What does a consultant have to sell? His time? Well, not really. A strategy consultant might charge by the hour or might not. There are some strong arguments not to charge by the hour. But even if he does, it is not his time he is selling.
A consultant sells expertise.
Ability to apply his knowledge to a client’s unique situation.
Yes, for the consultant it is all about credibility.
So how does a potential client know which consultant to hire? Which consultant has the expertise required? The client cannot be expected to judge properly how well a consultant knows his stuff. But there are certain signals the client picks up on easily, and these business tips cannot be ignored to ensure you’re the strategy consultant they choose:
- Sense of professionalism.
- His published book.
What was that last one? “His published book.”
A book with the consultant’s name on the cover. A book with the consultant’s face on the cover. A book that demonstrates, if nothing else, that the consultant can fill 200 or more pages with his expertise.
But a book is so much more than that. There is an air of authority just in being a “published author”. It is assumed that if you have been published, that somehow you have passed the expertise test.
Does it matter who the publisher is? No. The book can be self-published – as long as it looks real and looks professional and looks like something that might come out of a Madison Avenue publishing house. What matters is that your competitor hands out business cards, but you hand out your published book. It’s all about your own brand management: managing you, as a brand.
Is quality important?
Does your book need to have really good content? Yes. Well, not really. Most potential clients won’t read too much of the book, and depending on the consultant’s field of expertise, the client might not understand it anyway.
But some will read it, sometimes even cover to cover, so I suggest making sure it’s good. And most will flip a few pages, so make sure the book has been well-edited. Spelling checked. Grammar checked. Coherence checked.
If you don’t have time to write the book yourself, or you lack the writing expertise, you can hire a ghostwriter. By the way, that’s what we do; we work with busy people who want a book in their name, but don’t have the time or the writing skills to produce a manuscript that will impress the daylights out of potential clients.
Well written, yes, but have you something important to say? This is a question worth thinking about. Do you have a point to make – a point that the average client can understand in simple terms and – more importantly – understand from that point that you’ll be capable of advising them on solutions to their problems?
Grabbing the media’s attention
Even if most potential clients never read the book, having a coherent message is crucial for the media. Yes, the media. Depending on your niche, the media might be national TV or it might be trade magazines. Or it might just be bloggers or the program director of an industry conference who is looking for speakers. The media are gatekeepers of your message, of your reputation. If the book impresses them enough to feature you on their show, in their pages or in their speakers program, it has paid its way.
I recall seeing Zig Ziglar live in Toronto about a decade ago. He told us how much he sold in his first year on the road. He sold his car, for instance. He sold his furniture. And a lot of other things that were less important than food.
As a consultant, all you have to sell is your credibility. If you do that well enough, you won’t have to sell your car or your furniture. A book in your name, with your face smiling on the cover, is one of the best ways to be viewed as credible by the people who will decide to hire you.
Now it’s up to you to determine what will be in those pages.
David Leonhardt runs The Happy Guy Marketing. If you want a book to build your credibility, he can set you up with a ghostwriter: http://www.seo-writer.com/freelance/ghost-writer.html If you have already written the book and you need help, he can set you up with a professional editor: http://www.seo-writer.com/freelance/manuscript-editor.html