Selling Consulting: 5 Questions Rainmakers Listen For

Ken contacted me through Linked In and arranged a phone call. Selling Consulting 5 questions rainmakers listen for

It started out with him pitching me his publishing services and ended with two questions:

  1. Would I have time for him in my schedule?
  2. What would it cost?

Kate, our sales doyen said, “Like I always say—Never Stop Selling!”

“You’re right,” I agreed. “And I usually just sort of stumble into it.”

“That,” she said, “can be fixed. Think back on the conversation. When did it switch from him pitching you to the other way around? Was there a question that either of you asked that caused things to put you in the seller’s seat? If you’re listening you’ll hear one of these which will make it easy for you to shift the conversation:

  • How do you work? This one is sometimes a general interest question but if it comes after you’ve mentioned some accomplishment for a client means they want a taste of that for themselves.
  • Why do you consult? At a cocktail party it can be an opening gambit but if it comes after you’ve revealed your years in practice or how you acquired your expertise to someone you’ve identified as a prospect… Remember, a prospect is someone that has a problem you can solve, is willing to talk to you and can sign the check to pay you.
  • How many clients do you work with at a time? The clue phone should be ringing if you hear this. Always answer truthfully noting that although you are busy, you have room for another now depending on the time commitment required.
  • What is your hourly rate? They are looking for a way to figure out what it would cost to put you to work for them. Do not answer directly. Yes, a lot of consultants and professionals work on an hourly fee basis and that is what the world expects. My recommendation is to work on a value based or retainer basis with all your clients. Value based means you agree to put together a plan just for the prospect based on the value they assign to solving the problem they have. Normally you will want to give them three options and let them choose. Option 1 solves their problem for an amount that is 10% to 20% of the value they assigned to solving the problem. Option 2 includes option 1 and adds a desirable add-on that will make the solution more effective. Option 3 includes options 1 and 2 and provides additional access to you for more complex and longer term fixes. Frequently, option 3 generates long term retainer agreements that allow you to provide your expertise on an on-call basis. That eliminates the requirement of developing huge proposals and all the time that entails. You still may have to map out how you’re going to handle something but it less of a pitch and more of jointly determined approach.
  • Have you ever worked in my industry? Again, tell the truth. If you have, give them information on successes. Never get into industry politics. Always speak of former clients positively—even if you fired them or vice-versa. The real reason they are asking is their belief that their industry is different. People believe that their industry, state, profession etc. can’t be understood if you don’t work in it. Don’t argue. Instead tell them how you were a total newbie in some industry you have had success in. Explain how part of your approach is to first understand how the industry works and then solve the problem by bringing to bear all the people knowledge and processes you have come to understand working in a spectrum of industries. Or, if you are truly knowledgeable in a specialized area, give them facts, figures and success stories.

All those questions just start the conversation. It’s up to you to take it to a profitable conclusion.

  • If it is in a networking situation either personal or business get agreement to meet at their office.
  • If someone is pitching you, Then decide when you want to schedule a follow-up based on the interest they show. Always follow up. Top sales professionals estimate that beginning and even experienced sales people miss out on 20% to 30% of potential sales just through not following up. Plan to meet with them face to face if possible.
  • If a referral source is asking questions, carefully determine if they will tell you who they are asking for. If they will, orient your answers and questions to that prospect. If not, answer and question and suggest that it might be wise to introduce you to the prospect over lunch, on you, of course. Then, try to get that face to face meeting in their office.

The Takeaway:

Never stop selling! Listen for the questions that suggest more than casual interest in your consulting capabilities. Pay attention to indications that there is real interest in what you do.


Jerry Fletcher’s blog recaps conversations with clients, prospects and the unruly mob of business development professionals he consorts with. They discuss marketing that works from solopreneur to enterprise level. Jerry Fletcher is the ringleader and “Watson” of the dialogue. Sign up for the blog and other publications at:

Jerry has been researching and implementing small business marketing that builds businesses, careers and lives of joy for 25 years as President of Z-axis Marketing, Inc. Learn more at

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