Yesterday I had the good fortune to have lunch with an established mentor and the question floating around the table was ‘how do you know your worth as a consultant’? I thought the answer rang true for any business owner and here’s what I got from the conversation.
When you’re not sure of what you know, you charge for everything
This is true for all industries, when you are unsure of the answer you tend to be very heavy handed in the solution. We’ve all had vendors who charge for every e-mail or phone call, and we are always left with the feeling that they have just told us something we could have found out on our own. The safest way to conceal ignorance is to charge for everything, which allows money to be made without giving away anything of value. If you are really knowledgeable about what you do, you understand that the best sales approach is helping your customers understand that they need to know more.
If you think providing answers will put you out of business, your view is short-sighted
Providing your customers with knowledge shouldn’t put you out of business, if it does I would venture to say you are in the wrong business. Very few people are experts on everything and asking substantive questions provides you with a framework for a solution. When you visit a doctor, they assess your symptoms. Sometimes what you need is rest, sometimes its medication. If providing the answers doesn’t keep you from going to the ER, it won’t keep your customers from coming back to you.
Value exists in relationship, not sales forecasts.
I know that we all go into business to make money, but the reality is that people buy from you not your business. As a consultant this is especially true and to build value you have to build relationships. How many times have you blown off people who aren’t going to buy anything from you? If you’ve done it even once, you’ve done it too many times. When I think of people who have helped me they are not people I’ve paid, but they are the first people that I refer. That type of value is intangible but once harnessed is incredibly powerful. When you are your business, your reputation is your brand. You want that brand linked to value.
The basic point of the conversation was that to be successful you have to understand that business is about helping. Once you get that you understand providing that help makes you valuable and giving answers or referrals for the right person builds
the kind of customer loyalty advertising can’t buy. An added bonus? You become the kind of success that an MBA can’t teach.