A Night at Marcello’s with the Midwest Society of Professional Consultants

Last Wednesday I attended Rich’s talk at the Midwest Society of Professional Consultants’ monthly meeting at Marcello’s in Chicago, titled “The Last Day of the Project Is the First Day of Unemployment.” Rich initiated a conversation, gave his audience a few questions to related to the topic to think about, then moderated a highly interactive group discussion before dinner, followed by smaller peer advisory sessions in groups of three or four afterwards.

The topic for the evening officially was “What do you do once you reach the end of a big project?” If you planned ahead, and your circumstances allowed it, you should either be continuing work on a different project because you make a point of working on multiple projects at one time, or you should be starting a new project because as you neared the end of your previous project, you were carving out an hour each day to search for new business. However, if time or other circumstances did not permit you to work on multiple projects or take steps to find a new one before the old one was complete, this is when you would need to begin searching for new business.

But what do you do to find that business, before or after that big project is finished up?

This is what much of the discussion Wednesday focused on because most consultants, unless they’re like Rich, did not go into business to be salespeople, but are forced to fill that role anyway to sell their expertise. Sometimes they welcome this added challenge. Other times though, they find that they are uncomfortable with the task, not good at it, or left feeling that their time would be better spent elsewhere.

Now, if you choose to handle the sales aspect of your business on your own, how do you do this? Well, if you are familiar with this blog, or know Rich, there should be many obvious answers: you can join professional organizations, sit on boards, give lectures, do trade shows, write articles, implement the social media, or partner with other professionals, among any number of other things. Essentially, you show people how good you are rather than just telling them.

It also helps to ask yourself basic sales questions such as do you want to take a scattershot approach or a more targeted one (or a combination of the two). Are you comfortable building a long term relationship with a prospect’s voicemail? Can you afford to turn clients away if they cannot offer the kind of project you are looking for? Who is your perceived competition? Who is your actual competition?

The questions that were focused on at the meeting on Wednesday when the audience broke up into smaller peer groups included things such as “What do you do?” “Who needs you?” and “Who can introduce you to those who need you?”

Now even with this guidance, some people will still not feel comfortable handling the sales end of their business, or still find it personally difficult, or simply feel their time would be better used elsewhere, and this may be a good time for them to consider hiring an outsourced sales team.


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