One of the most important things you need to do to get consulting clients is to describe what you can offer them in a way that matches their problems, desires, and demand. You have to be able to articulate what you can offer in a way that gets them to say yes to hiring you and ensures that you can deliver on your promise to them.
How do you find that sweet spot, where you can easily describe what you truly can do and can reliably deliver the results they want?
The answer lies in having the right mix of confidence, self-awareness, and preparation. You must have the confidence to accurately define the breadth and depth of what you can do and the self-awareness to offer—and only offer—to do the work you are best suited to do. And you need to prepare so you do it well.
Confidence—It’s Not What You Think.
I am a pretty darn confident consultant, and I get asked by other people all the time where my confidence comes from. It’s really quite simple: my confidence comes not from thinking that I know or can do everything but from knowing that I don’t have to.
I have my superpowers, but I don’t have to have every superpower. It’s about being comfortable with the reality that I have a lot to offer my clients, but sometimes they need things that someone else is better than me at giving them. Knowing that is liberating for me and helps make sure my clients get the best of me.
Know Thyself to Zone Thyself
Having self-awareness about your value is essential to developing a description of what you can offer. If you know who and what you are (and aren't!), you can describe what you can do in a way that is compelling to clients and matches what you can truly help them achieve.
One way to assess that is to get to know your zones. Knowing your zones means being clear about what you can do for your clients based on your experience, knowledge, and skills.
A good place to start is to identify your hard skills and soft skills. Both are critical to getting clients and helping them achieve the results they want. Both are important to include in your description of what you offer.
What's the difference?
HARD SKILLS: Your technical or functional knowledge and abilities to perform specific tasks.
Examples: Content expertise, data analytics, research, finance, writing, market analysis, quantitative/qualitative assessments, logistics, business planning, etc.
SOFT SKILLS: Your interpersonal and social knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and attributes.
Examples: Problem-solving, conflict resolution, decision support, team building, negotiating, managing group dynamics, etc.
When I'm describing what I can do to help clients achieve the results they want, I include examples of both hard and soft skills in my description. For example, I might say that I can
assist them in analyzing their problem and identifying the best solution, establishing project goals and timeframes, defining the critical components of the project, and defining the right sequence of steps to complete the project. These are primarily hard skills.
But I will also tell them that I can assess the context for the project so that the it won’t get stalled because of organizational dynamics, facilitate decision making among their internal stakeholders to gain acceptance of both the problem and solution, and manage change in a way that anticipates resistance and maximizes acceptance. These are primarily soft skills.
If you have been involved in a successful project before, you used your hard and soft skills to help make it happen, even if you didn’t know that’s what you did!
What if you can't think of anything you can do well?
Well, in almost every case, you have a confidence problem, not a competency problem. You may want to ask people you have worked with and trust to be honest with you to help you identify your skills. You could ask questions like:
What do you think I do best?
What things do I do that you think adds to the success of projects?
What is an example of a contribution I made to a project that you think made an important difference?
That should help you identify your skills even if you don' have the confidence to do it yourself.
Prepare to Dazzle Prospective Clients
After you've applied enough confidence and self-awareness to accurately assess your hard and soft skills, you can map them to your zones. You can check out this blog for more guidance on your zones and how to do that.
Then you need to prepare a clear, crisp, and compelling description of what you offer clients that matches your value and what you can deliver. The description should include a value proposition that articulates your value to clients and more a detailed description of what you can offer, what results you can help achieve, and how you do it.
Before you use your descriptions in your market, test them! Say them to people in your market who understand the actual demand in your market and will give you honest feedback. Refine them based on that feedback and keep refining them based on the responses you get from prospective clients. Also, don't forget to adjust your descriptions based on what is unique about each prospective client.
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