It’s Not the Economy, Though Many Wish That It Were

There are people in my mentor program who are gaining new appointments every week, seeing buyers, and submitting proposals. Of course, if those are regular occurrences, a healthy amount of new business will be closed.

There are others in the program who struggle to get an appointment, settle for gatekeepers instead of buyers, and who complain that their calls aren’t returned when they follow up. Of course, if that’s the normal state of affairs, it’s tough to put bread on the table.

Here are the differences I’ve observed between these two positions which are controllable and modifiable. In other words, though the economy is a handy excuse for poor business results, it’s not really the true cause of them.

  1. Articulating a clear value proposition (or propositions). If you don’t know and/or can’t articulate what fundamental value you provide to the client (e.g., How is the client better off when you leave?) then how can a prospective buyer know what it is? Many people struggle with this because they prefer to do what’s comfortable or interesting or trendy, but they don’t want to try to associate those inputs with actual client outputs. Sorry, but no one really cares about what you do or how committed you are to it. They only care about how they are better off. (I’m slain by consulting firms and practitioners who tell me what their “vision, mission, and values” are. I don’t care. I care about what mine are and how you can help me achieve them.
  2. Insisting on meeting buyers. Meeting people repeatedly who can’t sign a check is worse than not meeting anyone at all, because you’ve lost irreplaceable time. Too many consultants are intimidated by true buyers, and gladly settle for human resource types, trainers, and other intermediaries. Over 80% of the time when I ask someone, who can’t get a response or needed information, with whom they are dealing, they indicate it’s not really the buyer.
  3. Internalizing that this is the marketing business and allocating appropriate time. Imagine being a pianist and not practicing, or a realtor and not advertising for listings, or a reporter who isn’t seeking out new stories. You can’t consult about anything, no matter how good you are, if no one hires you. Consequently, marketing has to be on the calendar every week. (And it’s a senseless bromide to believe that you can’t market if you’re implementing a project. You can always write articles, send out emails, ask for referrals, etc.) But I guarantee that if marketing activities are not on your calendar with committed time allocated, then you’re simply not marketing enough or very well.
  4. Focusing on value. Every time I hear someone bemoan that the competition is undercutting them on price, or that the prospect claims that the consultant is simply too expensive, I know what’s happened: There has been an insufficient focus on value. “We don’t have that kind of money” is the same pseudo-lament as “We don’t have the time.” Of course they have the time, they simply choose to spend it on something other than your project, and of course there is money, but the ROI proposition that you’re providing is insufficient to send any of it in your direction. It’s amazing that so many consultants will readily lower price-which direly affects their livelihood-but won’t consider working harder to promote value-which so positively impacts their futures.
  5. Asking for help when needed from the right sources. If you’re sitting around groaning about your fate with a bunch of other people doing the exact same thing, the chances are 100% that no one in that circle has the will or the innovation to break out of the doom loop. Finding commiseration is a poor alternative to finding new ideas, better approaches, and relief. (There is a growing multitude of “boot camps” and “certifications” today, largely perpetrated by unsuccessful professionals who have decided it’s easier to try to sell to colleagues than it is to sell to their original prospects. Beware of anyone who hasn’t his or her own superb track record in the area in which they claim coaching acumen.)

It’s not the economy, it’s our own excellent practices and disciplines that propel us upward, or our own sloth and self-indulgence which weight us down. The choice is ours. That’s both the good news and the bad news.