If you already have some specific skill or experience helping businesses make more money, consulting has always been a great service-based business to start. You don’t need employees, inventory, expensive software, or even a website to get started. All you really need are clients you can help.
Unfortunately, getting high paying clients can be a bit difficult if you don’t already have a lot of connections. Unlike getting customers, direct advertising doesn’t always work the best. It’s difficult to target business owners in any industry with most paid advertising platforms. This leaves a beginning consultant with only a few options.
You can go the common route of getting started on Upwork. While that can be profitable, you might not want to navigate the new platform and figure out how to succeed on it. You just want clients, and you want them quickly. You could go door knocking to local businesses, but this limits you to businesses in only your area. You could cold call, however you often have to deal with the gatekeepers. These are assistants who screen calls and usually turn away any and all salespeople.
This leaves one of the best options and still highly underrated methods to find clients online. Use LinkedIn. If you want targeted leads in a specific industry without being blocked by troublesome gatekeepers, LinkedIn is an incredible untapped resource. This guide is going to show you how to get consulting clients on LinkedIn.
Why LinkedIn is a Goldmine
The beauty about LinkedIn lead generation is that you can find the owners or high level decision makers for any kind of business you can think of. With so many professionals networking on LinkedIn, the types of leads you are specifically looking for are usually somewhat active on the website.
When you want to sell consulting services through LinkedIn, you are going to be able to connect directly with the person you want to connect with. It is rare for an assistant or another gatekeeper to run the boss’s LinkedIn profile. This helps ensure you can send a LinkedIn cold message directly to your best prospects and be somewhat confident they are going to see it and respond.
Which Clients to Target and Which Clients to Avoid
By now, you understand that LinkedIn is a great resource to grow consulting business contacts. However, if you want the best chance to get clients from your efforts, it’s important to understand who are the best people to target on LinkedIn and who you should avoid.
Obviously, you should first make sure you are only contacting people you can actually help. This means it’s a business that is already successful enough to pay your high fees and your specific services are likely to help them make more money. If you’re an expert at running Facebook ads for tech startups, it is unlikely you’re going to be able to help the local dry cleaner.
If you are specialized in a specific industry, focus on that industry first. Also, try to get consulting jobs with companies that are not too large. For a solo consultant, it’s easiest when the owner is the person who runs the daily operations. They likely have only a small team of employees and are used to making these kind of financial decisions. If you target a large corporation with thousands of employees, it will be a lot harder to reach the right person who actually makes the decisions to sell your specific services. Also, a company that large would more than likely be hiring a larger consulting agency if they don’t handle something specific in-house.
Your LinkedIn Profile
Before you even start contacting people over LinkedIn, you need to make sure you have your profile filled out to best represent what it is that you do. If your past experience makes you look like a more talented consultant, be sure it is included on your profile. Also, anything that doesn’t specifically help you land clients should be removed. There is no need to have your two year stint as a pizza shop manager on LinkedIn if you’re trying to get sales copywriting clients.
For your summary section, you need to clearly lay out who you are and how you help businesses. This doesn’t need to be long form copy. It’s not a full sales page. You are just giving a quick and clear indication of what it is you do for your clients. Make sure to use short, simple sentences. Don’t be complicated or wordy. Write as if you are speaking directly to your ideal client. Don’t write like it’s a TV commercial that a million people will see. At the end of your summary, list the best way for someone to contact you.
You should make two or three useful posts relating to the industry or types of businesses you will be targeting. This doesn’t need to be advanced or complex, just a quick tip or two that show that you know what you are talking about. If you have some past results you can share from a business you helped, share it. If you have an antidote of how you solved a client’s problem without going into details, tell your antidote. These posts should be written with a friendly tone. It should show your expertise, build trust, and show you will be easy to work with. Showing is the key here, not telling. Anyone can simply say you’re easy to work with and communicate well with clients, but if you can show that in an antidote of how you helped a client, it will be much more powerful.
Art of the Cold Message
Luckily, LinkedIn is still surprisingly underutilized by consultants, so getting your message read isn’t too difficult. However, some other consultants do use LinkedIn for lead generation, therefore it’s important to stand out. Make sure you are connecting with your potential clients first, so they can see your profile and check you out.
After you have connected with them, a strong cold message is how to get consulting clients on LinkedIn. First impressions absolutely matter, so it’s important to make your first impression really count. You shouldn’t be saying something random short and random like “Hi.” or “Do you need my services?” You want to be clear, friendly, show your interest in what they do, and end with a reason for them to respond.
This initial message is not a book. Don’t write a wall of text, keep it concise. You don’t want to ramble, you want to get to the point. Also, your objective with the initial message isn’t to necessarily make the sale right there. It is to start the conversation. A guy doesn’t ask to start a serious relationship with a woman when he first sees her. He starts a conversation, if they are a good fit, they might go on a date and then eventually start a relationship. Landing clients is a similar process. That being said, you should be clear about your intentions from the beginning, no need to beat around the bush.
A good starting message should be personal to them and their business, it should introduce you and what you do, and then it should entice them to respond. Making it personal can be as simple as using their name and mentioning the business they own. Then you give your name and concisely say what you do for clients in a sentence or two just like it’s stated in your profile summary. Lastly, you need to give them a reason to respond. Ask them a question about their business. Be creative with it. If you run Facebook ads to generate leads for businesses, a fun question that works is, “Is your operation equip to handle twice as many customers?” It might sound cheesy, but if you’re professional and your profile is set up correctly, many clients are happy to humor a conversation if it may lead to them making more money. Another simple question is ask if they want you to send over your sell sheet. Your sell sheet should be a simple one sheet marketing material, kind of like a flyer or a brochure, but a digital version in this example.
Once you have a positive response, you want to try to set up a time for a call. Ask them when a good time to get on a quick call would be to see if you are a good fit for each other. While some clients might want to close right there in the messaging phase, most will not. High end consulting means you’re usually charging thousands for your services, often on a monthly basis. Most people won’t be convinced to send that kind of money over just from a cold messaging conversation, therefore you want to get them on a phone call once they are asking questions about your services. The messaging is to start the conversation, the call is where the deal is closed.
Past Results and Social Proof
One of the strongest ways to convince a new prospect to become a client is if you have proof of great results you’ve gotten for clients in the past. This can be a screenshot of leads you generated for a client, or something else that involves your specific services. Some types of consulting can be a little tricky to clearly show results, so you’ll also want testimonials. Happy clients are usually comfortable writing a quick testimonial for you, however if you can manage to get them to send you a short one or two minute video testimonial, that has so much more value. A new lead will be much more interested in their services if they can watch a quick video of a past client praising what you did for their business.
Once you have a few clients and you’ve collected testimonials and other proof of past results, you want an easy way to show this to any new prospects. This can be part of your sell sheet, but if you have video testimonials, you should set up a simple website. This website should have all of the same information as your sell sheet, proof of past results, and as many testimonials as possible, preferably in video form. On your website, you also need a contact form with a strong call to action so that you can set up calls with even more prospects. Even if you are already speaking to these prospects over LinkedIn, someone else might be referred to your website, so not having an easy way for a client to contact you is a big mistake.
Scaling Into a Consulting Agency
Your time is limited. You can usually only handle a certain number of clients at any given time. Once your workload is mostly full, you should be raising your prices, especially for any new clients. It’s at this point, you should think about expanding your efforts into a full on consulting agency.
You don’t need that many employees to begin scaling. In the beginning, they don’t even necessarily need to be employees. They can be remote workers on a contract basis. It’s best to scale slowly to make sure your expenses aren’t growing faster than your clientele.
The first things you should do is get someone to handle the lead generation for you. You can find someone and train them on your LinkedIn method, or find someone that offers lead generation services using their own method. Just make sure they are sending you targeted and well-qualified leads.
Eventually, you can hire a phone sales closer. It’s best to find someone who is already good at this because finding the right person and training them can be a bit of a headache.
Once you have plenty of leads coming in and a hotshot closer landing you clients, you can hire and train people with the actual consulting services that you specialize in and go from there.