Based on our survey, the second big issue or problem scientists face in trying to grow their consulting business is "Potential clients want free advice, but often don't sign". Let's break this down:
1. They want free advice. Of course they do. And to establish your authority, your bona fides, you really have to give them some.
2. The don't sign. OK, why not?
2a. "I don't know." Did you ask? Asking might give you an opportunity to correct a misperception or fill in some detail that they missed. In sales lingo, this is called overcoming objections. You can spend a few minutes ahead of the meeting reviewing common objections, and you'll be pretty prepared. Or you can fail to ask, and then try to call back later and re-open the conversation. Guess which one is easier?
2b. "Probably because they [insert your guess]." See 2a.
2c. "They think I'm too expensive. I'm going to email and lower my rate." Wait, first see 2a - did you ask? This is a common objection. Did you discuss the value of your services in their terms, for example "how much is it costing you now, with no viable solution?". Did you ask them what other solutions they were considering, so you had an opportunity to think about how to compare them with yours? Did you ask "What were you hoping to pay to solve [big problem X]?"
2d. "Come to think of it, I didn't ask them to sign on." In sales lingo, this is called closing. It's something that terrifies a lot of salespeople - data from Objective Management Group shows that only 6% of salespeople are strong closers. And you, as a scientist, are not a professional salesperson. The good news is that this is a learnable skill, and not hard to learn IF you learn to sell consultatively. You are a consultant after all!
3. Often. That's an important word here. If it's happening often, it's probably you, not them. In other words, see 2d.
Cohere has offered three FREE webinars this year alone on growing small scientific businesses, and all of them included valuable information on sales skills. We were founded specifically to assist scientists and other technical professionals with the business side of their efforts. Business isn't what we trained for, but some knowledge there will help us bring our real skills to our clients.
If this subject interests you, you might like our program called Mastering the Technical Sale. It teaches prospecting, gap analysis, presentation methods, overcoming objections, and closing - all using approaches that allow scientists to sell what they do comfortably, professionally, and successfully.