All entrepreneurs who want to launch or have recently launched their own consulting businesses ask themselves the same question, over and over: How do I get new clients?
It’s the core challenge to starting and running a booming consulting business, and one that, unfortunately, is never entirely resolved. There are plenty of easy answers to this question, but you might not like their implementation.
If I had to make a shortlist of some basic client acquisition tactics you could use to generate new business, I’d say:
- Launch a paid ads campaign
- Do a large marketing stunt
- Open an account in a freelance platform
- Purchase paid media, like magazine ads, in your city
- Network in local events
These tactics are all proven and effective, but they either take some time to get results or require more money than you want to invest at this early stage of your business.
Here at Foundr, we recommend a much faster way to get new clients, one recommended by the mastermind behind our course Consulting Empire, Sabri Suby. It’s the same tactic he used to launch King Kong from his girlfriend’s bedroom and turn it into a multimillion-dollar business in a few short years.
Editor’s note: Sabri Suby is a partner with Foundr and has joined forces with us to create the course mentioned in this post.
Sabri called this tactic the “multimodal outreach” approach.
This has nothing to do with cold calling, a tactic often associated with the sleazy world of movies like Boiler Room and The Wolf of Wall Street.
It does require some emailing and calling, but not in a spammy way. And while it does require some time to implement, if you do it right, you’ll reap the kind of benefits that dozens of our students have.
In this article, we’ll outline the multimodal outreach approach, how it works, and how you can use it to build your own consulting business.
What Is the Multimodal Outreach Approach?
Let’s start with a simple definition. The multimodality outreach is a way of contacting prospects through the combined use of audio, visuals, written content, and screen captures.
This method contrasts with the more traditional cold calling or emailing approaches because with it, you provide value first, show that you’re an expert, and then jump on a call to continue the conversation and, hopefully, secure a new client.
There are two key phrases here that make this approach different than the rest: “provide value first” and “continue the conversation.”
The idea of providing value first means that you do a quick audit or assessment of your prospect’s situation, you diagnose a problem, and offer a solution for free. By doing so, you will get them thinking, “Wow, if they’re giving this advice away for free, I wonder what they’re charging for?“
If you can get through the gatekeepers and decision makers (you will see more on this later), you then need to see if the prospect is interested, ready, and willing to do business with you.
You will not under any circumstances start pitching your services right away; rather, you assess their situation and see if there’s a fit.
If the prospect likes your free service and they’re interested in hearing more, then and only then do you start talking about a potential paid consultation (which is obviously your end goal, but not something to consider at the start of your conversation).
Plan Your Call
To start, you’ll need to make a list of the people who you’ll contact. Your list should have at least 50 companies or clients you’d like to work with. If you have not created an ideal customer (also known as a “buyer persona”), then consider creating one so you can use this information to find them online. But your main tool is going to be Google.
Create a spreadsheet and start adding all the companies you find, including company name, web address, potential contacts, including the name of the person, their position, email address, and phone number.
Sabri Suby recommends creating a data-mining or prospect-gathering job listing in a freelance platform like Upwork so you can speed up this time-consuming process and jump straight to the analysis and pitching.
Make the Analysis
The multimodal outreach approach requires you to analyze a prospect and pitch the solution to the problem you find.
So first, identify the specific services you have to offer, and be crystal clear. Don’t talk about offering “SEO services” or “web design services,” but instead “content-driven link building” or “conversion-focused layout design.”
Next, look for problems you can solve. For example, if I were to do a quick SEO analysis of this Miami Beach hotel, I’d focus on the lack of inbound links this site has, according to SEO tool ahrefs.
Make a list of three to five problems (per prospect) you identify in your online research. The entire analysis should be focused around them. You’re looking for the big problems that, if solved, could become huge profit drivers for your prospect.
In this example, the hotel has almost no external links, the quality of those links is low, and their SEO optimization is generally bad.
Next, write down the problems and the solutions you find and want to offer, respectively. This will make it much easier for you to be clear and concise when recording your video. At most, this shouldn’t take more than a few hundred words.
For this case, I’d outline a local link-building campaign to drive more citations, links, and mentions on local sites. I’d specifically define the sites that I’d approach and the potential change in SEO rankings the hotel could expect to see.
Consider writing everything in a Google Doc so you can send it to your prospect in case they need it. Otherwise, you can carry this out once the prospect is interested in hearing more about your analysis.
When doing this analysis, it’s important to put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and think about their desired outcome. This means that, for example, if you are analyzing a website for SEO issues, you want to focus on increasing their organic traffic or leads, not on changing the title tags. Changing title tags is a part of SEO but it is not the ultimate goal of the client; what they really want is more traffic so they can increase revenue.
Start a Cold Email Outreach Campaign
Once you have done the analysis, you need to launch a cold email outreach campaign.
By this time, you want to have at least 50 companies to pitch with all the data pieces mentioned above. If you can’t get to all 50 companies, you can perform this process “on the go” and keep adding to the list. Make sure to double check the email address of your prospect with a tool like Hunter.io or NeverBounce.
When writing the email, make sure to take some time to personalize each email and sound human. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, but you don’t want to sound like yet another sleazy sales person either.
Sabri recommends sending this email as an opener:
Subject Line: Package?
I’ve found some problems with your and I’d like to send through a package containing a summary, can you spend 5 mins with it?
Reply with a quick yes/no.
Send two or three emails as follow up in the next few days. As you’ve seen above, keep them short and simple.
If the prospect says “yes,” then you need to record and send them the analysis.
Record Your Analysis
Sending a report and calling it a day isn’t the point of the multimodal outreach approach. It’s called “multimodal” for a reason: you send emails with videos.
That’s why once you get a positive answer from one of your prospects, you need to record the analysis you did in the second step.
Practice the analysis a few times and then record it. Remember, done is better than perfect.
You’d want to pitch around 10 clients a day or so, so if you spend an hour with each one just practicing the analysis, you’ll never be able to attract enough prospects.
Both the analysis, the solutions offered, and the explanation must be concise, clear, and highly valuable. If you find most of the prospects have similar problems, then the analysis will be pretty much the same for everyone and will save you a lot of time in this process.
Record your analysis with Loom, the preferred tool of Sabri. Make sure your recording shows your face, something that makes the analysis much more personal and unique.
There’s no right or wrong way of doing this analysis and the recording. Just make sure to focus on the problems—the big pains—that you find, their solutions, and the way you can help without sounding like you’re a salesman.
You are an expert; all you have to do is demonstrate your expertise.
Prepare Your Call
After you have sent your email with the video, you’ll wait for your prospect’s response. If they like it and are interested in hearing more about your analysis, then it’s time to schedule a call.
Send them two potential times to meet so you can overcome any early objections. Again, if you get no answers right away, follow up a few times. Your prospects are busy and they may need to be reminded.
After you get the meeting scheduled, prepare for your call. You want to present a clear action plan and a clarity of thought that surprises and impresses your prospect. You may be tempted to wing it, but don’t. Write a script or make a list of bullet points.
I can’t tell you how much it has helped me to have a sample sales script when doing sales calls. It gives your call structure, it helps you ask the right question (and make you look like a pro), and it helps you get right to the point.
For my sales calls, I’ve used Neil Rackham’s “SPIN” sales methodology, which helps you structure your questions within a four-part process.
- Define the situation
- Define the problem
- Define the implication of not getting the solution done
- Define the need-payoff to qualify the value of the solution
Before doing the call, you want to do 30 to 60 minutes of research. You want to know as much information about the person you’re calling and their company so that you don’t ask questions that you should know the answer from a simple search.
If you’re nervous before you make your first few calls, ask someone to practice with you. Also, change the way you think about sales calls.
Your job isn’t to do a sales pitch; your goal is to learn about the problems and challenges of the person you’re calling. Everyone faces problems, and you need to find the ones that you can solve using your expertise and skills.
Finally, Sabri highlights the importance of following up forever.
The fortune is in the follow up in sales. Only when I get a hard “no” I can then move on. Up until that case we will not be tolerating any maybes or anything like this. This is not a decision they can just put on the shelf and come back to when they’re ready. I need a decision and I will follow up until I get that decision.
Make the Call and Close the Deal
The moment of truth. When all the work you’ve done so far pays off.
One aspect of the multimodal approach that makes it stand out from other more traditional methods (like cold calling) is that you are talking to someone you’ve already shown some value to.
The entire job of this call is to reiterate your analysis, answer questions, and show the way to the solutions you would want to implement in your prospect’s company.
Start the Call
To start, ask them how they currently do whatever it is you offer to reach their goals. Let the decision maker speak. Let them uncover their own pains so you can talk about them and its solution.
For example, you may hear that the prospect has been doing SEO, but the organic traffic isn’t there yet. It’s disappointing. The leads they want to acquire aren’t coming in. It’s a waste of money, and they’re just about to stop doing SEO altogether.
After they’ve explained what they do, ask them if they’re interested in hearing better options.
Following the previous example, you could say that your analysis found a lack of local citations and high-quality inbound links from the industry, which could easily boost its rankings and increase the number of leads.
You want to brief them on how your service would work and how it’d help them with the aforementioned problem.
(Actually, Sabri recommends pitching a “godfather offer” to your prospects, which is a more benefit-driven type of solution. To learn more about that, sign up to Sabri’s free training course.)
Go Over the Analysis
If they’re interested in your offer, then you want to go over the analysis you did and explain all the problems found and what you can do to help them.
Sabri recommends “selling like a doctor.” That is, do a diagnosis of the problems found to see where it hurts. Don’t prescribe any solution until you know what their pain points are, what problems they’re facing, and how they’re currently dealing with said problems.
Further identify what problems they’re experiencing, what they’ve tried in the past, and what hasn’t worked. Probe them with a series of follow-up questions to find out more details about the challenges they’re facing.
The key question to ask in this situation is “tell me more.” You want to ask open-ended questions to find the real needs your prospect has.
Make the Sale
As you get the answers to your questions, you want to start aiming your solutions toward the problems the prospect is describing. If the prospect I’m pitching doesn’t talk about the lack of leads but the lack of traffic, then talk about traffic, and vice-versa.
When you introduce your solution, the client will most likely ask for its cost. In this case, if you already know how much the solution will cost them, or if you offer a productized service with a clear scope and price, then don’t be shy about it.
Sabri recommends giving two to three pricing tiers with its benefits. Then, you want to prescribe one of them specifically to that prospect.
Sabri also recommends leading with the high-tier package to see their response. Ultimately, the goal is to pitch them the middle-tier package—the price of which should be just a little bit more expensive than the low-tier package.
If they select one, as soon as you close the call, send them the proposal and the invoice for the service chosen. Don’t wait too long; strike when the iron is hot.
What If They Say No?
If the decision maker isn’t ready to buy, something that can happen if they don’t trust you yet, you need to show some additional proof. Talk about:
- Your experience
- Results generated for other companies
- The benefits they’d get from your services
- The guarantee you offer (something that, if you don’t have yet, you should create)
- The expected results
If the prospect is still not interested, you can close the call while keeping the relationship friendly and open for future business.
If you do the multimodal outreach approach right, you’ll be 99% above everyone else in your industry. And you never know; the person who rejects you today may end up becoming a client in the future.
The multimodal outreach approach explained in this article is a shortened version of the one Sabri explains in Foundr’s course, Consulting Empire.
In longer tutorials, he breaks the analysis into two parts and goes into more detail about the godfather offer concept. That’s why I recommend you check out our free video series where Sabri goes through this concept and a whole lot more.
At the end of this process, you should have pitched a few dozen clients and have a few opportunities ready to close. It takes time and effort, but it’s a surefire way to build an online consulting business from scratch with little to no ad money spent.
Now it’s time to hear it from you:
What are the biggest challenges you’ve run into while building your own consulting business? Interested in trying the multimodal approach? Let us know how we can help in the comments!