This blog is written by guest author Melisa Liberman. Melisa has been an independent for the past 10 years. For her first 6 years in business, Melisa was a management consultant. She now helps other consultants create thriving, flexible businesses as she did. Melisa is a private business coach for independent consultant business owners, helping them scale their businesses to make more money and impact, without working more. Melisa is the host of theGrow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast and creator of the IC Business Scalability Assessment.
Do you hate the business development side of your business? Do you feel like it’s self serving? Or maybe you just feel like you’re simply bad at it?
You’re not alone!
If you’re like most of your solo consulting colleagues, you’d prefer to run a business where you’re 100% focused on client work, and you never have to deal with anything related to business development – including lead generation.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
Start enjoying lead generation and get more effective by avoiding these top 6 lead generation mistakes.
Mistake #1: Overlooking your warm network as a source of consulting leads
Sometimes it can feel like you’ve “exhausted your network”, meaning you’ve talked to everyone and have created all the leads you can.
It’s very rare to “fully exhaust” a network.
The real issue is that you’re afraid to talk to the people you know, because:
- You don’t want them to think he was using them
- You don’t want them to think he was desperate
- You don’t want to feel like he was needy
So, to avoid getting out of your comfort zone, you tell yourself that your warm network isn’t a possible source of consulting leads . The root cause? Fear!
The fix for mistake #1 – overlooking your warm network as a source of consulting leads
Start by reconnecting with your existing network.
Reach out to a few people a day. Have 30-minute re-connection calls a few times a week.
You’ll be shocked by the results.
You’ll likely find:
- Your network does want to talk to him.
- Your network is interested in what you’re doing.
- Your network is happy to recommend follow-on ideas for you to pursue
- Your network will introduce him to potential clients
Your network does have work they’re excited for you to pursue
Acknowledge the fear and manage through it so you can open up a treasure trove of leads for your consulting business.
Mistake #2: Not approaching lead generation like a science experiment
As a consultant, it’s common to want to figure out the “right way” to do something.
And so, you go out in search of this “right way.”
But, what if there is no right way as it relates to lead generation for your solo consulting business?
I find consultants who are initially establishing their lead generation process – or who are revising their lead gen process – fall into a common trap of analysis paralysis:
- Looking for the correct way to do lead generation
- Wanting to perfect it
- Getting overwhelmed because it feels like so much to figure out
Can you relate to this?
Sometimes you may feel like doing it the wrong way will lead to:
- Burned bridges
- Wasted opportunities
Ruin of your future chances to do business with your ideal clients.
The fix for mistake #2:See lead generation as a science experiment
- Pick a lead gen approach to test
- Create a hypothesis based on your best guess of what would resonate with your ideal consulting clients
- Implemented your approach.
- Evaluate your results.
- Adjust until it works
Reframe your thinking. Instead of “if I don’t do this lead generation correctly, I’ll ruin my business” think “I can test it until I figure it out, step by step.”
- From there, start talking to people in your network
- Talk to people in companies that serve your ideal clients
- Take it one person at a time
- Start with the people that you think are “safest” and then branch out from there
That will help you build a solid pipeline.
Mistake #3: Thinking you don’t have time to work on lead generation
So many of my consulting business owner clients tell me they don’t have enough time in the week to fit in lead generation.
Truthfully, it’s not really that they donthave the time.
The root cause of not having time for lead generation is fear.
- Afraid of rejection.
- Afraid of a ruined reputation.
- Afraid to blow your chances of working with the client
Fear causes you to fail ahead of time, because you don’t by not put yourself out there for conversations and visibility.
The fix for mistake #3: Thinking you don’t have time to work on lead generation
Set aside time each day, for 30 minutes, for a non-negotiable lead gen routine.
Then, take action even when you feel shaky and nervous.
The only “wrong” lead generation, as a business owner, is no lead generation.
Eventually, you’ll build your skills – and even if you’re still feeling uncomfortable, you’ll do it anyway.
Mistake #4: Deferring lead generation activities when you’re fully utilized
But this can be a big mistake in your solo consulting business if you try to implement automation too early in your business lifecycle.
I had a client, well call him Jim.
He told me he was ready to grow his consulting business and had decided to start a podcast.
He expected the podcast would be a great way to create awareness and exposure to masses of his ideal consulting clients.
What he didn’t realize was that this type of marketing requires many pre-reps to be successful.
He didn’t have those pre-req foundational elements in place yet, for his business.
He was trying to run before he walked, as the saying goes.
I’ve seen this so many times. Solo consultants tell me they want to automate their lead gen by doing things like:
- Hosting webinars
- Email marketing
- Running ads
Instead of saving time and operating efficiently, they waste time by implementing lead generation strategies that aren’t appropriate for their stage in business.
The fix for mistake #5: Trying to scale your lead generation process (too soon)
So, what’s the fix for this?
The fix for this mistake is very simple.
Here’s what Jim and I did, and you can do this too if you’re making (or about to make) this mistake.
- Make sure that your marketing approach matches up to your stage in business, and that you’re not racing ahead to automate without the necessary prereqs in place
- Don’t assume that automation will save you time compared to marketing your business through techniques such as networking and speaking
Mistake #6: Thinking you don’t like lead generation, or you’re not good at marketing (or both)
Have you thought any of these things before, about yourself?
- I don’t like marketing and sales.
- I don’t like selling myself.
- I’m better at lead generation when I’m selling someone else’s product or service, not when I’m selling me.
Do you think it’s a fact that you don’t like lead generation, especially because it’s uncomfortable selling YOU as the product?
You’re not alone.
So many independent consultants think this way.
I did too.
I used to think lead generation was a waste of time.
I thought that consulting clients would find me if they wanted my help and that I was being too pushy or too boring.
I questioned who gave me the permission or authority to claim I was an expert in my consulting space (back in the day when I was consulting, I helped tech start-ups scale).
Generating leads and building a pipeline felt hard and awkward and exposing.
Instead of facing my fears, for a long time, I hid under this persona that marketing was silly and not for me. I tried to pretend I was above it.
But in reality, I just felt incredibly incapable.
The truth for me (and likely for you as with most solo consultants) was this:
- It’s not that I didn’t like marketing or lead generation specifically
- It’s not that I was even bad at it
- It’s that I was avoiding it because I was worried about failing, and instead of testing out my lead generation practices through active failure, I just failed ahead of time by making excuses
The fix for mistake #6: Thinking you don’t like lead generation, or you’re not good at it (or both)
Here’s what I did, to transform from someone who hated all things related to lead generation and sales…
You can do this too.
I admitted to myself that I was new to marketing.
I recognized that I hadn’t spent any time learning how to be good at lead generation, let alone honing the craft.
I opened up to the possibility that I could be good at it, over time, and that I could learn to like it.
And, I acknowledged that as a business owner I needed to figure this out. Otherwise, I would remain stuck working as a pseudo-employee.
So, I started.
I reconnected with my network.
I asked them a lot of questions about the problems they were experiencing, and why they would care about solving them.
I became a student of my ideal client and their problems.
I got curious.
I decided I didn’t need to convince anyone, but instead, I needed to ask really good questions.
In short, I applied all of my consulting skills to become good at lead generation.
I didn’t need to be fancy or good at copywriting.
I didn’t need to create a funnel.
I didn’t need to learn to write white papers or website copy that converted clients.
I boiled my lead generation down to what I was good at….consulting with clients (in this case potential clients, referrers, and collaborators).
You can too.
The fix for mistake #6 is to
- Stop thinking you’re bad at lead generation.
- Stop avoiding lead generation because you’re worried you’re bad at it and
- Start thinking about your lead generation in a different frame of mind. Lead generation can simply be consulting with clients before they’re clients. That’s it.
In Summary: The 6 Lead Generation Mistakes Most Solo Consulting Business Owners Make
Let’s pull all of this together for you.
To establish an effective lead generation routine for your independent consulting business, you want to avoid these 6 mistakes:
- Mistake #1: Overlooking your warm market as a source of consulting leads
- Mistake #2: Not approaching lead generation like a science experiment
- Mistake #3: Thinking you don’t have time to work on lead generation
- Mistake #4: Deferring lead generation activities when you’re fully utilized
- Mistake #5: Trying to scale your lead generation process (too soon)
- Mistake #6: Thinking you don’t like lead generation, or you’re not good at marketing (or both)
Put this article into action: Implement these 6 tips, to maximize your consulting lead generation
To put this information into action:
- For more on lead generation:
- Listen to Episode 064 – The 3 Must-Haves for an Effective Consulting Lead Generation Routine
- Download the Step-By-Step Routine to Fill Your Consulting Pipeline With Ideal Clients in 26 Minutes Per Day
- Then, take the Independent Consulting Business Scalability Assessment I’ve created for you. The IC Scalability Assessment is based on my scale-IC Method™️ and helps you pinpoint the top 1-2 next steps you can take to scale your business so you make more money without working more. Click here to take the Assessment.