Selling Consulting Engagements Powerfully

Professional service automation 
Shannon M July 27, 2021

6 crucial steps to successfully sell projects


Selling consulting projects, a complex process? By nature, project sales are much more human and manual than other types of sales. The approach, the exchange and the relationship are at the heart of purchasing decisions for a consulting mission.

In a consulting firm or agency, everyone must be a salesperson. So don’t hesitate to share this post with your colleagues!

1. Sell tailor-made

Do you want to sell a packaged product because it has already been successfully created and executed? This can work when the requests are always very similar: an SEO audit of a website or specific training for example.

But that’s not always what’s right for a client.

The simplest way to sell a consulting engagement is to offer the service that the client really, truly and completely needs.

Selling a project is not like selling a product that has unmodifiable features. On the contrary, a consulting mission can be completely adapted to the client's needs.

It is therefore necessary to listen at length and actively to the issues, discuss the project, and understand the client's objective in depth, before offering them the service they really want.

In a word, tailor-made…

2. Train employees in sales

Selling a consulting mission is not within everyone's reach. This requires sales skills that are not necessarily natural.

Fortunately, these skills can be learned. It is therefore necessary to train the employees of a consulting firm or agency in sales so that they are able to sell projects as early as possible in their careers.

Even if it's just additional work during a mission.

You must therefore spend time explaining the sales process to consultants and managers, offer them the opportunity to read suitable books, and coach them regularly on the subject. This is an additional chance to motivate them by showing them very early on that it is possible to sell projects or work.

3. Help the customer during the commercial phase and be transparent

Frequently, the client goes through a research and tender phase. Being too aggressive during this phase is counterproductive. On the contrary, we must be as transparent as possible and provide them with all the necessary help in the research phase.

For example, we need to talk about the risks of the project. A bad salesperson will hide the possible chances of failure of the mission while a good consultant will explain what the possible limits are to give full visibility to the client.

The feeling of transparency and honesty will promote the creation of a bond of trust which will favor the sale of the project.

4. Practice active listening

We must encourage the customer to share everything: their difficulties, their frustrations, their problems and their ideas. The more you let your client express themselves, the more you simplify the preparation of your proposal. This requires practicing active listening.

  • Follow up with the customer when they express a problem
  • Explore the implications of this problem with him by asking:
    • What is the impact on your productivity?
    • Does this lead to a lack of efficiency?
    • What is the loss to your business? …

Not only that, little by little the customer will take into account the scale of the problem and the urgency of resolving it. But when you make your proposal, you will be able to respond to each of the implications of the problem and not just a general response.

This will have much more impact than that of your competitors.

5. Build Trust

Consulting clients don’t just buy a service. You have to remember that they are buying you.

One of their first objectives is to reduce risk.

The cost of a consulting engagement can be high and no one wants to be responsible for a costly failure. Demonstrating professionalism goes without saying, but you also need to create a relationship and establish trust.

It is not possible to build trust in a sales relationship without creating an emotional connection .

You have to be able to move beyond the purely professional connection, to show that you are capable of offering something that will improve the business without expecting anything in return. You are able to offer it without being asked.

Must also :

  • Succeed in moving beyond the strictly professional conversation
  • Show empathy
  • Create a more memorable exchange than the competition
  • Being vulnerable can have a very positive effect.

Read our article on Why hire a consultant

6. Understand purchasing dynamics

It is important for the person making the offer to understand how the purchasing process will take place with their client. You need to know who will carry out the call for tenders and make the first filter. This person is obviously key since they will give their impression. You must make this person your “internal champion”.

But a lot of selling happens without you being able to intervene. To understand who the final decision-maker is and help your “champion” sell to you, you still need to know precisely who will make the purchasing decision. For example, you can ask the following questions to establish the purchasing process:

  • Have you already set a budget for this project?
  • What results are expected?
  • Are you responsible for presenting your colleagues with the responses to your call for tenders?

We must also be fully aware of the political aspect of decisions. Buyers tell you about some of their decision criteria (price, experience, etc.), but rest assured that internal policy plays a very important role. You should not underestimate the possible connections to be made, the alliances to be created with other people in the client company to ensure that you have not one but several "champions" who will campaign for you when it comes time to the final decision.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Projects

1. Respond immediately to a customer's issue:

Too often, in wanting to show the experience of their firm, consultants will immediately highlight the actions to be taken to respond to the problem a client is speaking to them about.

This must be avoided at all costs and go through each step: understanding the implications of the problem, the financial impacts and the scale of the problems.

Only then should you start writing an offer. This will have much more weight once the specific consequences of the problem for the customer are known.

2. Not letting the customer speak enough:

Everyone wants to speak up in a discussion, even more so when you want to demonstrate your value. But you have to remember that in the case of an exchange with your client, this is a counterproductive attitude. The customer needs to feel heard and understood.

If you let your customer speak, he will not only provide the expected answers to his problem, but he will also be satisfied with the way you listen to him.

It's not magic, it's just human. A conversation where the customer speaks 70% of the time is more likely to result in a sale than the reverse.

3. Not building the relationship at the time of sale:

As we have seen, the customer chooses a relationship that goes beyond a purely pragmatic choice based on numerical data. During this phase, you need to build a relationship and give an overview of what the client can expect during the project: professionalism, empathy, etc.

4. Do not leave your comfort zone:

To sell well, you must constantly innovate and test new approaches.

In consulting, as in any other sector, you have to analyze the effectiveness of different sales channels, package the offer in a different way, try new tools that can facilitate sales (CRM and marketing automation tools, etc.) .

Finally, we must analyze the results of each approach, to accelerate on those that work best.

5. Overestimate the cost issue:

53% of sellers think that the cost of the product is the cause of the failure of the sale when in reality, only 7% of customers cite the price of the project as the essential criterion in their refusal to appeal at the consulting firm.

Article on the consulting market in 2021

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