Last summer, Scott Steinberg, CEO of product testing firm TechSavvy, wrote an excellent article for Inc.com on 5 Tips to Build a Killer Consulting Business.
Since so many of our readers in the IT consulting industry struggle with this very challenge, I wanted to share a few of Steinberg’s tips, along with some additions and refinements that could be especially helpful for those providing outsourced IT services as part of their locally-focused small business consulting.
Many of these tips are also equally valuable to small business VARs and MSPs who provide consulting services.
Look for Unfulfilled Needs
Steinberg’s first point is all about figuring out why clients hire you, as opposed to tapping into or hiring an in-house employee.
If you know the real reason for your value proposition, you know what pain points to market to. And even more important, your will seem to be and actually be different. This is hugely important.
If you don’t know what need you really fulfill, your small business consulting approach will be just as clueless as most of your local competition. And you’ll be forever stuck paying the “cheapest” and “fastest” game. Not a fun place to be!
Value Relationships Over Revenue
Steinberg makes it a point to never discuss costs with new clients until he knows what they really need.
While excellent advice, it assumes that prospective clients are reasonably well qualified.
If you’re selling IT consulting services to local small businesses however, many times you need some “proxies” for budget to avoid wasting time with small businesses that are just too small to serve profitably.
Thou Shalt Not Sell Hourly
Steinberg is adamantly against selling by the hour, on the grounds of commoditization. Great point!
However, in order to get to the stage where an IT consulting firm, VAR, or MSP can quote a fixed-priced project, scope needs to be nailed down. And if nailing the scope down takes anywhere from a few hours to a few days of work, you need to evaluate whether that upfront gratis work is justifiable based on the client upside.
Since some very tiny small businesses (<5 employees) often spend next to nothing on professional IT services, perhaps <$1,000/year, if you choose to engage with very tiny small businesses, you kind of have to reluctantly accept that you’re in the commodity business.
And that’s one of the major reasons why you need to be super careful with your targeting and lead qualification.
Steinberg believes that most small business consulting should not be done on a recurring or retainer basis and explains, “…if you've done your job right, you've solved the problem…be ready to move on.”
However he does go on to clarify that ongoing services that are more like external staffing, or outsourcing services, are more conducive to recurring retainers.
Steinberg also is a big believer in networking with other experts that you can bring in to complement your own skillset.
This meshes very well with what we’ve been advocating for well over a decade: small business IT consultants, VARs, and MSPs need to cultivate relationships with local trusted business advisors and non-competing technology advisors.
Use Downtime for Business Development
Again, I agree 100% with Steinberg here. For a solo practitioner, after you’ve taken care of your existing clients as if your consulting practice’s survival depended on it (Hint: It does!), your number two priority must be finding more clients.
The only exception: If you have realistically-funded aspirations to scale your consulting firm up size-wise, recruiting and building a team may be almost as important as finding more clients.
What advice do you think is most important for building a client base for a small business consulting firm in IT services? What do you see as most different about consulting in general vs. IT consulting for small businesses? Please share your thoughts in the Comments area below.
And to follow-through on the tips introduced in this short article, be sure to download your free copy of the special report on How to Start a Computer Consulting Business: 6 Proven Ways to Build Your Initial Client Base.
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Topics:- Computer Consulting Business