Starting out in business as an HR consultant (or actually any kind of consultant), getting your first client is perhaps the biggest hurdle and also the most exciting one to cross. Here are our top tips for getting your first client and making sure it’s the right one.
1. Don’t panic
If you don’t get a client immediately, don’t panic and start taking steps outside of your business plan out of desperation. It will happen. If you have a good business model, a good suite of products and services, are fully researched and prepared, are good at what you do and have a solid marketing strategy, clients will come. Maybe not immediately, but if you make it happen, it will happen.
2. Have a long-term plan
If you work with us we’ll come up with a specific marketing plan for you and include in it all the marketing elements you need to do and how you’re going to be doing them.
If you’re working on your own you can and should still come up with a plan. If the plan is right, and properly researched, and executed well, it will work. It might take a while, but trust it and follow it.
3. Quick fixes
The best quick fix is people you already know, who know you are good at what you do. You never know who might know someone who knows someone, so make sure you tell everyone what you are doing, all about your new business, what services you offer and what kind of clients you’re looking for.
Make sure you connect with past colleagues and business contacts on LinkedIn and don’t just click to send a standard invitation, send a personal message.
4. Check what people see when they look for you
Not what you look like (although giving a good, presentable impression when you meet people is important), but what people will find if they search for you online. If a business owner has a need for HR services and is given your name by someone who knows you, it is unlikely they’ll just contact you straightaway. The chances are they’ll probably do a search for you on the internet, check out your website or social media presence and form an impression of you first.
There’s no point your best mate from school knowing someone who needs your services and recommending you if all the prospective client sees when they look for you is dodgy drunken photos on Facebook, an out of date (or non-existent or not visible) LinkedIn profile and an amateurish (or non-existent) website. If people want to find out about you, make sure what they see is what you want them to see.
5. Don’t wait or procrastinate
The phone won’t ring by itself, you need to make it ring, so get out there and do the things you’ve got in your marketing plan.
Although it’s important you’re ready for potential clients in terms of your online presence, business cards, products and services and pricing, there is a balance to be struck and it can be easy to spend more time doing this stuff than actually getting out there. Because of course kidding yourself that you need to spend a bit more time researching, or taking ages designing business cards is much less scary than marketing yourself and fearing rejection, isn’t it?
6. Prepare for prospect meetings
Part of getting your first client isn’t just getting the phone to ring with an enquiry, it is of course to turn that enquiry into a paying client. So prepare for your meeting. Make sure you understand what the client is looking for, do your research about them, and make sure you are confident at explaining your services, your products and your background and experience in a way that will make the client feel confident in you as a prospective advisor.
Don’t be tempted to be self-deprecating at all. That doesn’t mean be over-salesy, but sometimes people can be apologetic about things like only having just recently started in business, or not having had lots of experience in a particular area. If a prospective client feels that you are not confident in what you do, he or she will definitely not be confident in you as an advisor.
Be interested in the client’s business and problem, and be ready (as you would with a job interview) to give examples of when you have successfully handled similar situations before.
7. Be careful about what you accept
This is a tricky one. When you’ve just started, have no money coming in and have probably invested in your business, it is so tempting to grab whatever comes along with both hands. But if the client you grab drains your time, is difficult to manage and hard to work with, and prevents you from concentrating on getting the first good client, it might be shortsighted to leap in.
8. Don’t undersell yourself
One of the biggest temptations when looking for your first client is to slash your fees. This is all part of the “don’t panic” first tip above. No one chooses their HR consultant based on who is cheapest. Those who do will not value you as highly as those who pay a fair price.
Price yourself fairly according to your skills, experience and the local market, and stick to it. You don’t want to win a race to the bottom in terms of fees.
If you’re interested in talking to us about becoming a partner with face2faceHR with bags of support, do get in touch.