The Upside

In a Client Lull? Try These 3 Strategies for Growing Your Consultancy.

I’m in a unique position of interacting with hundreds of independent consultants on a weekly basis and having a birds-eye view of the trends affecting these business owners. 

Lately, I’ve been seeing some challenging trends such as: 

  • Clients that are unable to commit
  • Decision-makers afraid to take on any risk
  • Budget constraints
  • Fear of layoffs and job loss
  • Reorgs and leadership shuffles
  • Scarcity mindsets 

But here’s what I want you to always keep in mind: when you’re dealing with clients, you’re dealing with a human being. That human being has insecurities, fears and doubts about their work, just like you. 

Remembering this is powerful, and can be the difference between ramping up your business or unwinding all of the hard work you’ve put into your consultancy.

If you want to continue to grow your business even during down economies like these, consider these three tried and true approaches to help your consultancy thrive, no matter what the economy holds:

1. Focus on making sure the decision-maker shines.

Remember, all clients are humans (despite how some may appear). The person who is signing your contract (and check) is worried that if they make the wrong decision, it will backfire and make them look bad to their stakeholders. This could lead to a lost bonus or, even worse, a lost job. 

If you’re pitching a startup founder, they may be worried that making the wrong decision could lead to the end of their funding…or business.

Knowing this is powerful in shifting how you approach prospective clients. 

Give them the confidence they need to sign with you. 

Make sure they know that you won’t let them down. 

Make sure to exceed their expectations and make them shine. 

You can even say: 

“It’s my priority to make you look good. If you work with me, I’m not going to let you down.” 

Or with a startup founder: 

“My sole focus is to grow your business. If I can’t do it, nobody can. I won’t let you down.”

2. Restructure your offerings into more budget-friendly options.

If you’ve been following my content for a while, then you know I’m a stickler for knowing your worth. However, shaky economic years may require you to think creatively about how you present your offerings. 

Clients may not be able to commit to large, 6-figure, long-term projects right now. They may not even be able to commit to 5-figure monthly retainers. 

Instead, consider offering more bite-sized contracts that make it easier for the client to say yes. This doesn’t mean you have to lower your rates. No no no no no.

Instead, you can offer your services in smaller chunks or phases, or scale down the scopes to be more in line with the client’s budget. 

One-time audits, advisory blocks, sprint days, and phased-out projects are all much more palatable to clients who are nervous to move forward with a big contract. 

3. Stay open-minded and flexible.

I’ll never tell you to bend your boundaries or lower your rates, no matter what the economy looks like. What I will advise is to keep your ears and eyes open to opportunities that may be slightly out of your typical range of offerings. Make sure your clients feel seen and heard. Ask lots of questions, listen to what they’re saying, look for the gaps and fill those gaps with opportunities to work together. 

Budgets are tight?

Find a way to work together.

The client is experiencing layoffs?

All the more reason to work with a flexible contractor like you.

They can’t commit to a long-term contract?

Offer a short-term engagement and price accordingly.

And always remember…

…clients are human, too.

Erin Halper

About the Author

Erin Halper is the founder and CEO of The Upside and the leading authority on independent consulting. Since launching The Upside in 2017, Erin has helped thousands of professionals transition from corporate life into consulting to achieve flexibility, autonomy, and a renewed sense of purpose in their careers.

Erin has been a frequent speaker at Columbia, NYU, Harvard, and Brown and has been featured as a leading future of work expert on dozens of podcasts as well as in Forbes, Business Insider, Nasdaq, Crunchbase and many more.

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