The Proper Way For Consultants To Use Outreach To Get More Strategy Sessions
It’s not easy being part of the business world. There are so many people you should answer to, a ton of obligations you need to tend to and having time for yourself seems like just not being in the cards for you. That’s why you need people with whom you can share the workload. A team.
Team of professionals or less experienced people that you can mentor that can lessen the burden of your heavy entrepreneurial back. As the face and the brain behind BizzBee Solution — a very successful Macedonian management consulting company, I also have a heavy burden to bear. Providing a variety of business services mostly to start-ups and SMEs and helping them focus on their core business is highly rewarding, but rarely a walk in the park. Today, I will share why is it important for consultants to use outreach for more strategy sessions.
Like the majority of successful consultants, I wasn’t born into this. I didn’t start from the top.
Many years ago, (I dread to think how much), when I was at university, studying business management at the Faculty of Economics, I realised there is more to life. I craved to stand out from the rest. The way forward was very logical — I wanted to run my own business and help people achieve their business goals.
That’s when I decided to open up my very own SMS marketing agency called Advert SMS. It was an up-and-running SME, a youthful dream that me and my friends had that simply wasn’t meant to be. But I moved on, started working for a Dutch development company as a business advisor in the industry of agriculture and forestry. I enjoyed working as a consultant, I’ve managed to move the agriculture in my country a couple of steps forward. But that was not my calling. Too much administration, too little freedom. As an economist and entrepreneur by spirit, I’m inspired by creative ideas, new concepts and agile approaches.
So, as you may imagine, working in such a corporate world simply wasn’t enough. I had a void I had to fulfil. So, I dived into the freelance world. There, I had the opportunity to work with the latest tech, AI, deep learning and all the flashy concepts that I believed will change the world were at my fingertips.
At this point, I needed to make a vital decision. Should I keep my stable high-income job for the UK company and be suffocated in the corporate world? Or should I pursue my dream to be my own boss and enjoy all the liberties that come with it?
It wasn’t a big surprise that I opted for the latter. I quit my job and started working as a digital nomad with my wife (fiancé at that period). We were traveling the world, tailoring business strategies while drinking cocktails on the beach, being happy in love. Sounds dreamy, right?
But every dream must come to an end. Dawn comes and washes away all the blur.
I got sick and realized that we cannot keep living like that.
So, another life-changing decision had to be made.
A decision that would change our life forever.
Led by the old saying ‘Fortune favours the bold’, I took a loan and opened BizzBee.
I couldn’t be more thankful to my wife for all her support. We rented an office for a couple of months. We only had some second-hand desks, 5 computers and a big dream.
The next couple of months I was ‘a man to hire’. I worked on everything and with everyone who would listen. We were doing market research, we were helping entrepreneurs realise whether they had the best idea for their business, tailoring business plans. We also did product sourcing, sales, lead generation, database building. You name it, we did it.
But, that was exhausting. One small team cannot do everything and be good at it all.
If I wanted this dream to become a reality, I had to make some thorough changes.
At that time, I accepted to work on another unexpected project and I had to hire additional 10 people. This project was supposed to last for a couple of months. I’m not the kind of person to take advantage of people and let them go. I wanted to keep my team, so I really needed to find work for all of them.
We couldn’t really rely on freelance platforms to keep my team of nearly 20 busy, up and running.
I needed to try out a different approach.
As we were really successful in building databases, there was only one logical way forward.
Email outreach, reaching out to potential clients and see if we are a good fit, figure out if we could help them.
At first, we did all the mistakes you could think of.
But practice makes things perfect. And the entrepreneur in me learned from each and every one of them.
The first thing that comes to mind is a mistake that a lot of companies are still making nowadays. It’s shocking that they’re making the mistake I was making 5 years ago. So here comes the golden nugget — instead of being salesy and pushy, do it the smart way.
Don’t be the person that goes in and says ‘Hello, do you want to buy my services?’ That is a concept that will only drive people away. Approach people in a friendly, casual manner, let your first goal be simply to get to know them better. People are very open when you are engaging the right way, trying to build a relationship instead of just trying to sell.
My simple discovery felt like discovering the right magic formula. I felt like I found the secret ingredient of a powerful potion that I was eager to share with the world. And, abracadabra, fast forward a couple of years, outreach is BizzBee’s main focus. Carefully crafted outreach for more strategy sessions.
Finely tailored, friendly, work of magic method. A dish that every restaurant wants to serve. And that every consultant needs to have on their plate.
What is outreach?
It’s pretty straightforward really. Outreach means putting our ego aside and making the first move. Reaching out to our prospects with the simple goal of having them as our clients. To put it in consultant terms, this is the proactive way of scheduling more strategy sessions.
As you can see, the goal is simple. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the outreach process.
Specialising in B2B outreach we’ve managed to identify the two most fruitful B2B platforms. LinkedIn and email. Often, when it comes to outreach, cold calling is the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s really not my thing. It feels just too intrusive. People nowadays prefer to be addressed at their own convenience. And LinkedIn and email both allow that advantage.
Using outreach for consultancy
So how can consultants use outreach for more strategy sessions? A question I got asked, far too often.
We have collaborated with many different consultants, and I must say, that based on our vast experience, we’ve managed to accomplish some of the shiniest results. It feels like our outreach campaigns for consultants are predestined for success.
But enough about us. I wanted to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, ensuring you that when you do outreach the right way, it really works. There is no shame in putting yourself out there. It won’t diminish your expertise.
Reaching out and building business relationships via the two major business platforms is not stepping over the line. On the contrary, it can be a breath of fresh air in this competitive climate. Initiating conversations on interesting and relevant topics is in our consulting core. So make your outreach, as close to your core business as possible. You won’t regret it.
Just make sure you’re not one of those annoying people showing their sales pitches in people’s faces.
It’s a terrible thing for the consultants’ ego and for our self-esteem.
Why can’t consultants afford to waste another minute to jump on the outreach train?
The majority of B2B consultants, including me, are usually considered high-ticket service providers. That means that we offer exclusive services that are not that affordable. That means that we need to be a good fit with our clients. But it also means something else. We need to adjust our marketing and sales strategies accordingly. We are not selling a 10€ SaaS. So how can our marketing be the same?
Building a relationship is a process. It’s a never-ending cycle of giving and receiving, that should be delicately handled. Try to rush it, you’ll end up empty-handed.
I have been working with clients that took 6 or even 12 months to get them to actually be our clients. But I didn’t give up, as long as the process may seemed.
Even though starting to reach out may seem scary at first, the longer you wait to start this inevitable process, the longer it will take to push the clients down the sales funnel.
Long sales cycle are no fun. They require a lot of effort, time and sometimes cost a lot of money.
That’s why, as a consultant, I decided that I had no time to spare. I needed a solid strategy that will bring me predictive results.
And outreach was the best tool to do so.
The thing is, you have nothing to lose.
Growth can only happen if we step out of our comfort zone.
Long sales cycles
We, as consultants, sell our expertise. We have put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into achieving this expertise so we can proudly call ourselves consultants. That’s why our services don’t come cheaply. And selling pricey services often means experiencing longer sales cycles.
What sales cycles have to do with the outreach process?
Well, if you want to achieve healthy predictability, that means that you need to plan ahead.
Try to figure out how long your average sale cycle is. Figure out your sales closing rate — how many meetings do you need to schedule so you can gain one new client?
I know, the numbers can be a bit scary at first. But they make the whole sales process predictable.
Reverse engineer the sales process so you can give an educated guess on the prospects that you’ll need to outreach.
By now, you’re probably guessing, the sooner, the better. The sooner you start reaching out to your potential clients the sooner you’ll close your first client gained through outreach.
Paid ads don’t work
We’re constantly bombarded with ads. Honestly, I feel like I’m developing a certain immunity.
I noticed that I even stopped perceiving them as I scroll down my Facebook feed.
But how can I say that they don’t work if so many companies are doing it?
They work, but not for every company and certainly not for every service.
They can be of tremendous help, but I firmly believe that a consultant can’t rely solely on paid ads.
People don’t impulse buy a $30.000 worth of organisational growth consulting.
They can buy the 10€ t-shirt, though.
And I’m not basing this only on logic. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was using paid ads, spamming people and doing everything wrong.
Facebook ads are cool, but do you really expect that people will see your flashy Facebook ad and impulsively swipe their credit cards, investing thousands of euros/dollars for a service they saw on Facebook?!
Not really, right?
Our marketing budgets need to be invested in something more sustainable. We can always use the paid ads as a credibility support in the long run. But not as a primal source for gaining new clients.
Focus your marketing and sales efforts
Investing time or resources in a certain area, often means putting things in a perspective. So making the initial decision to kick off your outreach project makes focusing on your sales and marketing efforts a pre-requisite.
What does this mean?
It means specialisation.
Let’s put it this way.
What you know the best is what makes you a specialist in a certain field.
Let’s take physicians for example.
On one hand, we have general practitioners, who handle a vast variety of patients every day and treat many types of diseases.
On the other hand, we have neurosurgeons.
They treat only a couple of patients a week.
They do what they know the best. Treat people’s brains. After all, they’ve invested so much time and money into it.
At the end of the day, the neurosurgeon earns a lot more than the GP, even though they treat a greater amount of patients.
Quantity doesn’t matter.
Neurosurgeons are focused on their core activity and do what they know the best, so people are willing to pay more to this person because they have a problem that he has the solution to.
It’s the same with consultants.
We can be general consultants or specialise in helping let’s say HR departments. Or we can even take this one step further, for the sake of the argument. We can say that we’re helping HR departments in accounting companies.
Isn’t this a win-win, targeting the people that you can help the most. And subsequently having more clients that you can help, enjoy working with, and are the most profitable for you, of course.
Build business relationships
A lot of people that have tried outreach have been there. I’ve been there. At the beginning, I started to approach people the wrong way.
I was that pushy, sales, spammy guy, desperate for a lead.
And you know what?
It got me nowhere.
Nowhere close to where I wanted to be, at least.
I know you are trying to reach out and you are doing your best.
But things don’t work that different in the digital and the physical world.
People like to be courted, heard and understood.
The answer is simple, you need to focus on building relationships. You can’t go wrong there.
Let’s say that the conversation doesn’t end up in them being your client. So what?!
It’s not the end of the world. You have gained a new business acquaintance. If you’ve made the right impression, they’ll surely put the word around.
Relationships are everything in the consulting world.
Working on sparking new ones is never too early.
Expand your business connection list and put yourself out there
What’s important is that you never stop expanding your connection list.
The more people you reach out to, the better your chances of sliding them down your sales funnel.
While connecting to different people, you are putting yourself out there.
You are presenting yourself, standing your ground and starting to build credibility and a position on the market for yourself.
The more you talk about it, the more value you are offering, the more people will be drawn to you.
Spend time doing what you love
The reason why people are specialized in a certain field is because they love doing that.
They wake up in the morning and go to work happy.
For me, personally, that’s doing business plans, market research, management consulting, and outreach and get intertwined in the complex B2B cycles.
Each consultant has their unique niche, their own area of expertise. But it all comes down to consulting.
It’s our cup of tea and we love every sip of it.
But, we have so many other things that we need to take care of.
Don’t get me started on the endless administration.
But having a steady sales pipeline is one of the things that we can control. And what gives us the opportunity to do what we love.
It’s even better if you’re able to put your trust in someone else and leave this whole process to them.
That way, your job would be to just show up at the sales meetings and close the clients you’re a good fit with.
You will not only focus on doing what you love, but you will also have time for your family and friends.
Predictable sales cycle
Outreach is a tool that gives consultants some predictability in the entire sales cycle.
By doing outreach you can keep a track of:
- How many potential clients you are reaching out on a daily basis
- The number of those who are responding to your messages
- How many you are engaging in a relationship with
- The percentage of them that are becoming problem aware
- How many of them are becoming solution aware
- The number of them that want to have a call with you
If you are keeping track of that on a monthly level, then you’ll have a clear idea of your percentages. It’s all numbers game after that.
At the end of the month, you’ll do your math and you will precisely know how many people you need to reach out to if you want a certain number of meetings per month.
Generate highly targeted connections
Outreach doesn’t necessarily have to be about closing more clients. You can also have a simpler and easily achievable goal. A goal like connecting to more people that are relevant to you. People that you’d love to work with one day. Simply, using outreach for more strategy sessions.
LinkedIn is a fantastic network for that.
You have nothing to lose by sending the invites to your targeted audience.
You don’t even have to have a follow-up sequence in place.
Even if your capacity is full at the moment, that is not a guarantee for the future.
Why not have a ready database of people that you can help.
As the well-known book goes — dig your well before you’re thirsty.
Being active in content posting is an added bonus. By increasing your network, more people can consume your valuable content.
The right ingredients for a successful outreach campaign for consultants
Every consultant is different. But we all have some things in common. The same goes for outreach campaigns. Each campaign is different from the next, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any general rules that we need to follow.
Reaching out to people is not an easy decision to make. And once you’ve made it you want to make the outreach right. So make sure that you don’t miss any of the following bullet points.
It’s rarely a smart thing to put all your eggs in one basket. And outreach is no exception. When it comes to B2B outreach the options are a bit limited. But I’ve found the perfect mix. LinkedIn and email. Business platforms are made for business communication.
You’re not disturbing your prospects, as you’d do with cold calling. They can open your email, or LinkedIn message whenever they choose. Whenever they feel like it.
But the thing is, people prefer different platforms. Some businesspeople love communicating via slightly longer formal emails. They feel the most comfortable that way.
While others love the chit-chatty options that LinkedIn provides. When it comes to outreach, I’d say the consultant should adapt to their audiences preferred platform. That’s why it’s a wise move for you to try the multi-channel approach.
Target the right people
Targeting thousands of positions in thousands of different industries is like looking for a needle in a haystack, with a blindfold. You can’t possibly have a clue on what is their industry currently facing. That means that in that case, you are just assuming what kind of problem they may have.
If you’re talking to everyone you can’t get through the message right. What’s worse, a lot of people will get offended. You’re reaching out to them with a subject that doesn’t concern them, which can only mean one thing. You haven’t done your research.
And let’s say that some of the unqualified, untargeted prospects will schedule a strategy session with you.
What does that mean? You have wasted precious time nurturing the wrong people.
So spend some time in research. The time spent planning is rarely wasted.
And targeting the right people means nailing the first step of the outreach process. At the end of the day, the top of the funnel is just as important as the bottom.
Don’t pitch (straight away)
First and foremost, don’t spam people!
It’s a dead-end street.
That’s what gave outreach a bad name.
People belching their sales pitches to anyone who is (and in most cases is not) willing to listen.
It’s a general rule for everyone but it especially applies to consultants. We’ve worked so hard at establishing our name, credibility and value. It’s a real waste to throw all that down the drain by approaching people and trying to sell something immediately.
Assuming that someone has a certain need or a problem and actually confirming that, are two very different things.
By straight pitching, we assume that they have the problem.
And by building relationships in outreach we’re kind of using the Socratic method. Which leads us to the next point.
Aim at conversations starters
So how we can use the Socratic method in B2B outreach? Let me give you a short intro first. The Socratic method is a form of a cooperative argumentative dialogue between individuals. It’s based on asking and answering questions with the goal of stimulating critical thinking and drawing out ideas and underlying presuppositions.
Can you draw the parallel?
Don’t get me wrong, we won’t be getting into heated arguments. But we’ll be asking a lot of questions with our end goal in mind.
And this is why conversation starters are great openers. If you’ve done your research you’ll know which topics resonate with your target audiences. So build the base of stimulating conversation.
Ask relevant questions. But don’t stop there. Be sure to listen to the answers. Only by listening you can make sure that they have the problem that you’re trying to solve for them.
Nurture a close and caring relationship
I’ve found that nurturing is the most important step of the outreach execution. That’s why it’s the most delicate and time-consuming part.
As we’ve established, business relationships are crucial for consultants. And your prospects will surely appreciate the extra pampering. The time you’ll spend with them at the beginning of the process before they are your clients can be the best representation of the attention they’ll get once they’re your clients.
So make sure to show yourself in the best light.
Ask relevant questions. Show them that you care. Be empathetic and authentic. Address their concerns. Show them that they can rely on you.
If you get this part right, the sales call can become a simple formality.
Make sure your sales funnel is always full
We’re back to the predictability section once more. But, the essential things are well worth repeating. To ensure that you always have clients ready for a strategy session, you must ensure that your whole funnel is full.
What does that mean in outreach terms?
Send those invites. Send the follow-up messages. Don’t hesitate to hit send on that email.
You’re not intruding on your prospects’ personal space. You’re trying to build a relationship.
So be consistent. Make sure that you’re doing everything in your power to get through your ideal clients’ door.
Let’s put things a bit into perspective. If you send even only 50 LinkedIn connection invitations to your ideal prospects daily, and you get an easily achievable 30% acceptance rate. That means that you’ll have 450 fresh highly targeted prospects each month. That’s more than 5.000 prospects in your network a year.
So what are you waiting for?
Sales pitching and demonstrating value are two completely different things. You can demonstrate value in your outreach campaign in so many ways.
For instance, you can offer your prospects some pdf that you’ve created that can be of great value to them. You can offer your expert opinion on some subject. You can offer some of your ebooks.
What about your credibility and social proof? Let’s take a case study for example. A case study can be of tremendous value to the right prospect. They’ll have the chance to see that their problem is solvable and that their desired results are easily achievable.
But please, don’t send any material, no matter how valuable or beneficial, without asking for a permission first.
Initiating conversation, sending that first message is hard enough. Sending follow-ups can be a bit awkward, but necessary. Just think about it. How many emails have you missed simply because someone hasn’t sent you a reminder?
How many opportunities were wasted because someone expected that you have the perfect memory?
The thing is, our attention span is only getting shorter. And sending that follow-up is needed now more than ever.
Quitting at the first obstacle, at the first unanswered message is easy. Following up is what gets the results.
Don’t forget the CTA
Yes, call to action (CTA) sounds like a marketing buzzword. And to some extent, it is.
But it’s an unavoidable part of every outreach message. Wondering why?
Because assuming that people will know what to do next is a mistake that can easily mean less strategy sessions.
A CTA doesn’t have to be about scheduling a strategy session. As a matter of fact, at the beginning of the outreach process, I hope that it won’t be.
So what is the right CTA?
It depends on where you are in the outreach process. At the beginning, it could be a simple open question. Down the line, it could be you asking them for permission to send them that valuable pdf.
And the last CTA, of course, is asking for that longed strategy session. But make sure that your timing is right.
Track your campaign
Rome wasn’t built in a day. So nor will be your outreach campaign. Trying to start with the perfect approach is romanticising the outreach process.
In the beginning, nothing is perfect. But that doesn’t equal giving up. So my advice is, stop trying to craft the perfect outreach campaign. Instead, plan and execute a great one and then do your best to optimise it.
Testing and optimising is one of my favourite parts. I know that numbers won’t let me down. If I have a great reporting system I can measure everything and see what works and what can be improved.
A/B testing always does the trick. Just make sure that you’re testing one thing at a time. Only that way, you can conclude what area you should tweak.
What I love about the outreach process is that it is as much an art as it is a science. You can always test, measure, and optimise, and each step will lead you closer to perfection. Which in our case means better conversion rates, hence scheduling more strategy sessions.
Being a consultant is no walk in the park.
Neither is doing the outreach process.
Both require significant time, effort, and resources.
Both require dealing with so many different people on a daily basis.
And of course, we could not escape all the bad experiences.
Just think of all the people that have had some really bad experiences working with other consultants, or freelancers and will be reluctant at the start to work with you.
The same can be said for the outreach part.
I’m aware that there are a lot of freelancers and agencies that present themselves as outreach experts. And I’m sad to say that not every one of them is suitable for consultants.
That’s why many consultants I’ve worked with were reluctant to give outreach a chance.
And I get it. Choosing the right consultant or company to work with should be done with caution and care.
The option for any consultant to do the outreach process themselves is always viable.
After all, you know your business and how to sell yourself best.
But, on the other hand, a consulting fee and a consulting day is quite expensive. There is a reason why you’ve spend all that time, money, and effort to become an expert in your particular consulting field. It would be a real shame to spend all your hours and spare time (that you rarely have) on outreaching and prospecting.
You could always hire an internal team to do the outreach process. There are a lot of companies that have their own BDR/SDR teams. Teams that take care of the outreach, every step of the way.
But this can be quite an expensive and not feasible endeavour for a consultant or for a small or medium consulting company.
Luckily there is one more option left. You can delegate this load of work to an experienced and professional team.
To someone who deals with these types of problems on a daily basis. Someone who has specialised in B2B outreach. To someone that has outreach as their core business and their expertise.
Someone you can trust with your name and brand.
I’m certain that you will really save a lot of time and effort if you decide on delegating this to outreach professionals.
If you decide to embark on the outreach quest yourself, I really hope you got the info that you needed from this blog post. Here’s to many fruitful connections and scheduled strategy sessions!
Oh, and don’t be afraid to make the first move. If you need help breaking the ice consider adding me on LinkedIn or shoot me an email.
This article was originally published on BizzBee Blog. :)