Episode 031 – Avoid This Deal-Killing Mistake When Selling Consulting Services

Are you approaching your sales process based on what your prospects care about or based on what you have to offer? This is a very common deal-killing mistake that Independent Consultants make. The mistake is when you are approaching the sales process based on you assuming that a client needs what you have rather than what the client cares about. This mistake can end up killing your deals.

In this episode, I’ll help you identify if you’re making this common mistake. And, I walk you through the process to course-correct, so you can improve the number and the quality of the deals in your pipeline, your close rates, and ultimately what you’re getting paid. 

Listen in as we take a deeper look at this deal-killing mistake and an alternative approach including 11 specific questions that you can use to figure out why a prospect should care about what you’re selling, and not just assume that they should. 

On this episode, I discuss: 
[02:00] The deal-killing mistake explained
[04:30] A deep dive into this deal-killing mistake
[05:13] Example #1 of this deal-killing mistake
[07:59] Example #2 of this deal-killing mistake
[11:25] Example #3 of this deal-killing mistake
[15:42] An alternative approach to this deal-killing mistake

And here’s the questions I referenced for you:

  1. What are the most important decisions you’re facing at this time?
  2. Is this project in your top 3? Why/why not?
  3. Why does this matter to you?
  4. Why now?
  5. What’s standing in your way?
  6. Is the status quo a problem that needs changing? Why?
  7. Who could get in the way of your goals for this? Why?
  8. How would things be different if you no longer had to deal with ……?
  9. How will this project impact you & your team if it goes well?
  10. How will this project impact you personally?
  11. What would be the impact to you if it doesn’t go as planned?


Ready for help figuring out how to leverage these sales strategies in your IC business and ultimately double your revenue without working more? 

  • I invite you to apply for a strategy call with me. 
  • On this call, we’ll dive into your business and get clear on your goals and challenges and determine an action plan for you so that you can create the business impact, income, and flexibility that you desire. 
  • To get on my calendar, please visit www.consultmelisa.com


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**note: This is an automated transcript, so please ignore spelling errors and grammar mistakes*


Welcome to the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. I’m Melisa Liberman, a fellow IC and business coach. On this podcast, I teach you to become a consistently booked independent consultant without becoming a pushy salesperson or working 24/7. If I can do it, you can too. Listen on to find out how. Welcome back to the podcast, I’m so happy that you are here. And today we’re going to talk about how to avoid this deal-killing mistake that so many consultants make when selling their consulting services. And I want to make sure that you avoid this deal killer so that you can increase the number of deals in your pipeline, the time to close, and your close rate. And what got me thinking about that this week is my husband was actually trying to sell me something that he wanted to buy for our family. I’ll tell you more about it here in a minute. He was having a hard time selling me on this project, this home project, and it made me start thinking about all the times that I use the same approach he was using, even back all the way to my corporate days, and how it wasn’t working well. And also when I first started my consulting business, and how I see so many other clients making the same mistake as well when they are trying to sell their consulting services. And so I thought about you and wanted to record this episode so that in the event, you’re making this very common mistake, we identify it for you, and course correct. So that you can, again, improve the number of deals you’ve got in your pipeline, improve the quality of the deals you’ve got in your pipeline, improve your close rates, and ultimately what you’re getting paid. Alright, that’s what we’re talking about today. And what we’re talking about is this deal-killing mistake is when you are assuming that a client needs what you want. And this can be actually very latent sometimes where you just assume like, oh, people need this thing. And sometimes it can be very subtle. And so what I want to do is dive into this with you and really unpack it so that you can figure out if you’re making this mistake, and if you are, what to do about it. So the first thing I really want to touch on, though, is that we hear so many times that knowing like and trust is the key to closing sales. You read it everywhere in books and blogs, and probably other podcasts like you need to develop know, like, and trust in order to close sales. And what I want to share with you today is that that’s only really half of the equation. And quite frankly, it’s a byproduct of what we’re going to be talking about today. It’s a byproduct of being able to truly understand what the person cares about. And kind of as a result of going down that process, you create the know, like, and trust. So I’m going to dive way deeper into this. I’m just scratching the surface now of what we’re talking about. But it’s really important. Because if you think that you just need to develop know, like and trust. And that’s kind of the main goal in your consulting sales process. Like so many of us are taught, you’re missing this really important key that unlocks your ability to increase your sales rate and land those high-quality sought-after engagements. So this is the one gap that again, that I find so often that I made in the past that I find almost every client making in some form or fashion is this assumption that people need what you have. And as a result, you end up killing your deals. So let me tell you a lot more here about what we’re talking about. First, we’re going to dive into more about what this sales mistake is. And then I’m going to give you three stories to illustrate this mistake, including what my husband was trying to sell me on. And then I’ll give you an alternative approach including some specific questions that you can use to figure out why the person should care about what you’re selling, and not just assume that they should. Alright. So with that, let’s talk about what is this deal killing mistake


that you’re most likely making when you’re selling your consulting services. And again, it’s you assuming that your client actually needs what you have to offer. And to be honest with you that anyone needs what you have to offer. They probably need it, but they might not really care about it. And that’s what we’re talking about today. It’s as nuanced as you’re selling, that’s really, really important. So really want to emphasize that, and give you some examples, so you can understand what I’m talking about here with respect to this mistake. So let’s dive into the mistake my husband made. I’ve made the same mistake with him too. So I’m not picking on him. I think it’s such a simple example that I think we can all relate to. So here’s the deal, my husband came to me last week, I think it was, and he got a bid for someone to come and redo our home network. I’m a techy person, but I’m not into the internet and all of that kind of stuff. So I’ll probably say the wrong words. But hopefully, you understand what I’m talking about. He came to me and said, You know, I got this bid, it was a lot of money for someone to come in, and like replace all of our routers, and all of our Wi-Fi hotspots and extenders and all the wiring and stuff like that. And I said, Wow, that’s a lot of money. What problem are we solving here? And he doesn’t really have a problem that he’s solving his answer was, Well, we really need to do this. It’s 20 years old. Well, yeah, it’s 20 years old. And probably we should, it would be nice to have, like the most modern equipment, the most modern, you know, networking setup that you could have. But what is the real business case here? Just because the equipment is 20 years old, doesn’t mean that we need to have it? Like, what problem are we solving? Or what like an eminent or kind of short-term problem? Are we avoiding? And he really honestly has no answer. He only has the answer of like, honestly, he really wants this, he just wants it. He thinks it may make our internet, you know our speed go faster, which I honestly am online all day, as is he we both work from home, there’s never a problem with our connectivity, or if there is it’s extremely rare. So anyway, this is an exam, a very, very simple example of just assuming that, that someone would want the same thing that you think is important and that your consulting buyer has the same priorities and the same things they care about that you do that they should care about this, that it makes perfect sense that it just needs to be done this way, that this is the way to do it. And therefore they should invest in that. And sometimes you’ll find really blatantly making this mistake I know I have, I’ll give you an example here in a second about that. And then other times, it comes across more subtly, where you’re making the assumption that they should care about something. Because it seems like a given fact when it really isn’t. You know, husband might love the networking thing. And the wife does it as a simple personal example. Right? So let me give you a business example of what I’m talking about here. So let me just go back to corporate, I was running a professional services organization for my software company. And I wanted to secure some budget for efficiency tools, thinking back I think, or professional services, automation type tools. And so I created the business case, you know how much it was going to cost for the software and the implementation, both internal and external resources, all the things right, and what the return on investment would be things about efficiency and consistency and client satisfaction. These are things that just seemed like no-brainers to me, if I can make my team more efficient, then I can increase utilization, I can increase capacity. So you know, the team is operating at a higher level. And they’re creating consistent results for a client. So multiple clients all get a very consistent experience and results. So all of this seems like a no-brainer to me. But I missed something very important when I started pitching this business case to the CEO to secure the budget. Because those justifications seemed obvious to me that everyone would agree to them. I could give you the numbers of how capacity and our utilization on all of these things would incrementally improve. But at the end of the day, the CEO wasn’t even listening to me. He could care less. While we think this stuff is important, and I did especially as running that business unit. He could care less about efficiency he could have cared less about. Just be honest, probably client satisfaction. So it was time for the contractor Newell just didn’t care. I couldn’t even get his attention. I missed the mark. Right. From my perspective, I was right about the solution. My husband might be right on the solution to all this networking thing he wants. But I was very wrong on the approach, I had focused on what I thought he should care about, and what I thought every CEO every kind of rational sane business person would care about, versus what actually mattered to him. What he cared about.


All he honestly cared about at that time was revenue. All I had to do was go in and show him, it could have taken five minutes how the revenue would be impacted with this tool. And that would have been the end of the discussion. He didn’t care about efficiency, consistency, and satisfaction, all these things that especially as consultants, we find so important to got to figure out what that person actually cares about what matters to them, what moves the needle for them, it can’t be a should like, we should do this, it should be done, because this is the right way to do it. And I see this mistake being made over and over again, obviously, sometimes in our personal lives, like the first example I shared with you, you know, probably in our past corporate life, you might have made the same mistake, I know I made it more than just that one time I shared with you, then I would remind myself again, Oh, right. People don’t care about the same things. I care about these things that seem obvious and that everyone should care about. Some people don’t it doesn’t even hit their radar screen. And so the last example that I’ll share with you is more is even closer to what you might be doing. As an independent consultant. It comes from a client’s so she was coming to me selling in engagements, had a new prospective client was going through the sales process with this new prospective client and started hitting roadblocks. And the deal stalled. She wasn’t getting approval. But also at the same time wasn’t getting flat-out rejections, either. It was just kind of this almost stalemate if you will. And so we dug in and started really looking at I started asking her a lot of questions about this deal and what the purpose of it was and how the client would benefit and why the client cared about it. And she realized she didn’t know any of those answers. she realized that her buyer, the CTO, in this case, really liked the proposal and liked her, she had no like interest. And it made logical sense. But that buyer, that prospective buyer, as the client started really course correcting and starting to ask deeper questions and figure out the real drivers behind this potential engagement. She figured out that this buyer, the CTO, was worried about the risk to his reputation, if the project failed, or if the colleagues disagreed with the direction that they were taking. And those risks kind of that buyer’s personal reputation and professional reputation were outweighing the potential benefits of what my client’s engagement would result in for that CTO. And so he started figuring out oh, this is what’s kind of the factors that the CTO was weighing in his decision. And no wonder he’s kind of at this stalemate. No wonder it’s stuck and stalled. And so it was only after my client was able to get really personal with that CTO and uncover his true motivations and the fear that then she was able to move forward and close that contract. So again, it’s like really digging in to understand what they care about, and why versus just assuming like, this makes good logical business sense that they should do this. Or, you know, another way to look at it is just relying on know like, and trust and not really understanding all of these dynamics going on in your prospective buyers’ heads about why they actually care about what you’re offering, and why they might be worried about the risks of involved in it, not just the risks of like, oh, the deadline might not be met, or you know, those higher level risks that we’re used to managing as a consultant, talking about personal risks to someone’s career, that they’re perceiving risks to their reputation that they’re perceiving. Those are the types of things that you really want to dig into and understand so that you are able to move past this kind of this perspective, clients should care about this thing. And really get deep into the business case for that individual buyer. So that’s the mistake. The mistake is really again, assuming that your buyer cares about what it is that you have to sell. And quite frankly, that anyone cares about what you have to sell is you might be selling, you know something that’s really mission critical in a client’s business. And so then assume like they have to have this and approach your sales process from that perspective. And again, that still puts you into the same trap. Even if someone has to, quote-unquote, have it maybe legally or for their investors or whatever the reason might be, at the end of the day, you still have to understand the underlying decision-making factors that go into this, in order to move your sales process forward, in order to keep it from stalling. And in order for your client to get to a decision, whether that’s yes or no. But you really understand, why do they care about this, and addressing that, versus just assuming they should care about it, because it’s, quote unquote, the right way to do business. So the alternative approach here, we’ve touched on this, but I’ll just spell it out very clearly, the alternative approach, rather than assuming that they need, what you have, is to ask the questions, so you understand their motivations, and what might be detractors or D motivators for them as they’re making a decision? Or what might be kind of that tug and pull in, you know, kind of, like, no, I really need to do this. But also, is it going to be too risky for my professional reputation kind of thing, really getting to the heart of all of that, and listening as you’re asking those questions. So you really, truly understand what’s motivating and driving your buyer. And let me just be really clear with you. So many times, we fall into this trap of thinking we don’t have permission to ask these types of questions. And I’ll give you some examples here in a minute of what the questions would be, like, Oh, that’s too personal. I’m in a business setting, I shouldn’t ask that. You’ve got to ask these types of questions that I’m going to share with you in order to get underneath the layers and figure out the true business drivers. And the true objections that your client might have that is keeping them from either moving forward or at least making a decision. And so then, once you’ve gone through this process of really understanding the underlying motivations, and what might be holding them back, and you’re listening, then you’re able to tailor your solution and your messaging to what they care about, both personally and professionally. You don’t make that same mistake that I make thinking, Well, it seems obvious that our efficiencies are good, who doesn’t want efficiencies, the CEO doesn’t care about efficiencies. In that case or the network, just because the equipment is 20 years old, seems to be working just fine. I don’t care that we have unused internet capacity, or whatever we’re paying for that we’re not using, it doesn’t matter to me right now. Or, like in my client’s example, that client was so much more concerned about the risks to their professional reputation than the benefits that entail my client figured that out, they were kind of at that stalemate, right. They cared about the solution at a high level, but they were more worried about the professional risk than about the impact of the solution, and therefore, my client was missing that important piece. And I don’t want you to be in that same boat. So make sure you’re asking the questions and listening, and then tailoring your solution and you’re messaging to what they truly care about, and what they’re worried about, both personally and professionally. And giving yourself permission to ask these questions, not assuming that you’re not allowed to, because it’s in a professional setting, or you might be making that buyer uncomfortable. So I’m gonna rattle them off a little bit, here are these 11 questions that you can use to get deeper into your sales process, and the actual reason why someone would buy from you. And then we’ll put these in the show notes as well. So you don’t need to take them, take them down furiously. But I’m going to read them off just to kind of get the idea of the flavor of what these questions look like. So the questions you might be asking your potential buyer of your consulting services would be something like, what are the most important decisions you’re facing at this time, but getting an understanding of the big picture? What challenges are they facing right now? Why is the project we’re talking about in your top three? And why or why not? You know, sometimes, I get pushback from clients on this saying, Well, I don’t want to almost like I don’t want to ask questions that I don’t want to hear the answer to or that they might not have been thinking about before. And now all of a sudden, I’ve planted this idea in their minds. These ideas are in their mind. So you’re not planting anything. You’re just extracting it so that you can both have a really honest dialogue and you can better help them. And if for some reason you get answers you don’t like then that’s great news, because that means that that it isn’t a priori for your client, and you can keep that client kind of in the simmering phase and go focus on a client who does where your work is in their top three. So give yourself permission to ask these questions. And don’t be afraid that you’re planting some idea in their head that they might not have thought of first. The next question would be, why does this matter to you? Sometimes we think, Well, it’s obvious. It’s obvious why it would matter, I better not ask that question. I’m going to seem dumb. I’ve thought that before maybe just a few days ago, even right, I fall into this trap sometimes, too. But you’ve got to really understand that everyone’s got a different perspective and asking me them these questions, they probably haven’t had a chance to even ask themselves these questions sometimes, let alone articulate it out loud. So you’re not asking dumb questions, you’re asking questions that can prompt and facilitate more conversation. Another question would be why now? Why now? Why not next quarter? Why not in the middle of next year? What’s standing in your way?


What’s wrong with the status quo? Who could get in the way of your goals for this project? And why? How would things be different for you, if you no longer had to deal with this problem that you’re solving? So how would things be different for you, meaning your clients, your prospective client, if you no longer had to deal with this? Whatever is the problem that you solve? And ask them like on a personal level? How would it be different? How would this benefit you? Would you get a promotion? Would you get a bonus? Again, understanding the client’s motivations can help you so much to craft an approach that is the most beneficial for your client. You can ask them, how will this project impact their team? If it goes well? What kind of challenges are you having right now managing your team and your team delivering? And will this impact them? How is this project going to impact you personally? And what’s the impact going to be if it doesn’t go as planned to you professionally, and personally, really asking those questions going to the heart of it, and talking about the impact of them, and why they care about it and getting their perspective and giving yourself permission to ask those questions that might feel uncomfortable, and that somehow in a business setting that is not not allowed. Go there, go there and figure it out. So you can help them so that they can get more clarity. All right. So ultimately, the results of this approach will be for you to really, truly understand their deeper motivations and fears. So that you can craft a solution and position it in a way that meets their true needs, not just what you think they should care about, or what most people in this situation would care about. You’re getting it down to them specifically. And you can help your client get emotionally connected to your proposal, which is really important people, even incorporate pie from emotion. And so that’s where you’re trying to get to. And honestly, the byproduct of this is known like and trust. You don’t just go out and create know, like, and trust. And then all of this stuff that we just described happens. It’s the opposite. You’re developing and asking really good questions that, you know, dig under the covers. And that is a method of creating the know like and trust. Alright, so that’s what I have for you today. Put this into action. Ask yourself, where could you be assuming that your buyer cares about the problems you solve? You might be doing it very blatantly. Or you might be doing it more subtly. Ask yourself, where are you assuming that your buyer cares about solving these problems when they seem so obvious to you that they should be solved? Ask more questions, go to the show notes and download the 11 questions that I shared with you to figure out their deeper motivations and fears. And lastly, I’ll leave you with this is the work that I help my clients with. So if you’re ready for help reach out, I am here for you. You can go to consultmelisa.com. We’ll put that link in the show notes as well. And my name is spelled me li sa it’s missing a letter. Okay, so thank you for tuning in today and I look forward to talking with you again next week. Have a great one. Thanks for joining me this week on the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. If you liked today’s episode, I have three quick next steps for you. First, click Subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to make sure you don’t miss future episodes. Next, leave me a review in your podcast app so other independent consultants can find a benefit. And finally, to put the ideas from today’s episode into action, head over to Melisaliberman.com for the show notes and more resources to help you grow your consulting practice from your first few projects into a full-fledged business. See you next week.

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