered by similar companies. I'm not saying you should steal their idea, but it's better than starting from scratch.

Now, you may be thinking "If I give this information away, why would they bother working with me?"

A few things to consider:

  • Some people may not work with you for whatever reason, but they may not even pay attention to you without this lead magnet
  • As a consultant you don't just provide information, you deliver customized solutions
  • This is way better than messaging people, pretending to care about their day, then awkwardly pivoting to a sales conversation

If you offer a PDF as a lead magnet I suggest leveraging Canva. This graphic design platform offers free lead magnet templates so you can focus on the quality of your content as opposed to your creative skills. Or, you could offer a quiz. Going back to the Personal Finance consultant, she could create a quiz around ten common money mistakes. If you get enough of the answers wrong, that's a clear indication you need her service. Interact is a tool for creating online quizzes and they have a free version available.

The best lead magnets deliver value while also providing an obvious reason for a prospect to continue engaging with you.

Related: Learn how to package, price, and promote your consulting services

Step 2: Promote your lead magnet without paid ads

So far I've provided two free ways to create your lead magnet, and there's still no reason for you to pay for anything.

Social media is a great way to get in front of your target audience. And, with the right hashtags, you can reach far beyond your current number of followers without leveraging paid ads. I provide detailed guidance on how to do so in the article I Posted On LinkedIn 90 Times in 90 Days. Here's Why You Should Too, so be sure to check that out if you're looking for a more in-depth walkthrough.

There are a few ways to promote.

Be completely transparent in that you're promoting a lead magnet.

One of my most successful promotional posts was blatantly promotional. I started off by saying

"I created a One Page Business Plan for Coaches you can access the free template below." I then went on to talk about the problems it solved, but it was clearly a promotional post.

You can read the full post on LinkedIn if you'd like. It brought in 62 leads in just one day with no paid advertising.

Post valuable content related to your lead magnet, then offer a link to it in the comments section.

Start with the goal of promoting your lead magnet, then craft a post that reflects the problem it solves.

For example, if I wanted to promote my One Page Business Plan I could say:

"Do you know how to do your job, but have challenges finding people who recognize the value you provide?

Are you spending more time convincing people you know what to do, and less time actually doing the work?

Take a break.

Stop trying to work in your business, and start working on your business.

You have a finite amount of time and energy.

Solve for these challenges before putting more effort into a flawed process"

I'd then add the following as a comment on my own post "If you'd like the framework, clarity and confidence to build a sustainable business, download the One Page Business Plan for Consultants today."

This approach allows you to constantly promote your lead magnet without seeming like you're constantly promoting your lead magnet.

Post feedback about your Lead Magnet

This is going to get really meta, really quick. Posting feedback about the value your lead magnet provides encourages others to download it as well. You can see an example I posted on my Instagram profile below.

Leveraging this approach is even more valuable when you're first starting out. Sure, you may not have a large following or huge roster of clients, but it's clear other people appreciate the value you provide.

Related: How to Start a Consulting Business: Determining Your Rates

Step 3: Nurture your leads without being annoying

As a next step, deliver your lead magnet via email. Make sure to include a call to action at the end! For example "If you'd like more help with this, book a strategy call with me". You don't have to be that overt but don't assume people will naturally follow up if they aren't prompted. If you really want to go the extra mile, consider including a short video introducing yourself.

No need to make this overly polished, I recorded mine on a cell phone and I'm pretty sure you can hear one of my kids yelling in the background. However, I tested this approach versus not having a video and the conversion rate went up by 59%.

After the initial email, you'll want to send 4-5 dedicated messages encouraging prospects to take the next step before moving them to your general email list. Be supportive and informational, not annoying and spammy. I use ConvertKit since it easily allows you to segment your list based on various criteria, such as how they joined your list. You can get your entire sequence set up in a few hours. And yes, there's a free version available.

Test and Learn

How do you know if your lead magnet is working? You'll need to experiment with different offers and email content. You'll never know what "good" or "bad" is until you have something to compare it to. Just don't let the fear of messing up hold you back from getting the recognition and reward you deserve. As you'll notice from the Instagram Story below, people will look over small imperfections and focus on how you've helped them. Heck, you can even use it as reason to promote your lead magnet.

If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or Instagram.

Ready to start your consulting business? Check out our Consulting Business Accelerator and get going today! You'll gain access to training videos, hands-on activities and join live weekly Q&A calls.

Terry Rice

Entrepreneur Staff

Business Development Expert-in-Residence

Terry Rice is the Business Development Expert-in-Residence at Entrepreneur and Managing Director of Growth & Partnerships at Good People Digital; an agency that provides marketing and monetization solutions for entrepreneurs. He writes a newsletter about how to build your business and personal resilience and personal brand in just 5 minutes per week and created a revenue optimization checklist to help you multiply your income potential. 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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