You can’t sell consulting services over the web, or can you?

In the consulting industry, if there’s one thing that causes people to ignore online marketing, it’s the belief that you can’t sell professional services over the web. This is both true and false, so read on if you want to look at this from an entirely different perspective and change your approach to sales pipeline building.

Of course it’s true that people won’t get their credit cards out to buy high priced intangible products that normally have long sales gestation periods and require expert conversations before a deal takes place. However don’t let this fool you into ignoring the stages of the sales and marketing process where the web can make massive contributions, it can shrink sales cycles and automate lead generation by taking people out of the process. What it can do for you is bring more prospects to the table, win their trust and get them deeper into your sales funnel without expensive people ever having met them!

Once you’ve moved to this way of thinking, you’ll have prospects knocking on your door rather than you on theirs, your sales pipeline will be a lot healthier, your expensive people will be better utilized and your cost of client acquisition will be much lower than it is today.

If you are going to move to this mindset you need to work on three key things:

1. Talk in the ‘needs’ language of your target audience.

2. Provide useful information that educates them and earns their trust.

3. Make your website the hub for all marketing campaigns.

Here’s how:

1. Talk in the ‘needs’ language of your target audience.

The buying language of consulting consumers is often very different to the selling language used by consultants on their websites. This results in a misalignment between the buyer and the seller. It’s a common perception that consultants like to talk in complex terms about themselves and their expertise, than they do about the business outcomes they deliver! When your clients go online to do their research, you want to be the one that sings their song and presses their buttons. So if you do your homework and identify with their needs, wants and issues, rather than your products, services and company, then you’ll be the one to grab their attention and bring them one step closer.

2. Provide useful information that educates them and earns their trust.

Most of the time consumers of professional services do a lot of online research to develop their issue or thinking before they decide on their provider. Would you like to help them do their research? You bet! People will lean in your direction if you help them out with valuable information that moves their issue ahead. Consulting is a relationship business, so when they’re ready to buy, you’ll be right up there in their mind as someone they trust to provide the expertise they need. So if you make it easy for them by providing valuable and useful information in the form of white papers, advisory articles, presentations, research reports, podcasts etc. then you’ll be the one they trust and they won’t be reserved in picking up the phone to you.

3. Make your website the hub for all marketing campaigns.

Most consulting firms who have a marketing plan treat their website like a separate strand of activity, along with direct mail, telemarketing, event speaking, sponsorship, advertising etc. The problem with much of this is the difficulty in measuring results. If you make your website the central hub for all marketing activities, then you can measure the return on investment from all of your campaigns. Make sure you’ve got a good visitor tracking tool installed (e.g. Opentracker), build special landing pages for each campaign, automate the delivery of your information products and capture contact information for use in on-going marketing communications. If you do these things you’ll be well on your way to ‘lights out lead generation’!

So is it stupid to think you can sell professional services and consulting over the web?

Well it’s doable for advisory products at a sub $1000 price point, but generally speaking you cannot close a complex deal online. But you can use the web to get your first meeting with a prospect, and if you use this as your main objective then you’ll soon be pushing leads into your sales pipeline with much less effort and cost.