Episode 032 – 5 Consulting Service Offering Mistakes to Avoid

Selling consulting services is very different from selling yourself. The most powerful selling messages focus on the client. It’s all about you solving the client’s pain points and making an impact in areas that are of the highest value to them. 

Too often I see independent consultants selling themselves and their past experience versus selling the result that they can deliver to the client. 

And so in today’s episode, I’m calling out the 5 common mistakes I see most independent consultants make with their consulting service offering. I want to bring them to your attention so that you can address them, and in turn, start earning more, having a more robust pipeline, and feeling more fulfilled in the work that you do because you’re landing ideal clients you can’t wait to work with.

On this episode, I discuss: 
[03:50] What a service offering is
[05:00] What a service offering isn’t
[06:22] The 5 service offering mistakes and how to avoid them
[06:28] Service offering mistake #1
[09:47] Service offering mistake #2
[11:50] Service offering mistake #3
[14:12] Service offering mistake #4
[16:59] Service offering mistake #5

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

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EP. 031 – Avoid This Deal-Killing Mistake When Selling Your Consulting Services


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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 it’s great to have you here listening to the podcast today, if this is a new podcast to you, welcome, we are focused on all the topics that are important for you to grow your consulting business. And if you’re a returning listener, I just really want you to know how much I appreciate you being here every week. And hopefully, the content is really valuable and actionable for you. So with that gratitude, let’s dive into today’s topic, which is the five consulting services offering mistakes to avoid. And the reason why I wanted to focus on this today is I had a new client who recently started. And as they were explaining to me what they do as a consultant, I just wasn’t clear, you know, in their verbal explanation in their LinkedIn profile, just really diving into their materials and what they were telling me, you know, live, I was really having a hard time understanding what it is that the outcome is that they, you know, that they provide to their clients the value they provide to their clients. And so I just asked a lot of questions and dove deeper into, you know, both of us dove deeper into this. And as I kept pressing and pressing and pressing, the client realized that the value wasn’t ultimately clear to them either. And this became such a huge aha, as to why that client has been stuck in an hourly type role for so long. Because at the end of the day, even though they have a lot of expertise in their area, and it’s fairly specialized, they are selling themselves as a commodity, essentially, come and buy my expertise, versus what we’re going to get into today, which is the type of consulting offering that you want to be making, so that you aren’t stuck, like this client was in that hourly trap, in that revenue plateau trap, in that feast or famine trap. And so that’s what inspired Today’s episode is because I know that, you know, having worked with so many consultants and been a consultant so long on my own, I know that these five mistakes that I’m going to share with you today are commonplace. So I’m going to venture a really strong guest that you’re either making one or more than one of these. And I want to bring it to your attention so that you can address it, and therefore start earning more having a more robust pipeline, and feeling more fulfilled in the work that you do because you’re making a bigger impact with your clients. So today, on the episode, I’m going to talk with you about what is an offer. So we’ll just get really clear on what I’m talking about what a service offers, what it isn’t, that might be even more important. And then we’ll dive into the five mistakes that you want to avoid in your consulting service offering. And we’ll break down each one of them. And we will talk about what they are, and then how to avoid them. Alright, so that’s what we’ve got on the docket for today. So let’s start off with what is a service offering anyway. And I will tell you when I first started working with a coach on my business, she kept talking about offers, I would get really angry looking like I don’t know what you’re talking about. Because the word is used in so many different ways, like make an offer at the end of your marketing or make you know, which is really an invitation to start a dialogue. Right. So that’s one way in which the word offering is used or offer to make an offer. What I’m talking about today is just to be really clear, simply put in the context of this podcast, what I’m talking about for an offering is the solution that you’re recommending or a set of solutions that you’re recommending to perform to a client in order for them to accomplish the desired outcome and for you to be paid for that. So that’s what we’re talking about today. That’s the service offering. We’re not talking about the call to action at the end of your, the offer you might make to invite someone to you know, start a sales conversation with you. Okay, so with that then that brings me to the next topic, which is what this service offering isn’t. We’re not talking about a job offer here. Just to be clear, as I was Googling and just getting ready for this call, I always like to look up definitions and things like that the word job offer came up so much more than what a consulting service offering would be. So we’re not trying to confuse the two here. And most likely you’re on this podcast, you’re not looking to get a full-time job. But I want to make sure we’re very clear, we’re not talking about a job offer. And then second of all more importantly, what service offering isn’t, is your title. This is not a service offering. I’m a management consultant who helps startups scale, that’s not a service offering. That’s just an introduction, that’s just kind of a label that you’ve given to yourself or a title you’ve given to yourself. That’s not a service offering. So again, we’ve talked a little bit about what that service offering is, it’s a description of the set of solutions that you recommend to perform for a client in order for them to accomplish the desired outcome that you’re paid for. All right. So hopefully, that clears up maybe a few misconceptions you might have. And we’re all on the same page now about what it is we’re talking about today. So with that, let’s dive into the five mistakes that I commonly see with respect to service offerings. So the first is that you’re selling the wrong thing. I see this so often. And it kind of goes back to this sentence, right, I’m a management consultant who helps startups scale, your service offering is not you.


Your service offering is not your expertise, your service offering is not your time, your service offering is not your background, your service offering is not the features of what it is that you do if you’re selling those kinds of things, including even access to you. And I recognize that’s a little bit of a fine line because some retainer situations really are selling access to you. But they are expecting an outcome, having access to you, right, so if you’re selling yourself, essentially, that’s where I’m saying, this is a mistake with your service offering, we don’t want to be out there selling you, we want you to be out there selling the result that you can get for the client, we want you to be out there selling the value you can deliver for the client, we want you out there selling the benefits and the return on investment and the business case for the client.


That’s the service offering. So if you are right now, primarily leading with selling yourself, and building up your credentials and your background, you’re selling the wrong thing. And this creates a domino effect because if you’re selling yourself, of course, they’re going to want your time. And of course, this is how you create a dynamic where you’re constantly having to work in order to make money. So instead of selling yourself, we want you to switch to selling the outcome that you can deliver to that client. The benefits, the return on investment, the business case, that’s what you’re selling, and you’re almost like an afterthought, or what I like to say like the appendix, okay, so that’s mistake number one. And I’m going to give you one A, probably should have had six mistakes, even seven. But one A is what I talked about in episode 31, which relates to you selling the wrong thing, which is assuming that they just want what you do like they should want what you do. So if you didn’t catch episode 31 go back and listen to that afterward. But the gist of it is that just because what you do is basically the right way to do business or the quote-unquote right way to solve a problem or the quote-unquote, the right way to operate something or implement something doesn’t mean that your potential buyer cares about that. So figure out what they do care about and position your solution that way. So this mistake number one is all about what you’re positioning. Don’t be positioning yourself, don’t be positioning, things that you think they should want or care about the position, the actual benefit, the actual ROI, the actual outcome, and the business case that you can help them to accomplish. Okay. All right. Number two, this is a really interesting mistake that I see so often, and quite frankly, I made this mistake early on in my business as well. And that is that you’re not sold on You’re offering, you are not sold on your offering. The way this shows up is intellectually you, you know, you know your stuff intellectually, you could look at your LinkedIn profile and all the experience you’ve accumulated. But under the covers, you have doubt, you’re not exactly sure the client is going to get the benefit or the ROI that you both expect. And even if it’s a 5%, down, or a 10%, down, it comes through, it comes through in the hesitate slight hesitations, or the stumbling when you’re answering a question that they might have or the pause that you might have when you’re trying to figure out what the solution is that the steps that you might offer to them as part of the, you know, crafting of the solution. It’s the subtlety when you personally are not sold on your own offering, it’s very, very hard to sell someone else on your offering. So the solution here is to do the work, to sell yourself on your offerings, and do it consistently. Even at this place in my business nine years in, there are days where I have to wake up and sell myself again on my offerings, this doesn’t go away. I’ve talked with consultants at every level of income up to 12 million in revenue, it doesn’t go away the self-doubt or the doubt about the offering. So you’ve got to be really vigilant about creating that resilient and strong relationship with your offering, essentially, that you love it that you know that you can help the client accomplish whatever it is that you are helping them to accomplish. So that’s mistake number two. Mistake number three is that you haven’t built out a customer journey that creates buy-in from that initial conversation forward, you think all of the onus is on you as an expert. And so you need to craft the solution, you need to come up with great ideas, and you need to tell them how what the process will look like. And when you take all of that onto your own shoulders, it sounds really good, right? You’re the expert, you’re the person who will lead them through to whatever the result is that they want. But what you’re missing in this is the ability to co-develop the solution with them, and bring them along that buyer along at every step of the way. So that they feel like they own the solution as much as you do. That’s what creates the buy-in, that’s what creates that internal person who’s selling the work for you. And to be clear, I’m not telling you that you should sit down with you know, with both of you with a blank piece of paper and figure out what the solution should be. We’re not trying to recreate the wheel every time optimally. But what it does mean is that you’re really getting their input and their buy-in all along the way at every step of the way of what what you see to be the straw model or what you to see to be them, you know, the framework that you want to guide them through as the solution, and they’re contributing to it as well, and see that they really co-own it with you. So that’s mistake number three that I see so often is that as consultants, as experts, we think that we need to know all the answers and tell the client and convince them that these are all of the right answers. And then somehow they’ll trust us, and they’ll want to move forward. That’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of heavy lifting. So switch that around and you’ll be the expert at facilitating, you’ll be the expert, guiding them through the framework, but open that door up for them to co-develop it with you. And ultimately, it’s going to make your entire process easier both the business you know, the sales process as well as the delivery process.


Okay, let’s talk about Mistake number four. I see this a lot where you design the offer backward. So let me tell you what I mean by that. What I see so often happening and I think it’s just the nature of what we do, as you know, as a profession is that we look at a problem. And then we build all the steps and tools and systems to fix the problem and then ultimately get the outcome that we want. But what ends up happening with that is we’re kind of building you know, it’s kind of like when you build a project plan from the bottom up. It ends up becoming more complicated and complex as you keep adding the layers. And a lot of times we think we need to add in all of those bells and whistles to justify our pricing Well, I’m going to do these 50 things for you. And so, therefore, I should charge, you know, whatever it is. So creating this offer from kind of the bottom-up approach, if you think about it from a project management perspective, and that’s why I say it’s backward versus the top-down thinking about your offer your service offering in this way, what is the solution? What is the ultimate outcome that my client wants to accomplish? What is the ultimate solution my client wants to accomplish? And what is the easiest path for me to get them there? What is the simplest path for me to get them there? Is an MVP a minimum viable product? Is it a streamlined approach? You know, what is it? What is the easiest way to get them to the goal line and charge for that value, you just save them potentially months’ worth of effort, and yourself, you know, working on an hourly basis as a result of trying to build it from the bottom up? If you build it from the top down? And think about it differently? A question that consultants rarely asked themselves is, what’s the easiest way to get there and build your offer from that perspective, it’s going to be so much more valuable for that client, and ultimately, for your own business model. So ask yourself, if you have an offer, we’ll get to mistake number five in a minute, which is that you don’t have an offer. But if you have an offer, ask yourself how you created it. Did you try to add on a bunch of bells and whistles just to make it look big and expensive, and to justify the costs? And if you did it that way, revisit it and figure out what can I streamline here to help my client get to where they want to be the fastest and the simplest and the easiest, and the least complex. And that brings me to mistake number five, that you don’t have an offer, you might have been listening to all four mistakes and realize you don’t even actually have an offer. There are a lot of consultants in the same boat as you if you’re in this boat. Now, let me make a nuance here. If you’re brand new to consulting, then I believe that this is a great approach. Don’t go out making a bunch of offers and websites and all the collateral, don’t go make a service offering. Go land a few clients, and use real-life examples and case studies and experience of what you like doing what you don’t like doing, and what types of clients you want to work with and which ones you don’t, to create your service offering. So if you’re really new at being an independent consultant, then this mistake is not for you. However, if you’re here listening to this podcast, and you want to grow your consulting business, which means you want to grow your income and your impact and your independence, then you’re at the place where you need an offer. And I find that consultants usually avoid creating service offerings for a couple of reasons. The first is they don’t want to leave business on the table, we don’t want to get so narrow that then I kind of forego other types of business. That’s not what’s gonna happen. What’s gonna happen if when you create an offer is you become known for what you do, you become known for the value that you deliver and the problem that you solve, and you still may have other people approaching you to ask you to do things that don’t fit into your service offering, you know, kind of your core service offering and then you just get to decide if you’re going to do those or not.


So that concern about I’m gonna, I’m worried if I narrow down too much of my service offering, I’m going to leave business on the table, I found time and time again is not a valid concern. It’s actually the opposite, you end up getting so much more business because you’re really known for something, and then oftentimes other work comes to you as well. So it’s the opposite, you end up making more money, and you’re not leaving money on the table. And the other reason I see that consultants tend to not want to narrow in on a service offering is that they’re worried they’re going to pigeonhole themselves and get bored. I want a lot of variety. Well, at the end of the day, do you want a lot of money and a lot of impact,s and a lot of flexibility in your schedule? Or do you want to be handcrafting and creating brand new things every single time because a lot of times that’s what the trade-off is? So if you don’t have a service offering in order to hit your business goals, you really want to look at this. This is a mistake to not have a service offering Unless you’re brand new, so go create one. And the advice I’ll give you is to assume it’s going to be bad. To create one, and just make the assumption that it’s going to be bad, it’s not going to be flying off the shelf on day one when you go and pitch it to your first prospective client. But over time, having that baseline, you’ll be able to use that to get the input to get the real-life scenarios to refine it, refine, refine, iterate, to the point where it is very compelling and tight and clear. And that’s where ultimately you’re going to want to be. So those are the five mistakes that I see with independent consultants and their service offerings, that ultimately, when you’re making these five mistakes, it creates dynamics where you are in that feast or famine cycle, where you are underearning where you are overworking because you’re working hourly and trying to you know, maximize your billings, in case you have, you know, a gap in business, for example. So, it’s really important to work on this service offering and dial that in. So go put this into action in your business, go look at your offer, if you have one, and figure out which of those mistakes you’re making. And then pick one to address. If you don’t have an offer, that’s the one to pick. If you do have an offer, choose one of the other four and address it one at a time, address it then pick the next one. And then the next one, there’s no right order to go in. Just go with your gut and say you know what I need to really work on feeling confident that I can deliver this offer. So I’m going to work on that one first. So hopefully, this is really helpful for you to dial in that service offering so that you can ultimately increase your pipeline and the value that you’re delivering at the end of the day to your clients. And I will let you know that this is the work that I help my own clients with my own clients who are independent consultants like you who are running their own businesses and want to grow and create more income and impact and independence for themselves. So if you are someone who wants help with that work, reach out and we can have a conversation. The easiest way to do that is at the website, consultmelisa.com. And we’ll put that in the show notes as well. Thanks for tuning in today. And I will see you again next week. Thanks for joining me this week on the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. If you like 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 it beneficial and finally 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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