Do clients think of you as a subject matter expert, a thought leader, or a trusted advisor? When it comes to building a thriving consultant practice, the answer matters more than you think.
How clients perceive you impacts everything from the ease with which you scoop up new and repeat business, the size and duration of your contracts, even your fee.
It all comes down to figuring out where you sit on the consultant spectrum and then getting the knowledge and tools to move past the obstacles that keep you from levelling up.
So which of these categories best describes you?
Subject Matter Expert (SME): As a consultant or coach selling your services to corporate clients, you’re talented at what you do and have a depth of experience in your field that enables you to provide solutions and address pain points. But it’s not all roses. You have trouble standing out from your competitors. You often find yourself responding to mass RFPs; struggling to identify and close new prospects; haggling over price; and landing short-term or one-off contracts. Sound familiar? You’re far from alone. 70% of consultants fall into this category.
Thought Leader: As you build your brand and build on your successes consulting with corporate clients, you leverage your growing credibility through respected thought leadership. You share your timely and sought-after perspective on social media and via blogs, articles, newsletters, podcasts and speaking engagements. If you are one of the 20% of consultants who has achieved thought leader status, clients know who you are but aren’t necessarily reaching out. Despite your enviable reputation, you lack consistent leads, reoccurring revenue, and multi-year partnerships.
Trusted Advisor: Beyond having the ear of corporate decision makers, you’ve earned their attention. If you are among the 10% of providers who fall into this category, you enjoy an engaged network of executive decision-makers who understand your unique value and reach out to you proactively with projects that are right up your alley. And when they do, the conversation is never about price. Getting active referrals and closing deals also comes naturally. You may even need to bring on associates to help deliver your services. You never worry about where your next client is coming from.
Ready to go from being a SME or Thought Leader to building a sustainable 6 to 7-figure consulting practice as a Trusted Advisor?
It starts with the right mindset.
GET IN THE ZONE
Without the proper mindset, all the experience in the world won’t help you stand out from the competition. The first step is to stop thinking of yourself as a ‘supplier’ or ‘vendor’ with a service to sell and start thinking of yourself as the preferred partner clients look to for help. Building a Trusted Advisor mindset involves being intentional about every aspect of your offering, including the business model you use, how you want to scale, and how you position yourself in the marketplace.
FIND YOUR SWEET SPOT
Identifying and owning your ‘sweet spot’ – the unique value only you can provide that resonates with clients and differentiates you from your competition – is a gamechanger. By being intentional about packaging and communicating your skills and abilities to fill the gaps in corporate, you’ll rise about the noise of the consultant marketplace to engage in deep, value-laden conversations with prospective clients. This is what Trusted Advisors set themselves up to do really well.
Behind every Trusted Advisor is a high level of business acumen, a customer service mentality, and the understanding that winning customer trust is a process.
Instead of selling the features and benefits of their offering, Trusted Advisors focus on educating their carefully chosen prospects by providing valuable insights that help them see potential solutions – and why they’re the best person to execute on them.
As former Harvard business school professor David Maister puts it in his excellent article, How Clients Choose: “Give me an education. Tell me about alternate ways that common problems of my industry might be dealt with. Help me understand the advantages and disadvantages of some of the things I have been reading about. Ask me how I am doing things now and use that as an opportunity to help me understand some options I may have for doing things differently.”
Building your credibility and client relationships to become a Trusted Advisor requires consistent, focused effort but can result in a sustained 6 or 7-figure consulting practice.
BECOME THE GO-TO PARTNER OF CHOICE
What’s the biggest difference between a Thought Leader and a Trusted Advisor? A Thought Leader has credibility. A Trusted Advisor has credibility AND client relationships.
How do they do it? They build a pipeline.
Beyond simply sharing content, Trusted Advisors create a ‘live and breathe’ pipeline – a targeted and vetted ecosystem of executive decision makers which they sustain through customized emails, thought leadership and strategic nurture campaigns. Over time, this focused attention helps decision makers appreciate and trust the value of their expertise. It also keeps the consultant top of mind so when a need arises, the client thinks of them first. This is the foundation that sizeable contracts and multi-year partnerships are built on.
The path to becoming a Trusted Advisor takes work but the pay-off can be huge. While most consultants fumble the ball on the way to the end zone, Trusted Advisors calmly cross the goal line using their customized playbook of strategic moves that build on one another, enabling them to steer clear of the fray while scoring one touchdown after another.
If you’d like to explore actionable strategies around how to become a Go-To Trusted Advisor in your field, book your free 30-minute strategy session here.
Kim Chernecki helps high-performing freelance executives, consultants, coaches and other experts, land lucrative corporate contracts. She is the creator of the Land Corporate Contracts Fast-Track System, and is a top-rated sales performance executive, facilitator, coach, advisor, speaker and strategist. A 25-year entrepreneur, Kim has consulted with executives from 100+ leading North American and Fortune 1000 companies and has, herself, started up and helped grow 10 businesses and business divisions. She’s closed millions of dollars in corporate contracts, and provides powerful strategies and proven formulas to help her clients do the same.