Welcome to the video series! I'm creating this series to help you improve your results as you sell to small business owners. Everything in this video series comes directly from you.
I put out a survey asking the question, "What is your number one challenge when selling to small business owners?"
Here is what you've replied: "Getting access to the particular person or decision maker to offer my services." Great response!
Have you tried walking cold into a business with your cheesy, indecisive resume, and asking to speak to the hiring manager? Not without an appointment, sir - and no, we’re not interviewing now. How about spending an hour outlining your services only to discover that you’re talking to an assistant who has no decision-making power, but he’s “happy to take your card”? Front desk receptionists spend all day forwarding cold-calls to quickly-deleted voicemails, from consultants trying to sell themselves indiscriminately, to managers who don’t need that kind of help.
Don’t be that guy (or gal). Don’t strain yourself casting your net over the entire ocean. “Getting access” requires figuring out who the right person is and offering to solve a specific business problem. It’s your lucky day, because the internet has made putting yourself virtually in front of the right person easier than ever before. This article gives you a process to discover how many small business owners there are and how to put yourself directly in front of the prospects most willing to buy.
What Does it Mean to be a “Consultant?”
You're here watching this video training because you want to improve how your core service is packaged, explained, and sold to your small business owner clients. But there are a couple of ground rules we should get out of the way first. I want to make sure the rest of this video series has value to you, so let’s agree on our definition of "consulting.”
- You sell intangible services. You don't sell physical things like shirts and apparel, you don't sell beauty products, you don't sell food items. There's nothing wrong with these things, clearly. What we're saying is that the buying experience is different for the client when they can't see, touch or feel what it is that's being sold. So it ups the ante for us as consultants. We've got to be better at describing our offering and pinpointing its value, because some obvious proof points are not present.
- You sell to small business owners. That's a different kind of conversation. These people are savvy, they are thoughtful and deliberate about the choices that they make. They're also often hard to reach, hard to find, and it’s hard to get them to focus on one thing at a time.
- You must create a compelling offer for your small business client. It's not about just inventing a service and then slapping salesmanship on top of it. You've already figured out that your promotional time, money and energy is better spent if you're selling the right kind of thing to the right kind of person.
What is a “Small Business”?
Let's define the term "small business" and get a sense of how many there actually are. We're going to use some data to help inform our point of view. In the U.S. we define small business as having less than 500 employees. The US Small Business Economic Profile is produced by the Small Business Administration, the governing body of small businesses in the United States.
Here are some valuable facts that this report tell us:
- There are 31.7 million small businesses in the U.S. That makes up for 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. The vast majority, the very vast majority of businesses in the U.S., are considered small. There are a lot of small businesses!
- The report breaks down the size by market. If we look at the U.S. small businesses by industry and firm size, we see the different industries. There's professional, scientific and technical, construction, real estate, retail, trade, healthcare, to name a few.
- If we look at construction, and we look at how many businesses are in the construction industry that are between one and 19 employees, there are 643,000 of those businesses. If we look at how many fit in between one and 500 employees, there are 700,000 companies that fit that description.
- If we choose educational services, between one and 19 employees, there's 73,000 companies that fit that description. If we look at how many fit between one and 500 employees, there are 92,000.
- In any category you see here, there are at least 100,000 companies that fit these criteria.
- Non-employer firms are defined by those companies that do not have any full time employees.
So whether you serve companies that are in that bracket, whether you serve companies that have between one and 20 employees, or you serve micro businesses, what we're finding here is that there's enough. There is a market for the particular industry that you choose to serve.
How Do I Find Consulting Projects?
The research begs a couple of questions:
- What do these companies buy?
- How do I get in front of them when they're prepared to buy services?
Well, let me give you some resources on that, right now. These are independent consultant websites.
MBO Partners serves as a middleman. They are the freelance marketplace that helps connect independent consultants to the companies looking for talent. We can get a summary of that by reading the short description on their site. "MBO Partners makes it easier for enterprises and top independent professionals to work together, delivering innovative solutions that enable both organizations and talent to thrive in the independent economy."
Their job is to make it easier for companies and consultants to find one another. So there's one example.
Some marketplaces are a bit more specific on the talent they're looking for and the kind of projects that they help fill. Toptal is an example of a marketplace that focuses on IT expertise. So if you are a company looking for IT experts, or you are an IT expert looking for a company to work with, then Toptal would be a place where you would go. Toptal is an exclusive network for the top freelance software developers, designers, et cetera.
Paro specializes in the finance field. From their website, "Paro is a network of top tier remote financial professionals offering CFO leadership, financial planning and analysis, accounting, bookkeeping, and more." This is the marketplace that you would go to if you are a finance expert. It's also the marketplace that a client would go to when they're looking for a finance expert.
Upwork Is often overlooked and sometimes gets a bad name because it's known as a place where only really cheap or inexpensive projects are, but we can bust that myth right now. For example, let's say I'm logged into my account. I'm a freelancer looking for consulting opportunities.
I type in the term 'marketing' and I press the search button here, see what comes up. Over seven thousand different jobs that are found here! Now, some of these may sound good, some of these might not sound good, but here's what we can do here. We can click just a couple of fields and drastically change these results in our favor.
We can click “Filters,” we can click “Budget”, and select those who are willing to spend $5,000 or more. We can click “10 plus hires” (people who have hired at least 10 people on the platform before). Now that number shrinks to 1,600 jobs that are available here on the platform. We know that every opportunity we see is from someone who's willing to spend a significant amount, or at least a decent amount, and they've hired on the platform before. So these are the right kind of clients.
Let's try something a bit more esoteric perhaps, like Leadership. Let's just see what comes up. So we click Leadership, we find 85 jobs that are available. We can scroll down here. Someone needs a Technical Project Manager: they spent $100,000 on the platform. Another is looking for someone to train their team; they spent 90,000 on the platform. Someone's looking for Conference Planning; they have spent 20,000 on the platform.
Freelance Consulting Jobs are Out There
What have we learned? We have proven to ourselves that there is an opportunity to serve small business clients. We know:
- There aren't just a few small businesses, there are a lot of small businesses. Like, millions of them!
- Those small businesses do buy services to help them grow; and
- We have to do a better job of putting ourselves in front of them, so we can be found.
In our next video, we’ll talk about the “Experts Error” and what hangs in the balance when you get this wrong.
You want to get your positioning correct when you are putting yourself in front of small business owners. Do you want to be seen as someone who is trustworthy, valuable, an expert? Or do you want to be seen as a hustler, or a fly-by-night, seat-of-his-pants salesperson? When you make the Experts Error, you end up in the wrong category.