The Consulting “Time for Money” Trap
It was waiting for the 2-hour delayed flight to Chicago that Alex realized something in his consulting business had to change and he was tired of feeding the time for money trap.
This was his third week in a row on the road. And he was tired.
He could say “no”. But I mean, really, what consultant does that?
Besides, he was grateful he was working. Just four short months earlier, he couldn’t even pay the hosting bill for his website.
That’s how it was. Feast, then famine.
But for some reason the feasts were become less and less tasty. All Alex had to sell was his time. And that was in scarce supply.
With family and friends he was leaving behind, what was this consulting gig really providing him – besides money? Besides trading time for money?
How to Break the Consulting “Time for Money” Trap
If Alex’s story sounds familiar, then you’ll want to break the cycle now. The “time for money” trap means that, as a consultant, you don’t have anything to offer but yourself – and your time.
Sure, you’re a smart person. But without your own intellectual property and a productized service, you’re left flying on plane, being on the phone, or giving your hours to a client who is just basically a surrogate employer.
That’s right. You’re an employee after all. And a slave to time for money.
5 Steps to Break the Consulting “Time for Money” Trap
Here’s what you need to do to break the trap.
- Find a 6-Figure Problem You Can Solve
- Describe a Compelling Big Outcome Your Client Wants
- Create a Proprietary Process for Achieving that Outcome
- Design a Scalable Delivery Mechanism to Lead that Process
- Validate Your New Offering by Selling It
These are your steps to scale your business. To literally make more money by doing less.
Step 1: Find a 6-Figure Problem You Can Solve (and stop trading time for money).
One of the biggest mistakes consultants make is aiming too low. If you want to break the consulting “time for money” trap, you have to break out big time. Focusing on small problems and minor fixes will not do it for you.
There is a direct correlation between price and value. When things are low-priced, they are often of low value.
We inherently know that. When we hear that something is cheap, we think, “what’s the catch?”
On the flip side, we care about things we invest in – deeply. This dynamic is especially true with business services. Companies that invest in things, implement them.
In order for you to have something you can charge a lot of money for, you have to be providing big value. You have to find that big pain point your client is willing to pay serious money to make go away.
That is what I call the 6-Figure Problem. That’s a problem your ideal client thinks is costing him or her at least $100,000. Something they’d be willing to pay at least $10,000 to solve.
How Do You Find Your 6-Figure Problem?
Often, consultants find that they solve a smaller problem, but need to change it in order to make it a 6-Figure Problem. This will help break you out of the time for money trap.
There are 3 major ways of doing that:
To “complete” means to take your solution to the end result. Perhaps you design websites. Completing that effort would be helping your client actually make more money with that website.
Anything you can do to help your client achieve a tangible result builds upon your existing service to solve a complete 6-Figure Problem.
To “expand” means to take a look at activities happening before and after you engage. Perhaps you do HR training. What is happening before the client decides to hire a trainer? Can you engage in the preparatory work that identifies training as a need? What is happening after the training is delivered? Can you help the client ensure the training “sticks” and people follow through on what they’ve learned?
By occupying the activities before and after you deliver your current service allows you to build out a fuller 6-Figure Problem.
To “support” means to make sure your client can actually use what you’ve delivered. Most often, this is needed when a consultant delivers a tangible service – like marketing materials or training. What can you offer your client so that they get the full benefit of the product you delivered? Is there additional training, follow-up, and guidance? Can you offer accountability so that your client actually uses the new product?
When you deliver a tangible result, there is no guarantee your client will get the benefit from it. Supporting that product before and after delivery offers a solution to a broader 6-Figure Problem.
Step 2: Describe a Compelling Big Outcome Your Client Wants
Once you’ve determined what your 6-Figure Problem is, you need to describe it in a way that’s compelling to your future client.
Your client wants to hear what’s in it for them. Your description should not focus on you and what you do, but instead on the outcome for the client.
4 Parts to the Big Outcome Statement
I use a formula called the Big Outcome Statement to describe the 6-Figure Problem to my prospect. It has 4 parts.
First, identify the true fears of your ideal client. If you want to break up with the time for money trap, this is critical.s Ask, what is keeping them up at night? Be detailed. It’s not enough to talk about generalities. You need to demonstrate that you understand the deep-seated concerns and worries of your potential client.
Once you’ve identified them, use a rhetorical device called “You know how…” This phrase immediately conveys two things. First, you are “with” your prospect; you get it and immediately identify with them in the fear and pain you’re about to describe. Second, you eliminate those who “don’t get it.” If a non-ideal prospect reads that and can’t say “yes, I do know,” they will likely stop reading. This qualification step helps you spend less time with those who will waste your time and kick the tires during the sales process.
Second, you need to paint a positive picture of the future – after the pain goes away. The nice thing is, this is pretty easy. You just need to find the opposite of the pain point you just created.
I like to start this section with the phrase “Imagine instead…” Again, this phrase conveys two things. First, it asks your prospect to stop and think for a second. By spending time imagining, your prospect connects emotionally with the message. This may happen quickly and subconsciously, but it’s important nonetheless. Second, the word “instead” contrasts the vision with the future. Your prospect can have this new future instead of the painful present.
By the way, this is the easy part. Simply take every pain point you used in the first step and reverse it. If you said, “you know how it’s difficult to keep your team organized” you use the phrase “imagine instead that your team is not only organized but proactively finding ways to get out in front of the next challenge.” Do that with each of your statements from step 1 and you’ll have a killer “imagine instead” block.
Third, we need to make it personal. You’ve just spent time creating what marketers call a “gap.” This gap represents the distance between today and some glorious future where the pain goes away. Now you need to put your prospect squarely in the gap.
I like to do that by asking, “what would that mean for you?” Following up on that question with more specific versions hammers the point home even more. For example, “what would that mean to you if…” or “what would that outcome mean to you?”
Finally, we have to put some meat on the bones. It’s not enough to create a gap. We need to give our prospect the knowledge that we know how to fill that gap. We can’t fill it now. But leaving them with just a gap breeds skepticism. You don’t want your prospect to think you’re all talk.
But remember, your prospect doesn’t care about your program or services yet. It’s still all about them. So I use a formula called “THIS so THAT” in order to communicate that I have a program all while staying focused on what the prospect cares about.
THIS so THAT is a “fill-in-the-blank” formula. THIS is a feature of your offering while THAT is the benefit they get. For example, I might say: “An onsite wellness training program so every employee has the tools to stay healthy.” The onsite training is THIS while the healthy employees is the THAT. The THAT – or the benefit – is the only thing your prospect cares about. But we offer the THIS so that they know this isn’t just vapor.
I suggest you use 3 really solid THIS so THAT’s.
Let me put this all together for you in an example so you can see what a really good Big Outcome Statement looks like.
I offer a High-Ticket Consulting Bootcamp for consultants ready to pivot their business model to a scalable one and want to grow a 7-figure business out of it. This is the Big Outcome Statement I use for that program.
You know how consulting firms are always chasing revenue? It’s one good month followed by three bad ones. You know you should be making more money, but you just don’t know how. Because even when you land a new client, it seems like you’re just not keeping pace. You’re barely staying put. And it feels like if you take your eye off the ball for just one moment, you’re going to go broke.
Imagine instead you never had to worry about revenue again. Imagine there were no more bad months. You have a plan to make more money that you thought possible. You’re landing clients with ease and each one propels you forward. Your business is stronger than ever and you finally have the time back to do the things that really matter to you and your life. And you’re confident your business will run without you.
What would that mean to you? What would it mean to be running a successful consulting business? To have the cash to do what you want? To have freedom – finally!
I fix that.
An in-demand consulting offering so you never have to worry about cash flow again.
A lead generation machine so you never wonder where the next client is coming from.
A scalable business model so you can get your life back.
Step 3: Create a Proprietary Process for Achieving that Outcome
If you want to abandon your trading time for money, a major challenge of selling consulting services is getting the prospect to believe you can actually help them achieve that outcome. You need to provide a clear and understandable process that gets your client from where they are today to where they want to be.
Think of it as the GPS of your consulting practice. You need to give clear turn-by-turn directions.
Experts agree that the human brain can only handle a few things at a time. Your process needs to acknowledge those capabilities. Create 3 to 5 clear steps that show how you work with your client to create the outcome they want.
It’s not enough to just say “step 1”. That step needs to be defined and come with rewards.
Each stage needs:
- A description; what actually is done during this stage,
- A finish line; how your client know when they’re done, and
- A prize; why your client should do the work in the first place.
Your client needs to know when they’ll be done with each stage and what they get in return for their work. In consulting, we often call this “ringing the bell.” You need to outline a “win” for your client every so often (at least every 90 days) so they continue to feel the forward momentum of the work.
For example, if you provide marketing strategy consulting, perhaps the first stage is to define the goals of the campaign. Your first stage is complete when your client completes their “marketing goal strategy guide” and their prize is that they have 1 clear goal and the outlined step-by-step strategy to achieve that goal.
Make your finish lines clear and tangible. Make the prizes valuable.
The combination of 3 to 5 solid stages, along with finish lines and prizes, make your consulting practice far stronger than most. You will be able to clearly state exactly what you do and how it gets done.
Step 4: Design a Scalable Delivery Mechanism to Lead that Process
You do not want to personally walk each of your clients through the process. That’s just not a good use of your time and it would artificially stump your company’s growth.
You need to deliver the promise of your program in a scalable way – in a way so that when you take on a new client, it literally doesn’t add one more minute of work for you.
Does that sound impossible? It’s actually very possible – when you utilize the 5 building blocks of scalable program delivery.
All good scalable programs are basically built out of five major components that you need to pick and choose from to design your own.
- Virtual training,
- Group coaching,
- Done-for-you services, and
- Live events or workshops.
Virtual training is perfect for delivering skills to your client. You should not be spending your time teaching skills to each and every client. Record the training and offer it on-demand.
This is a commonly used component of program delivery. The problem is, it’s usually not enough. More often than not, your consulting program is going to require mentorship and accountability – something virtual training cannot deliver. But for those stages of your program that are all about skill development, virtual training is a great component.
Masterminds are probably the most often misused group program delivery vehicle. Too often I hear new authors say, “I just published my book; now I’ll start my mastermind.” Masterminds are small groups constructed for networking and personal growth of the members. The leader facilitates discussions, but doesn’t take over. Each member of the group makes commitments and they hold each other accountable to keep those commitments.
Mastermind expert, Jay Fiset, teaches that the optimal size of a mastermind group is somewhere between 9 and 12. Thus, while masterminds are great tools for networking and shared accountability, they are most often small. Be prepared to start several of them in order to grow your business while keeping the group dynamic optimal.
Group coaching is a broad category of group interaction dynamics that allow you, as the group leader, to guide group members. Since interactions vary from group phone calls to webinars to online forums, there are a lot of ways of putting a group coaching program together that will work for your clients. The general idea is to create a large group (greater than 12) that look to you, as the group leader, to mentor each member and allow for shared accountability.
The biggest decision here will be to find logistics that work for the group. What format will your discussions take? What agenda will you use? How often will you meet? Will you allow for personalized or one-on-one interaction? Poll your audience to find out what they prefer.
Done-for-your services are the most misunderstood component of scalable programs and breaking from from trading time for money. Done incorrectly, they are the opposite of scalable; they trap the owner into being an employee of each client business. The idea behind done-for-you services is for your business to shortcut your client’s progress along the path to their desired outcome by simply doing one of the steps for them.
That idea means two things. First, the done-for-you service shouldn’t be the full purpose of the program you offer. It should be one thing of many you do to ensure your client gets the outcome they are looking for. Second, the done-for-you service should be something so basic you can easily staff for it or outsource. If it involves advanced skill that you would struggle to staff for, then it’s a bad example of a done-for-you service.
Website development or marketing services are great examples of done-for-you services, as are training or workshop delivery. Make sure that scope is well defined and does not creep. Otherwise, you’ll end up creating custom solutions for each client – contrary to your goal for a scalable offering.
Live events or workshops are a unique way to connect with a group of clients all at once. The dynamic at a live event is unique. You can teach skills and mentor your group at the same time. The logistics and planning for live events are tricky and require someone with some experience in this area. Done right, though, live events solidify client relationships and often result in increased revenue.
Make sure you use live events or workshops judiciously. Don’t substitute them for what could simply be virtual training. The live event allows for deeper interactions. Without planning on taking advantage of those interactions, you’ll miss out on the benefits of the format. Again, I highly suggest you work with an expert here.
The trick of leverage the 5 building blocks of scalable programs is to put the pieces together in just the right way. Analyze the need of your client in each stage. Do they require skills, accountability, or mentoring? Then choose the delivery vehicle that meets the need.
Too often, entrepreneurs build a program off of how they want to deliver rather than aligning delivery with what your client actually needs to be successful. That’s like the tail wagging the dog. Put first things first and design the program right the first time.
Step 5: Validate Your New Offering by Selling It
So you have a new product, do you? What now?
Now, you validate it. Is this program interesting to your ideal client and will it sell at the price you’ve set?
There’s only one way to find out. Don’t ask. Sell.
Look, the hard truth is, a lot of people will tell you that they will buy something. But you never really know until they actually give you cash.
Cash is king. Cash tells you you’ve got something there.
Line up about 20 conversations with people you know who are ideal clients for this. If you don’t know 20 people, then you have some networking to do. Personally, I recommend using Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid(R) Networking Strategy. But if you’ve been working in this field for awhile, you probably know 20.
What is the script for your sales conversation? Basically, it’s your Big Outcome Statement.
The key to high-ticket sales conversations is to turn the power around. I learned this concept from my dear friend and colleague Francine Graglia. “You are the prize.”
Get that? Your client isn’t the prize. You are.
After you’re done with each step of the Big Outcome Statement, ask your prospective client what they think. Is this aligned with what they want?
If they say yes, ask permission: “would it be okay if I explained how I make this happen?”
Upon a “yes”, you then explain your Proprietary Process. Explain each stage, what it involves, how you know you’re done, and what you get because of it.
Now ask your prospective client: “can you see how this process would help you achieve that outcome?”
Again, you’re looking for a “yes.”
To turn the power around, we don’t sell, we invite. When someone turns down our invitation, it’s not as personal to us. We think, “okay, no biggie.”
The magic words: “I run this as an exclusive, invitation-only program. I guard it carefully to make sure that anyone who begins the process is in a good position to succeed. I don’t want to set anyone up for failure, so it’s not open to the public. I believe you’re a great candidate for the program because [insert reasons here.] I would like to invite you to join the program.”
There will be questions and maybe even some concerns. Handle each one and fall back on the invitation. Either they take you up on it, or they don’t.
But, if you’ve done the work right and truly captured the fears and aspirations of your target market, designed a program that clearly gets your ideal client to their desired outcome, and built a network of people who like and trust you, you will sell this program.
If you execute this correctly, you can add $30k – $50k in your pocket in 90 days. My clients have and so can you.
How Do You Begin?
You begin with a single step. Make the decision. The decision to stop trading time for money.
Make the decision today that you will no longer be a slave to project-based consulting engagements that sap your time and energy. Make the decision that from here on out, you will work with clients in a way that delivers big value to them and honors your time and priorities.
It’s possible if you want it badly enough.
Join a group of consultants who want this just as badly as you do. Our Facebook group, Scale to Success, is dedicated to management consultants who want to finally break out of their “time-for-money” business model and create scalable revenue. You can join it here for free.