Building a Sales Pipeline for a Consulting Business

 Refine your sales process to make sure you never run out of jobs.

If you run a consulting business or any type of client-service oriented organization where you are responsible for both selling and delivering the work, you know there is a constant tension between time spent selling and time spent with clients.  We count many professional services firms among our customers from individual consultants to larger firms focusing on engineering, law, technology, and marketing to name a few.

To get the most out of your consulting business and create a healthy pipeline of new business opportunities while you are working with clients directly, consider adding the following to your “to-do” list to help you build a sales pipeline for your consulting business:

1. Create repeatable service lines or offerings

You have a set of skills or experiences that you sell to others to help them achieve their business objectives.  In a sense, you have already specialized in a few areas be that a certain industry, business type, or project need based on the previous projects you have done.  Take a look at your experiences and think about how they group or where there are common themes.  This “packaging” exercise will help you better identify new opportunities as well as articulate how you can help clients.  This also helps begin to build some repeatability in engagements versus every project being custom work requiring a new approach each time.

2. Build out client case studies you can share with prospects

As you complete projects, be sure to create case studies detailing what you did and the results achieved.  These are great ways to share with prospective clients the experiences you or your firm has as well as the measurable results delivered.  They do not have to be major productions, simply follow the “Situation-Complication-Solution” model to tell the story.  If your clients are shy or sharing them by name is not appropriate, then simply describe the business in more generic terms – “large consumer products company”, etc.  These not only help you market your consulting business with actual engagement details but provides a way to narrow scope with new client prospects by using previous projects in the sales discussion.

3. Manage your pipeline and update it weekly at least

It is very easy to get distracted from selling by client conference calls, deliverables and deadlines but be sure to make weekly (at least) time to examine your pipeline and take inventory of new prospects, outstanding proposals, and total pipeline value.  You won’t close everything so be sure to constantly evaluate your pipeline and be proactive about sourcing new opportunities or re-engaging with previous clients about any new needs they may have.

Understand there are only so many hours in the day you can work and by spending more of that time with clients versus doing non-billable work, your business will grow.  As you grow and add additional members to your team, it’s important to share new business development responsibilities with certain team members based on interest, experience, or skills.  This shared responsibility for the sales pipeline helps everyone understand the goals of the organization and will create a larger and healthier pipeline of new business opportunities.

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