I remember early in my consulting career when it was explained to me that, although my primary responsibility as new consultant was to keep my utilization (my percentage of client-billable hours) up to a certain percentage, I was also responsible for sales.
You want me to sell?
I wondered how I could be expected to sell consulting services. First, I was an IT programmer – a techie. What did I know about consulting sales?
Secondly, I was expected to keep my utilization at around 90%. After maintaining that and using what little vacation time I had, when was I supposed to sell consulting services?
But over time I learned that early in a consultant’s career, selling responsibilities are not so much for directly selling a project to a client. The firm was looking for me to brand myself and the firm and play more of a marketing role.
Everyone has sales responsibilities
The sales-related activities that consulting firms expect from consultants are:
Make yourself so indispensable to the client that they request you, as well as the firm, back for more projects.
Begin developing relationships with the client. This includes people at your level as well as with managers. If you begin developing trust with the client’s managers, they will look at you as more of a peer and be more likely to share issues that could result in follow on work.
Keep your eyes and ears open for the client’s pain points. Though you may develop relationships with their management level, they aren’t going to spoon-feed new business to you. Listen, ask questions and recognize areas where the client could use your firm’s help. Do it with a goal of helping the client rather than racking up sales.
Know your firm’s service offerings. If you’re familiar with the capabilities your firm has outside of your specialty, you will be better prepared to recognize where your firm can help the client resolve their issues.