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  • Deb Zahn

What Consultants Who Succeed Quickly Have in Common

In the 11+ years that I have been consulting and after coaching 65+ new consultants, I have seen some consultants take to the business of consulting like fish to water, getting clients quickly and keeping their pipelines of work flowing.


More often, I see consultants spend the first 6 months, year, and even 2 years trying to make it work and becoming frustrated when business doesn’t come in or comes in in a trickle or sporadic, undependable bursts.


Why Some Consultants Succeed and Some Don’t

I have noticed that consultants who succeed in building their businesses and practices faster don’t do so because of luck or serendipity. They don't rely on luck and serendipity. They succeed faster because of things they do and attributes they have and develop.


The "speedy succeeders" often have these things in common:

  • They are driven by a deeper purpose, a desire to do meaningful work and have a fulfilling life.

  • They have enough faith and tenacity to keep taking steps forward, even if sometimes they get discouraged or lose confidence.

  • They attend to their mindsets, including believing that success is not predetermined but something they can create and influence.

  • They prioritize and focus on pursuing business in a way that will have the highest yield in the least amount of time.

  • They take action, even if it is imperfect and even if they are uncomfortable.

  • They make mistakes and then adjust what they do based on an honest assessment of what went wrong.

  • They actively seek out the knowledge and support they need to succeed.


Uh Oh. What If This Doesn’t Describe Me?

Now, if you can’t check off everything on that list, don’t worry! Even successful consultants didn’t necessarily embody all these things at the beginning.


I sure didn’t. But I had enough of them—like a deeper purpose, tenacity, and reflection—to create the conditions where the other attributes and actions could emerge more easily. Once the other ingredients started to come together, the faster and more easily I succeeded. And I have seen the same with other new consultants.


My big sticking point was the last one, asking for help.


Why? Because I felt too ashamed that I was failing. And I didn’t want anyone to know. But consulting is not one of those professions where you can get by just looking busy. You either get clients or you don't.


Fortunately, failing, especially when the stakes are so high, was a helpful motivator. It made me prioritize the desire to succeed over the shame. I had to ask for help.


I also didn’t wait until the shame went away to ask for help. I knew enough about how shame works to know it was likely only headed one direction—and that was up.


So I asked for help. I asked someone I knew who had been consulting a lot longer than me what I could do to get clients. I had known him for a long time, years before either of us were consultants. I knew he would be kind but also honest.

He asked me questions about what I was doing and the decisions behind those actions. He asked me what business I was trying to pursue and what happened when I did. He asked me what I was saying to potential clients and how the meeting ended.


I answered honestly but felt so uncomfortable. It felt like peeling back the layers of my ignorance and missteps.


But I had run out of other options.


The advice he gave me that day made all the difference. It helped me pinpoint what I was doing that wasn’t getting me the results I wanted. And it helped me realize I wasn’t doing everything wrong! But it got me the start I needed to adjust my focus, thinking, and actions more fruitfully.


Since then, I’ve refined my approach. I’ve added new strategies and skills. Each year, getting better at getting clients and serving them. Each year, reflecting on the choices I make that impact my consulting business and life and adjust to align better with what I truly want.


Now What Do You Do?

Go back and look at the "speedy succeeders" list above. What are you missing? What needs more cultivation or adjustments?


Consider these questions:

  • Do you know your deeper purpose, your why? If not, will you take the time to reflect on it and write it down to help you make decisions and keep you motivated when things get difficult or you get discouraged?

  • Do you need to commit to taking concrete steps forward, acknowledging how you feel but moving forward anyway?

  • How is your mindset? Do you need to get out of some mindset traps and cultivate healthier beliefs, attributes, and habits of thinking?

  • Have you taken the time to define your ideal client, market, and niche clearly and then create a value proposition that you can use to get clients more easily?

  • Do you have a plan for the actions you need to take to get clients? Have you blocked out dedicated time to take that action and follow up?

  • Have you reflected on why you are not getting clients or getting them reliably? Do you know how you will adjust what you do and say?

  • How are you seeking out the knowledge and support you need to succeed? Reading this blog is a wonderful step. What else do you need?


If you need more help knowing what is critical to do and avoid, join me on my FREE live masterclass: Top 5 Things You Must Do to Get Consulting Clients. It's on August 20th at 11 am PDT (2 pm EDT and 7 pm BST). When you register, you’ll get a free tool to develop your unique value proposition, which will help you quickly articulate your value to prospective clients. So join me and learn how to skip the hard part and get to the best part faster, which is getting paid well to do the work you were meant to do.


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