Consultants: New Sales Opportunities, Clues on Branding



Money-making opportunities for consultants and freelancers abound in American associations – business, technology, healthcare and science. This is true elsewhere in the public and private sectors.

That’s the conclusion from a 2015 study conducted by SmithBucklin, an association and management services company.

“The study shows how association executives are augmenting their in-house teams,” said Carol McGury, executive vice president, Event and Education Services, SmithBucklin.

ID-10046981Ambro“Association executives realize they cannot hire and employ every talent they need to deliver against the important work of their organization,” she explains. “By outsourcing solutions for specific needs, they can ensure that their organizations thrive while serving the best interests of their members.”

In essence, the study provides valuable information on what services you can sell to associations and clues on how to brand your offerings.

Respondents included 360 U.S. association and professional society executives.

The most-outsourced services are graphic design, multimedia and video.

Second most-popular outsourced services are editorial, publishing and advertising sales.

Third most-popular services include membership technology, tradeshow management, exhibit/sponsorship sales and advocacy/government relations.

Breakdown of outsourced services

52 percent – Graphic design/multimedia/video

27 percent – Editorial, publishing, advertising sales

26 percent – membership technology

19 percent – Tradeshow management

18 percent – Exhibit/sponsorship sales, Advocacy/government relations

17 percent – Marketing/public relations

14 percent – Financial management, accounting

13 percent – Event strategy or management

8 percent – Education program development

7 percent – Social media

Other conclusions: What outsourcing services associations are considering, how associations plan to achieve their goals, and benefits they expect to achieve from outsourcing.

Outsourced services under consideration

12 percent – Membership technology

11 percent – Event strategy/management

10 percent – Marketing/public relations and graphic design/multimedia/ education

9 percent – Program development, social media

“In key areas, we outsource where it is difficult to have in-house expertise,” one respondent said. “In areas where the business is changing rapidly, like technology support, it makes more sense to outsource.”

Clues on how to brand yourself – why associations outsource to achieve goals

53 percent – For specific skills

34 percent – Supplementing in-house staff

27 percent – Saving money

9 percent – Solution for temporary staffing challenges

6 percent – Fulfilling functions outside of the organization’s core purpose

4 percent – Meet goals and objectives

Clues for value propositions – expected benefits through 2017

70 percent – Accessing specialized talent

58 percent – Increasing organizational capacity

54 percent – Increasing staffing flexibility

53 percent – Improving organizational performance

48 percent – Reducing costs

31 percent – Increasing revenue

25 percent – Increasing competitive edge

“The association sector recognizes that outsourcing is an effective way for organizations to extend their teams and wisely allocate resources,” said Matt Sanderson, executive vice president, SmithBucklin.

“In that way, associations mirror the overall business sector, which continues to rely on outsourced services as a time-tested business strategy,” he adds.

In addition to associations, he says a 2014 KPMG survey concluded that 72 percent of major enterprises were planning to make increased expenditures in outsourcing services over the next two years.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related tips for consultants:

Valuable Secrets for Profitable Deal-Making with Clients — If you’re in professional services or you’re a consultant, many times you’ve heard the phrase: “Give me a proposal.” Here’s a better way to respond. You can be more successful with clients using deal memos. Here’s how.

Performance Gap Solutions for Consultants in Income and Image — If there’s a disparity between your income goals and your current financial situation, it would appear that you have a performance-gap issue.

Consultants – 5 Strategies to Build Trust with Clients — The five strategies that enhance relationships between consultants and clients.

Tips for Building Long-Term Client Relationships with Effective Meetings — Signs you have good client relationships: They’ll thank you regularly, pay your invoices promptly, and will respond well to your recommendations. If you don’t have all three of these, here’s what to do.

Consulting: Effective Management of Difficult Clients — Start with this premise: You should be focused on the continuous, improvement and performance of your firm. If you have difficult clients, here’s what you can do about it.

Consultants – Helping Clients Deal with an Emotional Crisis — No matter what kind of a consulting practice you have, it’s sometimes necessary to help clients deal emotionally with a business crisis. If you’re a management consultant and you’ve branded yourself well, the clients see you as a trusted confidante and visionary.

“It’s not who you know that matters – it’s who knows you that’s important. Personal branding builds up your reputation to the point where you have a presence even in your absence.” 

-Jarod Kintz


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Consultants / Service Firms: Why Hourly Billing Isn’t Best



One of the first lessons I learned in business-performance consulting was to sell results, not my time.

During the tail end of the 1990 recession, I had purchased a five-year-old print-marketing firm. Quickly, I realized I was overlooking opportunities for growth. My newly acquired company soon evolved into a full-service management consulting firm, which I incorporated into a vision plan.

Technically, it didn’t become a pure consulting firm, it was more of a hybrid – consulting and management services. Some clients required more than my advice and information. They needed some heavy lifting.

ID-100190799 franky242One of my early clients was a big office-furniture retailer, which grew too big without proper planning.

We did the retailer’s print-marketing projects, but in client meetings after the owner complained bitterly to me about his sales staff, I offered to set up a sales-management program.

It was an highly chaotic situation. The whole sales and customer-service culture had to be fixed.

Initially, my outsourcing services were labor intensive as the sales staff was dysfunctional, and it got away with a lot of nonsense, which was hurting profits.

For example, salespeople were desperate to make sales to indecisive customers.

Often, a salesperson arranged for free delivery of an eight-foot mahogany conference-room table to the customer’s business for a 30-day trial look-see – without payment or any safeguards for the retailer.

Half the time, the table was returned – with a big scratch. The sales-opportunity costs were enormous.

Therefore, in addition to showing the client how to conduct meetings, I literally had to provide ethics, communication, sales and management training.

It’s a relationship that requires trust by both parties.

Valuable lessons

But I quickly learned I hadn’t initially set boundaries with the client.

After solving the major issues – getting his staff to work better – I was anxious to turn my attention to other clients. But my client was so accustomed to my being there every day, he expected it indefinitely.

He also didn’t understand why I wanted to train his employees and advise him so he didn’t have to fire anybody, which would have increased his payroll even higher. He didn’t get why I didn’t have legal authority to reprimand and fire employees, and why I always used my own materials.

So, the lessons prompted me to use a different upfront process – to sell results with benchmarks, to train the client about how I deliver results, and to explain how I’m paid and the timeline to expect.

It’s a relationship that requires trust by both parties.

To facilitate the relationship-building process, I changed my focus with strategies to build trust with clients.

Businesspeople want strong results that include:

  • Efficiency
  • Information
  • Innovation
  • Objectivity
  • Productivity

This means projects are completed on schedule, within budget, and with measurable results.

To be able to accomplish such objectives, I had decided against hourly billing – I had to charge enough for my time to cover my business expenses, but some prospective clients had sticker shock from hourly rates.

Sometimes, the prospective client didn’t value some services as others. They thought I should provide them with a multi-tiered billing depending on the services. I had to get it ingrained in my mind that my time, consideration and energy were just as valuable whether I was training a class, mentoring one-on-one or writing advertising copy.

Value pricing

So unless it was a big prospect who insisted on hourly billing, I began to talk to each prospect about investing in projects for strong results. I saved myself a ton in grief and time by charging retainers. I began to work off the retainer without nickel-and-diming clients for miscellaneous charges. Only on occasion would I bill for miscellaneous expenses, after getting an agreement in advance.

In contrast, professional service firms like hourly billing. They use software to track time. Candidly, if I hired a CPA or attorney, I insisted on knowing in advance what their total charges would be. I had heard horror stories.

For example, the timer wouldn’t be stopped when the professional ducked into the lunchroom for a cup of coffee or took a phone call – or the hourly increments would be rounded up.

Further, whether I was hiring a professional-service firm or quoting a project fee, I wanted the focus to be on the work at-hand. I didn’t want to hire someone to get paid for tracking their time.

As a consultant, most businesses have never hired me unless they had challenges they couldn’t solve. So I wanted to spend my time on providing results, not watching the clock.

In other words, my reputation depended on my ability to prevent negative surprises, so I’ve always offered value-pricing based on a retainer.

Oh, and I stopped spending my valuable hours on penning proposals. The prospect and I will chat about the situation, and I’ll present a short letter of agreement or a deal memo, but I won’t incur any sales-opportunity costs to write proposals.

Remember, clients don’t want to pay for your time. They want to make an investment for strong results.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more strategies for consultants:

The 6 Most Important Steps for Success as a Consultant — In order to succeed as a consultant, bear in mind it’s a challenging occupation. It entails a lot more than just being knowledgeable and providing good counsel.

Consultants: New Sales Opportunities, Clues on Branding — Money-making opportunities for consultants and freelancers abound in American associations – business, technology, healthcare and science. This is true elsewhere in the public and private sectors.

Performance Gap Solutions for Consultants in Income and Image — If there’s a disparity between your income goals and your current financial situation, it would appear that you have a performance-gap issue.

Consultants – Helping Clients Deal with an Emotional Crisis — No matter what kind of a consulting practice you have, it’s sometimes necessary to help clients deal emotionally with a business crisis. If you’re a management consultant and you’ve branded yourself well, the clients see you as a trusted confidante and visionary.

“Hiring consultants to conduct studies can be an excellent means of turning problems into gold; your problems into their gold.”

-Norman R. Augustine


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy franky242 at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.