Is it possible for consultants, coaches and specialists to achieve flexible consulting models of delivery that scale and feel bespoke to your client?
Today, I’m tackling the impossible – how to achieve Scalable Delivery that Feels Bespoke to your client. We’ll look at ways to be fabulously flexible in how you create a blended modality for your programs and services leveraging the common elements and layering client specific needs on top.
Today, it’s the final part of my three-part series on ‘How to increase your consulting income without taking on more clients’.
Whether you’re reading or listening via the podcast, I hope part 1 and part 2 gave you some insights and ideas. I’d love to hear from you about any big aha moments for you. Just hit reply to any of my emails …
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Right let’s crack on – first I’ll summarise what we covered in the first two parts as a quick refresher, and then we’ll dive straight into part 3.
Although each part can stand on its own, as a strategy, if you haven’t read or listened to the first two parts, don’t forget, or you’ll only be getting a third of the approaches I’m covering.
PREFER TO LISTEN?
In part 1, I introduced the ‘more for fewer’ hard line strategy and talked about four things you can focus on to leverage your client work:
- Focus on doing fewer things for more clients.
- Focus on doing more things with your existing clients.
- Focus on doing work at the top of the tree.
- Focus on working in collaboration with others.
Then in Part 2, we focused on the ‘Less is More’ Velvet Rope Strategy, looking at choice, value and prices, and how this impacts your sense of fulfilment and profits in your business, turning to creating more exclusivity in who you take on as a client.
Well today, we’re tackling a third way to increase you consulting income without taking on more clients.
And that is to create a packaged premium programme for something you do often and do well. It should be something you’re super familiar with that you can build around a unique framework, methodology or curriculum and create a toolbox of approaches that you can pick ‘n’ mix so as to tailor it to each client’s specific needs.
This way you’re able to leverage your time and energy with an ‘out of the box’ programme you can modify to a tailored proposal and deliver fast to clients in what feels to them like a very high touch, bespoke engagement.
This totally beats the time and effort overhead of creating customised and time-consuming projects for every client or having an overly rigid offer.
Working with clients – you want to attract the great clients and push away the not-so-great clients. And this is particularly the case for your high-end services and programs, that we talked about last week, where the engagement is longer, and the end result or gains you promise to deliver are more complex.
In this third instalment of how to increase your consulting income without taking on more clients, we’re looking at the balancing act for profitability, scalability and sustainability.
Let’s kick off with …
Three rookie mistakes that aren’t scalable and create hassle & stress
The first is …
#1 Saying Yes to Everything
When you first get started as an independent consultant, coach or practitioner, you take on all and anything that comes your way – you get into a habit of saying yes I can do that, even if it means:
(1) that you have to spend a tonne of time learning something new in order to do it justice; and
(2) that the client isn’t really an ideal fit for what you do or how you work, or what they need to do in order to get the results you promise them.
Let’s look at that first one … the client who wants something that isn’t entirely in your wheelhouse but close enough to think I can do this if I research it a little and learn on the job…. (not stressful at all aha).
Of course, you can tell yourself it’s an investment for the next client who wants that same thing, and to an extent you do get quicker at the research and you do build your knowledge and skills, then doing the project you increase your understanding of what implementing in on the ground looks like, because that’s the part that really gets the client the results, right?
And while you bring in that one contract and earn some income, there’s no real gain if you just learn and know more stuff, over and over, without leveraging it for other clients.
What about the second reason why they’re not ideal. That they’re not really a great client. When you’re open to anyone, because you’re simply chasing the money, your criteria are they’re interested and they’re willing to pay. While you busy researching and learning how to do the work, you’re losing out on work you can do easily and quickly.
And so you ignore all the danger signs – things like you didn’t really quite click, they were a tad aggressive, they didn’t approach the consultation with mutual respect, they had a long list of things they wanted or wouldn’t be prepared to do, they had a whole array of rules and procedures or hoops they want you to jump through.
These are all red flags to saying yes to work that is going to cost you time and lose you money.
The second mistake and thing you should try to avoid is …
#2 Selling Time
Now if you’re working B2B and selling into organisations, there is an element of that being understandable and necessary. The client appears to have all the power, it’s on their dime and their time!
But if the only thing your clients can buy is your time, you will never create freedom for yourself.
Organisations, unlike individuals, have procurement policies and procedures they need to be compliant with, and some even have a cap on how much they will pay consultants, a cap based on daily rate.
The nature of an organisation’s selection criteria may or may not be a system you agree with, so you have to decide if you’re willing to play the game.
For instance, in my consulting practice, when we tender for work, quite often you have to specify how many ‘days’ of your time they will get. I find this quite a ridiculous criterion because, in my experience of having people deliver things, the number of days is not a good metric for value for money.
It’s ironic since strategic planning, risk management and evaluation have been our main bread and butter for the past almost 15 years. I’ve personally done internal audits for organisations on managing procurement for contracting, outsourcing and hiring, so we’re pretty clued up about value for money!
Here’s why number of days is a rubbish measurement. Some people will do things to the same quality in half time of someone else. Others will take the same time and do it to double the quality. I also find it a bit crazy that I somehow have to explain that! But hey, that is often the game in the corporate world!
When I’m in a presentation pitching our proposal, if we play the game to get that far, I may chance it to have a little discussion that ‘time’ is not a great criterion, since something that may take one day of my time because of my expertise and experience may take someone else two days. Which means I can deliver more for the same number of days.
So you’re not comparing apples with apples, and getting two days from them may not be comparative in cost-effectiveness terms unless those days produce the exact same result. What if one day of my time produces better results than three days of someone else’s time. What if our number of days even though more expensive means we can deliver what they want faster? Even if we were twice as expensive as the other consultants, our proposal would be better value for money for the client right?
I’ll talk more about that in a future episode we have planned on writing bids and pitching proposals. But for now, let’s say you decide you don’t want that hassle…
The key to achieving that freedom is a ‘design once, deliver to many’ online product based on your expert system that creates a steady income stream and an automated marketing process for launching that product that generates income 24/7. So you’re attracting the business that is only a fit for what you do.
Now the third mistake and thing you should absolutely stop doing is …
#3 Selling Anything & Everything
You don’t attract a client and say ‘hey I can do anything’ you create a demand narrative.
Danny Iny talks about this in his book Effortless, and I talk about this in my book Leveraged Consulting – so that’s nothing new – you need a compelling or irresistible offer that has a beginning, middle and end – a where are you now that’s X where do you want to get to that’s Y, and how do you get there. So getting someone from X to Y is your offer.
When we’re looking at attracting great clients, you want to start with who they are, and what they specifically want to do better, faster or differently, and you work backwards from there – a kind of reverse engineering.
Get really specific about what you uniquely deliver.
There’s a wonderful quote from Political Strategist Lynton Crosby, who said:
“When reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins. You persuade through reason but you motivate through emotion.”
One of the most attractive things about consulting and coaching is that it’s very tailored to the client’s needs and you want to get them excited about the impact you’re going to bring.
So listen up, if you’re wanting to avoid the three very unleveraged things a lot of us do when starting out, which often just becomes the norm and leads to overwhelm, stress and burnout … is to create a core signature programme you can adapt to each client’s needs.
And that’s why next, let’s look at …
Creating a Core + Bespoke Offer
This may seem like a “unicorn” kind of offer… but hear me out.
I’ve heard people say never underestimate the power of an insight. Well, equally so, I’d say never underestimate the power of a system. Your expert system is uniquely yours! And it starts with who you serve, why, what and how.
When you home in on one ideal client avatar – even when this is B2B, rather than an individual persona, you target specific types of organisation you can work best with, be that industry specific, size, structure, location. And you might be looking to get into conversation with a specific role, person responsible for the functional area that what you do falls under, for instance, finance & resources, HR, IT, operations, organisational development.
High end services – that can be a consulting assignment, a coaching program, a specialist training, whatever is your offer, the thing you do. And it’s always going to land best when that’s not open-ended.
The way you get them from X to Y that’s your unique methodology, how you deliver it – and in my book I talk about leveraged delivery in terms of the different ways you can deliver that X2Y outcome in flexible and leveraged ways, so it’s scalable.
Danny Iny talks about ‘Both… AND’ to describe a hybrid model of delivery for online courses. For consultants and coaches, this can feel both familiar and new. For your clients, it’s going to feel like they are getting assistance in a way that’s both structured and bespoke, since you’re able to tailor how you work with them to suit what they or their team need, and how they want to work with you, and in what timeframe.
Now look there is an argument against this, what some may call pandering, so you need clear boundaries about how YOU want to work too. At the same time, you’re learning what your clients need and can explore and negotiate if this is actually going to help or hinder your work together.
And while you’re doing this, you’ll find you are adding value, which means when you come back with your quote you can justify the fee you’re asking, and in the letter of engagement or proposal, you can show the breakdown and value for money of the core and bespoke elements.
So let’s look at how you create how you craft a wonderfully tailored yet realistically workable “unicorn” offer…
You may have heard people talk about a SIGNATURE PROGRAMME – well this doesn’t have to be a course; it can be a system or a methodology that you take all your clients through. It allows you to leverage your time by having them work through some parts independently.
For instance, I have intake forms, worksheets, planners, and ask them to collaborate across particular teams that need input into what we’re doing. A client of mine calls it ‘giving them their homework’. I get them to collate key docs, curate materials, so we bring everything into focus. And I will then facilitate a meeting or workshop or run a scenario planning exercise.
And this is powerful stuff, and it’s where you really stand in the value that you bring to the client, and where you’re able to charge premium fees.
It’s also how you’re able to differentiate what you offer, not only in the results you deliver but in the way you go about helping them achieve those results. Another way of putting it is that you’re putting together resources, activities and interactions in your unique way.
Creating your signature program is like the backbone of what you do – it’s the foundations of your core proposal. And then you can flesh it out with specific things they need and particular nuances of how you work with them, what extras they need blending into the programme of work. And this is what you build into the final proposal.
The beauty of having one signature programme is that you can leverage it in so many ways, turning it into multiple streams of income. A virtual workshop or webinar becomes the entry point to your signature work. You can use as a pilot with your first clients on this system. It helps connect with the client and the people you’re working with really fast. They get to know, like, trust, experience you & how you approach things.
It also means you start to get known for something specific and your marketing becomes super clear and super targeted around what you do, who you do it for, and why it’s important.
Everything you do leads to your one signature programme. You want to set out a few foundations:
What do you help your clients accomplish, what’s the outcome they get from working with you?
How would you articulate the outcome?
What do you help them achieve?
What would success look like to them, how would they describe it?
If you’ve already worked with clients in your core area of business, you probably have this already articulated in testimonials, references or feedback they’ve given you.
Then you get into the nitty gritty of how many steps in your process?
Clients need help navigating information and ideas. It’s not information that changes things for them – it’s implementation and transformation.
Keep it simple, get down to the few steps that create wins for your client. 5 steps is about right. Sometimes when you boil the process down to 5 or so steps, it feels clear and manageable – the classic ‘less is more’ applies.
Another way to look at it is to do less, but really create a great experience and deliver an impactful and measurable outcome. Because to the client that feels very high touch and special.
You only need to blend a little of this into how you work, such that the client feels heard and understood, noticing things, and making them feel special.
And you can use these steps as your curriculum and structure for working with the client. You can also use it as a structure for organising documents or workshop materials you collating, sharing and using across the programme of work – they can go into a shared space. You can do a lot with Zoom, Googledocs and Dropbox type tools. Keep the tech simple.
And if you’re getting traction on this one signature way of working, make sure you trademark it as your methodology.
Now armed with this backbone programme – your 5 steps, your expert methodology, your core curriculum, how do you make it bespoke?
Well there’s are a few things you can adapt to tailor how you deliver the programme to each client.
First is the timeframe. If the client wants the work done fast, sometimes you would need to trim the steps from 5 to 3 or do a slimmed down version of each step in order to progress all that’s needed. Or they may want to build in time to do internal work, and ask you to expand the usual timeframe.
Second is the modality. If the client has people in different parts of the country or world, you may need to vary the blend of in-person and online elements. You may need to work around specific access restrictions or policies.
Third is additional modules or activities. The client may want to focus on a particular area of need and emphasise this in the programme of work, rather than across the dimensions you usually cover. Quite often, this happens naturally as part of initial inception and strategy discussions.
A fourth might be the group sizes, depending on what you’re doing. If they want you to work with a larger group than you normally do, you might need to split them into 2-3 groups for some steps, and join them back with an extra activity. Or have them do different things at different times.
The added value you can bring is you’re acting as a facilitator, particularly if you’re working across functional teams. Having an external consultant in can sometimes be a key way to forge collaborations that are otherwise proving difficult.
And a fifth one is scope – that’s quite standard when setting out consulting engagements and proposals – that determines the breadth and depth of things you will do and deliver for the client. For instance, you might do a mini-roundtable or you could do a big 360-degree review. You could include 1-2 stakeholder groups or 5-6.
So, I hope this gives you some insights and gets your ideas flowing…
If you’re looking for big growth in your consulting, coaching or other practice-based business this year, or you know that you’re gearing up for big growth in 2022, you may be starting to realise that working with a coach like me would be a really great way to support yourself through all of the steps.
If that’s you, I would love to hear from you – so let’s have a conversation 🙂
You’ll get nicely clear on what your options are for leveraging your approach to create flexible, leveraged delivery that’s scalable.
Just click the button below to book a strategy discovery session, there’s a short application form and on our call, we can explore if we’re a fit.