The Upside

Want More Long-Term Consulting Contracts? Try This.

Today I want to tell you about a little-known strategy that is so simple, yet so often overlooked. 

This strategy will not only help your business survive, but it will also support it to thrive with infinite referrals and long-term clients that keep coming back for more.

The root of this strategy comes down to first impressions, which we can all agree are important in every life category.

But first impressions are especially important in business, and especially as a consultant.

That’s why today, I want you to come up with a thoughtful plan for how you will exceed your client’s expectations during the first month of your engagements. 

  • I want you to come on strong. 
  • I want you to come roaring out of the gate.
  • I want you to WOW your clients from day one.

Here’s why:

Behind that signed and sealed contract is a decision-maker who is wondering if they made the right choice in hiring you. 

If you can make a strong impression during that first month of working together, your clients will….

  • Feel seen and heard, building infinite goodwill.
  • Trust that you are, indeed, the right person for the project.
  • Have confidence in their decision in hiring you.
  • Be more likely to back off throughout the remainder of the engagement.
  • Want to tell other companies all about you.
  • Be excited to work with you again and again.

Delighting your clients within that first month is so overlooked, hardly any consultants think about it. Yet, it’s a surefire way to improve your business and build long-term, profitable relationships.

To get you started, here are 5 first-month strategies to consider as you craft your own plan for making a strong first impression and exceeding your client’s expectations:

  1. Plan in advance to deliver something (anything) tangible within the first month. 

Even if it’s something small like a design, a report, an audit, a spreadsheet or any kind of KPIs, giving your clients a deliverable within the first month gives them peace of mind that you’re making good progress.

  1. Be quick to respond to their emails, within your agreed-upon boundaries.

Being available and extra responsive that first month (during normal business hours of course) helps ensure to the client that you are, indeed, working on their project and prioritizing their needs. I can assure you that during your first month of working together, when clients don’t hear back from you in a (very) timely manner, they start getting nervous and lose trust that they made the right decision.

  1. Follow up, follow up and then follow up some more.

Clients are busy. They may not get back to you in a timely manner. They may not even give you what you need to get started in a timely manner. This is typical, but not problematic if you follow up every day until you get what you need. Slightly aggressive? Perhaps. However, the client will think: “I’m impressed with how on top of things this person is and how eager they are to move this project forward. I need to respond quickly so I can get out of their way.”

  1. Be as available and flexible as you can for meetings.

The first month is the most critical for kickoff meetings and getting the ball rolling. Being extra flexible and available during those first few weeks will help build trust between you and your clients. If you can move things around to accommodate their needs, do it and don’t mention it. Later on, you can have more freedom to say, “That time doesn’t work for my schedule but how about Thursday or Friday anytime between noon and 4 pm?” 

  1. Create an agenda for month 1 and share it with the client.

Tell clients what to expect for the first month. Outline your onboarding and kickoff plan. Show them that you know how to start strong and set them up for success. Setting expectations with a month-1 agenda will help ease their concerns and set the pace for the first few weeks of working together. 

I want you to write this on a Post-it and stick it to your computer:

Come on strong the first month.

I promise this will accelerate your business growth in ways you never thought possible.

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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