When you are a consultant, you have to have the right knowledge and skills to be successful at getting business. But you also need to right mindset to make good choices.
There’s a lot of information out in the world now about mindset. So what is it? Mindset is your attitudes, your beliefs, and habits of thinking that you have that tell you what something is and what it isn't, who you are and what you aren't, and a whole host of other things. Essential, it is how you've set your mind to look at the world around you and yourself in it.
Mindset matters tremendously to success at consulting. It’s not just about reducing stress or feeling better. It is about seeing the market for your consulting services and yourself in it clearly so that you can take the right action.
The good news is that mindset can be changed! So if you have a mindset today that is getting in the way of your success, don’t worry! You can do something about and get on the right track.
Getting Comfortable with Business Development
It is very common for new consultants to have questions or concerns about business development and about selling yourself as a consultant. The truth is, that most consultants never had to do it in their previous job. Or maybe they’ve had someone try to sell themselves to them and it was, well, icky. It requires new skills and knowledge to do it comfortably or well (and without the “ick factor”), but, for many consultants, it also requires a shift in how you think and feel about it.
It’s About Helping
Here’s the thing about business development and selling: At the heart of it is knowing that there are a lot of people, companies, and organizations that truly need our help as consultants and wanting to help them.
Maybe it's just that they need the expertise that we have. They might be that they have some great people working for them, but they don't have somebody who has the particular expertise that they need. You can come in as that expert and help them accomplish the things that they want to accomplish.
Maybe they need someone who can bring a fresh perspective. Someone who has a broader or new way of looking at things that they are struggling with or has seen how others like them have solved those problems.
Often clients just need more “hands on deck”—that is, someone who can be an extender to their staff so they can get the things done that they need to do but don't have enough people to do it.
Sometimes they just need a consultant to come in who is going to speed things up. I often joke (in my own nerdy way) that I sometimes get hired to be an enzyme. In the body, enzymes speed up reactions. So sometimes my entire purpose is just to get things moving in an organization at a much faster clip.
Sometimes the client just needs to sleep at night. They're stressed out, they have too much to do, and not enough time or ability to do it. They just want somebody to come in who is going to help them so they can take things off their worry list and sleep at night.
If you are a consultant who’s head—and heart—are in the right place, you can shift your mindset to recognize that business development and selling yourself is just about trying to remove any obstacle in the way of you being able to get to a client and help them.
This way of understanding business development and selling can give you the inspiration and the clarity to take the right actions to get out there and start helping clients. To help get this mindset to stick, I encourage consultants to think about—in a detailed and nuanced way—an example of who they want to help. I don’t mean who your ideal client is or who you want to get business from. I truly mean who you want to help. I encourage you to imagine:
Who is an example of a person I want to help?
What do they do?
What is their day-to-day work life like?
What types of things do they worry about?
What stressors do they have at work that are weighing them down?
How do they bring those stressors home?
How does that impact their work, their health, their family?
What are their Monday mornings like?
What are their hopes and dreams?
What are the things that they're trying to accomplish or they're trying to make happen in their company or organization?
What type of help do they really need?
What are the things that I could actually do to help them?
I encourage you to write this down because that will help it get embedded in your mind and, therefore, shift your mindset. It also can be something you refer to if you start to doubt yourself or start feeling uncomfortable with business development and selling again. You may also even change over time as you start to work with clients and who you want to help gets clearer or changes.
When it comes to shifting your mindset, the key is really this: Don’t let made-up mindsets hold you back. If you love consulting as much as I do, then you’ll want to take advantage of the fact that mindsets change. And then take action to change it.
If you start to drift back into your “I can’ts,” go back to who you want to help for the inspiration to shift back to you “why,” which is about helping people, companies, or organizations solve problems and accomplish their goals.