Independent Consulting: The 15 Critical Success Factors
The 15 Critical Success Factors
Appleton Greene’s International Consultancy Office has facilitated the implementation of thousands of successful consulting services during the past 25 years. This includes consulting services that focus upon: Customer Service; E-Business; Finance; Globalization; Human Resources; Information Technology; Legal; Management; Marketing and Production. It also includes services that have been implemented within: the United States of America; Europe; Switzerland; Canada; Middle East; Africa; India; Pakistan; China; Japan; Far East; Australasia and South America. Appleton Greene has clients, learning providers, program directors and accredited consultants within most major industry sectors and cities worldwide.
So, what does Appleton Greene consider to be the 15 Critical Success Factors (CSF) for Independent Consultants?
Create a tangible and coherent Consulting Service Process (CSP)
The main difference between an employee and a consultant, is that the former sells themselves, whereas the latter sells a service. As an employee, a decision will be made based upon your Resume or CV. As a consultant, a decision will be made based upon the service that you provide. A good consulting service should be specific, well planned and easy to understand. The best consulting services are always process-driven and ultimately enable clients to do things for themselves. This task is easier than you might think. A tangible and coherent Consulting Service Process (CSP), can usually be identified within 10 minutes, during a telephone interview with an authorized Appleton Greene Client Service Manager. CLICK HERE to arrange a Telephone Interview.
Establish a strong Unique Consulting Service Proposition (UCSP)
This does not mean that your service needs to be better than anyone else’s, there just needs to be sufficient differentiation. Ideally, a consulting service should be based upon an individual consultant’s own core skills, experience and strengths and given the fact that we are all individuals, then establishing a Unique Consulting Service Proposition (UCSP) should not be a difficult task. The fact remains that we are all different people and we all do things differently. You therefore just need to recognize what that difference is in your case and then package it in such a way that clients will recognize it as a tangible service. Remember, clients employ specialists, not generalists, so the more specific that you can be the better. CLICK HERE to see some examples.
How to earn up to USD$250k as an independent consultant
Your pricing structure should always be determined by two factors: profitability and market demand. The former refers to your own consulting practice, that is to say, your pricing structure needs to allow your consulting practice to be viable. If you are not earning between USD$100k and USD$250k as an independent consultant, then there is something wrong with your pricing structure. The latter refers to what your clients are prepared to pay and can afford to pay. Some consultants charge by the hour, in which case clients will always measure value based upon just how productive they feel that time was. The problem with this is that consultants will always feel the need to constantly pull rabbits out of hats, in order to justify their existence. Your pricing structure should therefore be based upon the services that you provide. This will enable clients to measure your performance based upon the perceived value of your service, which is how it should be. Please visit: CLICK HERE and select the Bronze Client Service, the Silver Client Service, the Gold Client Service and the Platinum Client Service, to see some examples of pricing structures.
Develop a detailed and professional Client Information Guide (CIG)
The main mistake which the majority of independent consultants make, is not taking the time to develop their consulting service Client Information Guide (CIG) properly, or in other words, their Client Proposal, or Service Brochure. Appleton Greene has experienced Professional Editors who can help you with this. Clients will need to understand what your service is and how it works, if they are going to employ you as a consultant. Your (CIG) therefore represents an opportunity for you to provide your prospective clients with as much information about your service as you can. They will then be able to determine for themselves whether your Unique Consulting Service Proposition (UCSP) will ultimately satisfy their Key Corporate Objectives (KCO). Your (CIG) should demonstrate the value of your service and should enable your prospective clients to place a service order with you. All client decisions will ultimately be based upon the quality of your (CIG), so without this, you will not achieve anything. CLICK HERE to see an example of a Client Information Guide (CIG).
Establish a strong corporate and consulting service brand image
A strong consulting service brand will take time for you to establish, but you can achieve a strong corporate brand instantly, simply by registering as an Accredited Associate, Executive, or Senior Consultant at Appleton Greene. There are currently 500,000+ client contacts within the Appleton Greene global client network and Appleton Greene services some 750+ Certified Learning Providers (CLP) and 500+ Accredited Consultants. Indeed Appleton Greene has clients, learning providers and consultants within most major industries and within most major cities worldwide. A strong consulting service brand will usually be established within 12 months, once you have had an opportunity to establish your own client base and have your own consulting service reviews and testimonials.
For Consultant Reviews: CLICK HERE
Create a specific target market by matching (UCSP) with (KCO)
A common mistake is for consultants to try to target as many industry sectors and geographical locations as they can, with the view that they will somehow generate more opportunities this way. In fact the reverse is true. The more specific your target market, the easier it will be for the right companies to be able to identify with your consulting service. For example, a company within the Healthcare industry, would understandably prefer a consulting service, which specializes within their own industry sector. Similarly, a company located within Geneva (CH), would understandably prefer a consultant who has commercial experience within their location and who understands their local language and culture. The simple objective here is to match your Unique Consulting Service Proposition (UCSP) with your prospective clients’ Key Corporate Objectives (KCO). One of the major strengths of Appleton Greene, is that we enable clients to identify the right consultants for their specific requirements, quickly and efficiently. Therefore, be as specific as possible with your chosen target market. CLICK HERE to see some examples.
Implement at least one direct marketing campaign every year
Once you have developed your Client Information Guide (CIG), Client Proposal, or Service Brochure, the next priority should be to ensure that as many of the right people see it as possible. By the “right people”, we mean the Key Decision Makers (KDM) within your chosen target market (industry sector and geographical location). Do not use a scatter-gun approach to marketing. Spend your money wisely and ensure that your (CIG) is seen by the right people. By far the most cost-effective, time-effective and tried and trusted means of direct marketing for professional services is Email Marketing. Networking is too time consuming and is rarely productive. Email Marketing is professional, confidential, direct, exclusive and can incorporate a clear call to action. Successful campaigns are always those that are implemented over a sustainable period of time, usually 12 months and the quantity and quality of consulting service inquiries and orders usually increase during that time if the campaign is well planned, implemented and managed. A good campaign should always provide an immediate return on investment and future campaigns should therefore be entirely self-financing. CLICK HERE for more details about Email Marketing Campaigns (EMC).
Appleton Greene and Google AdWords
Appleton Greene also partners with Google in order to achieve new business over the internet. Google is the undisputed No.1 internet search engine, indeed an estimated 80% of online searches are undertaken through Google and it is therefore no surprise to see that 80% of new business, that is developed online, is therefore derived through their Google AdWords service. Google has been a valuable online partner for Appleton Greene for 12 years now and their AdWords campaigns are currently contributing to over 50% of new business that is developed for Certified Learning Providers (CLP), once they are qualified and when their corporate training programs are advertised internationally through Appleton Greene. Google’s AdWords service has been modified and improved considerably during that time and Appleton Greene has gained valuable experience in how to maximize the return-on-investment with these campaigns. Indeed the majority of Appleton Greene’s clients also use Google AdWords for their own new online business requirements and from our own research, Google AdWords regularly contributes between 50%-80% of new online customers for our clients’ companies as well. With such a high market share of the new business development market online, Google AdWords should be an integral part of any proactive business development strategy, for companies and consulting practices.
The Google AdWords service is now also available to Accredited Associate, Executive and Senior Consultants, once their Client Information Guides (CIG) have been approved and published by Appleton Greene. As with all Appleton Greene services, the Google AdWords service is entirely optional, but if used properly, the service will contribute at least 50% of an Accredited Consultant’s new business online and is directly targeted towards clients who are specifically looking for your Unique Consulting Service Proposition (UCSP).
If you are not already familiar with Google’s AdWords service, you can find out more about it here: Google AdWords
Ensure that you have a Service Order Processing (SOP) strategy
So how do I, as a client, place a service order with you and what are the terms and conditions associated with your service? If a client has to ask this question, you probably won’t receive many service orders! We are all used to quick and easy ways to place orders. The internet has provided us with time-efficient ways to place an order and to pay online, simply by pressing a button and we are all used to this. Our research has shown that clients also feel much more comfortable reviewing contracts that are available online. Everything should now be automated. It is not sufficient to have a web site which requires interested parties to complete a contact form. This does not constitute a proactive call to action. A client needs to be able to review your service description and terms and conditions online now. You should also provide with them with at least three service order options to choose from, so that they can select an option which suits their requirements and which they feel comfortable with. Please visit: CLICK HERE and select the Bronze Client Service, the Silver Client Service, the Gold Client Service and the Platinum Client Service, to see some examples of consulting service options, service order forms and terms and conditions of service, all of which can be processed quickly and efficiently.
Ensure that you have a professional support structure in place
As an independent consultant, you are going to need plenty of professional support and assistance. You need to have the confidence that your work will be up to the standard required and expected by your clients. You will need advice concerning matters where you do not have personal experience. You will need to obtain constructive feedback to enable you to continuously improve your consulting service offering. You will need to have confidence that you have a professional organization behind you. There are 20+ dedicated Appleton Greene employees within the Accredited Consulting Service (ACS) department and these include professional content editors, client account managers, consulting service support managers and service providers who specialize in customer service, e-business, finance, globalization, human resources, technology, legal, management, marketing and production. All communications and support are managed online, either via email or through the Appleton Greene cloud servers and this enables all parties to retain copies of communications for future reference, in accordance with our quality management procedures here at Appleton Greene. All communications are filtered through one dedicated (ACS) Administration Manager, who will then forward support requests onto the most relevant person, depending upon the subject matter of each query. You will therefore have access to a well trained team of professional support staff at Appleton Greene.
Implement a viable consulting practice business model
Your consulting practice business model includes the strategies that you will use for implementing all of the 15 Critical Success Factors (CSF) that are listed here within this page. This includes your strategies for: Service Process; Service Innovation; Pricing Structure; Service Information; Brand Image; Target Market; Direct Marketing; Knowledge Sharing; Service Orders; Professional Support; Business Model; Time Management; Practice Sustainability; Client Testimonials and The Next Step in your consulting business expansion. If you do not already have a viable consulting practice business model, then you will need to adopt one quickly, one that appeals to the way in which you would personally like to operate as a consultant. Your business model needs to allow you the freedom to focus upon your strengths and should compensate for your weaknesses. This will enable you to make the most of your potential opportunities and to minimize the effect of any potential threats. CLICK HERE for more details about the Appleton Greene Accredited Consulting Service (ACS) business model.
Time Management: Service Delivery vs Business Development
Too many independent consultants complain that they spend too much time developing business and not enough time doing business. The issue here is that you are only earning money during the time that you are delivering the service. This is never more apparent than with consultants who consult on a project-by-project basis. While they are working on a project, they do not have the time to develop new business and while they are developing new business, they are not earning an income. It is commonly referred to as the feast & famine scenario. If you want to spend your time consulting and earning income, then you will need to outsource your business development requirements at some point. Appleton Greene handles the entire business development process on behalf of its Accredited Consultants. Indeed there is no business development activity required on behalf of the consultant whatsoever. This enables consultants to manage their time more effectively and to optimize their service delivery and fee earning time. CLICK HERE and select BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT from the tabs list located beneath the application forms, for more details about the Appleton Greene Business Development Process.
Establish a portfolio of 10 clients on 12 month contractual agreements
Your ability to have a consulting business which is sustainable, will of course depend upon the business model that you are implementing. Your business model not only needs to enable you to spend more time with service delivery and less time with business development, but it also needs to enable you to manage portfolios of clients, rather than one or two at a time. This will enable you to maximize your earning capacity and to minimize risk. You also need to ensure that your consulting assignments stand the test of time and last long enough for you to achieve what you need to. The Appleton Greene Accredited Consulting Service (ACS) business model enables consultants to establish a portfolio of at least 10 clients each signing 12 month contractual agreements. It also enables consultants to expand at their own pace by developing a client base requiring different levels of service and hence different time commitments. It enables clients to upgrade and downgrade their service requirements as and when they need to at the end of each contractual agreement, subject to ongoing availability. It also enables the consultant to manage their client portfolio comfortably. There is less chance of losing a client, because they have the option to downgrade their service if they need to. Other clients can also upgrade if more time and commitment is deemed necessary, or if a related project needs undertaking. The result, is that the loss of a client would only constitute a maximum of 10% of your complete client ledger and income base, which all contributes towards achieving a sustainable consulting practice.
Obtain productive client testimonials
It is always surprising how many consultants either forget or just feel too embarrassed to ask their clients for testimonials. They do a perfectly good job, are shown appreciation for it and yet do not ask for a testimonial. There is probably an inherent reluctance in all of us to ask for personal praise, but even if we do ask for it, how many of us ask for it in such a way as it will prove to be productive. Written testimonials are always preferred, because they constitute evidence and we can utilize them for as long as we need to, long after our personal contacts have left the organizations that we have worked for. It also enables us to structure what is being said about us and our service. Is this really necessary? Absolutely. We do not want our clients having to think on their feet during a telephone call or email. We do not want to rely upon them having to remember the things that are important. It is not, after all, a client’s responsibility to promote us within their own time and most clients will insist upon strict privacy and confidentiality being maintained. So how do we obtain good testimonials? Appleton Greene implements a proactive testimonial policy with all Accredited Consultants. We write to clients every six months asking them to complete Service Performance Questionnaires (SPQ). These questionnaires request information such as why they originally placed a service order with the consultant, what their Key Corporate Objectives (KCO) were, how the service satisfied these objectives and a simple SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. We also ask for recommendations for service improvement. We then ask the client to indicate whether they are happy for us to publish the positive feedback in the form of a testimonial on behalf of the consultant and Appleton Greene, as long as their privacy and confidentiality are protected. This enables us to collect testimonials on behalf of our consultants as a third party and as an integral part of our quality management procedure with clients and this enables consultants to develop a formidable portfolio of good quality client testimonials over time.
The Next Step
How to earn between USD$300k and USD$3m by productizing
Professional Business Consultants and Executive Officers and Managers will always be limited in terms of what they can realistically earn and achieve, by the time that they have available. Most consultants and employees are paid by the hour. To achieve financial independence, we all need to productize what it is that we do. By developing a tangible product, such as a business process, software, or training program, clients and employers will measure value based upon the product itself and not the time that it takes to implement it. Thus, it significantly increases our earning potential and our ability to deliver greater service value to our clients and employers. It also enables us to manage much larger portfolios of clients, moving away from project-orientated services or clients merely outsourcing to us and therefore minimizing risk. In short, it provides the opportunity for Professional Business Consultants and Executive Officers and Managers to take the next step towards becoming a Business Entrepreneur. The Certified Learning Provider (CLP) program only costs USD$6k and Learning Providers can earn between USD$300k annually with one Unique Program Proposition (UPP) and USD$3m annually with 10 corporate training programs. This is achieved by developing and implementing corporate training programs, which incorporate Unique Program Propositions (UPP) that are based upon a Learning Provider’s own skills, experience, interests and methodologies. Appleton Greene is therefore looking to identify individuals who have the knowledge, the vision, the ambition, the confidence, the integrity and the commitment required in order to succeed. If you feel that you have an idea for one or more corporate training programs that are worth developing, then Appleton Greene can help you to develop them and to establish them within specific markets, industry sectors and geographical locations. CLICK HERE for more details. However, please note that (CLP) positions are available by invitation only and candidates have to be personally recommended for consideration by a registered (CLP) Professor.
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Accredited Consultant Applications
To apply for a position as an Appleton Greene Accredited Associate, Executive, or Senior Consultant, please CLICK HERE