Offline Consulting is Really NOT Difficult

28 replies
I had a meeting with a travel agent Thursday who is having a really rough time. At one point he blurts out "I get phone calls all the time but they don't buy and I don't hear back from them". Then he asks me "why?" :rolleyes:

Houston, I believe we have found the problem. (or I should say a main one of many)

Unfortunately we had to end the meeting then because he had a client show up so I couldn't dig any deeper but obviously I will be following up with him. Its amazing how fast time goes by in these meetings.

Bottom line: The more I talk with business owners the more I'm realizing that figuring out their problems is usually very simple if you are willing to ask, listen and think. As some others have pointed out, the opportunity is in the fact that business owners can't or won't implement the solutions.

Learning that has helped me to formulate my new strategy which is using the free consultation to develop a "prioritized profit improvement plan" to get a long term consulting contract to oversee the implementation of the plan which will open up opportunities for back-end sales of other marketing services.

I believe this really gives me a huge advantage over the typical "consultant" selling seo, websites, etc. because most of them never help the business owner understand where their biggest opportunities for improvement are. They're typically just trying to sell seo or whatever.
#consulting #difficult #offline
  • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
    Yes, key point, find the easy and quick
    profit point. Implement it and go for the next easiest.

    You only get it from discovery.

    Best,
    Ewen
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Paul; So, what do you think his problem is? I'm really asking. I think I know what you'll say, and I'll probably agree with you. But I want to know what you think.

      And also, how could you help him?
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    • Profile picture of the author RRG
      Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

      Yes, key point, find the easy and quick
      profit point. Implement it and go for the next easiest.

      You only get it from discovery.

      Best,
      Ewen
      Absolutely.

      That's why I call my consultation a (Deleted) Discovery Session.

      I present it as a 30-minute session, but it almost always goes 90-120 minutes because I ask so many questions that get them talking and divulging the information I need to help them.
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  • Profile picture of the author kenmichaels
    Originally Posted by PaulintheSticks View Post

    I believe this really gives me a huge advantage over the typical "consultant" selling seo, websites, etc. because most of them never help the business owner understand where their biggest opportunities for improvement are. They're typically just trying to sell seo or whatever.
    I am sure it does. Most "consultants" and i use that word loosely, don't know
    the first thing about real consulting.

    Most of them never even owned there own business, nor worked with enough
    businesses to learn anything of significance, or even a specialty area
    where they can be considered an expert, much less a consultant.

    The consultative sales is actually a sore spot with me. Everyone says
    consult, consult, and the sales will flow.

    Yes.. that is true. BUT. If you don't know anything... how do you consult?

    Do you just throw out random ideas and hope they work?

    that can kill businesses dead, businesses that were paying you to lead them
    in the proper direction. To me ... that is a horrible concept and yet ....
    I see the fallout of exactly that every day.

    Not you paul.. i am talking in general.

    Anybody with real skills... even if they aren't the best of the best are still
    light years ahead of most people who call them selves consultants.
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    • Profile picture of the author PaulintheSticks
      Originally Posted by kenmichaels View Post

      I am sure it does. Most "consultants" and i use that word loosely, don't know
      the first thing about real consulting.
      I have to admit, I've really had my doubts and was very leery of calling myself a consultant because I agree, the title has been abused.

      Do you just throw out random ideas and hope they work?
      I think it comes down to prioritizing a businesses opportunities. Go after the low hanging fruit. Many businesses don't even have a customer list or if they do, they don't do anything with it. And then there are the "we sell shoes" ads.

      And you've got to know your limitations and only target those who are within your means to help.

      that can kill businesses dead, businesses that were paying you to lead them
      in the proper direction. To me ... that is a horrible concept and yet ....
      I see the fallout of exactly that every day.
      It is sad. I think there are two issues and they both come down to money. 1. They're not really interested in helping. They're interested in the money. 2. They are good at sales but don't know how to help a business.

      Anybody with real skills... even if they aren't the best of the best are still
      light years ahead of most people who call them selves consultants.
      I'm no guru but I am learning that I can significantly help a large percentage of businesses in my market. If I wasn't confident of that, I would stick with selling websites because I like to get a good night's sleep.
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  • Profile picture of the author PaulintheSticks
    Claude,

    Its obvious isn't it? He needs a website.

    I'm not positive because we didn't get that far but I'm pretty sure there are lots of issues. First I don't think he understands his prospects' buying criteria. And even if he did, I'm confident he hasn't positioned his business to meet those. And even if he did, I seriously doubt that he communicates it to his prospects. Plus he made a comment that leads me to believe he doesn't do any follow up.

    The first thing I would do is get some calls recorded to find out how he is communicating. He's not a very good communicator so general changes there would probably be the fastest way to make a big impact such as trying to understand the prospects needs, etc. And of course a follow up schedule could make a huge impact as well.

    Next, I would get some market data from industry sources and customer surveys to find out his typical customer's demographics to try and nail down the buying criteria so that we could position his business to meet those. And then of course a sales script.

    There are a million other opportunities for him but I think these would have the biggest and fastest impact.

    This guy has been in business for 40 years, has been riding the boom gravy train and has never had to worry about anything other than throwing ads in the paper and answering his phone.

    He tells me he doesn't have any ideas on what he can do better. I love guys like him. They make me look like a genius.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
      Originally Posted by PaulintheSticks View Post

      Claude,

      Its obvious isn't it? He needs a website.

      I'm not positive because we didn't get that far but I'm pretty sure there are lots of issues. First I don't think he understands his prospects' buying criteria. And even if he did, I'm confident he hasn't positioned his business to meet those. And even if he did, I seriously doubt that he communicates it to his prospects. Plus he made a comment that leads me to believe he doesn't do any follow up.

      The first thing I would do is get some calls recorded to find out how he is communicating. He's not a very good communicator so general changes there would probably be the fastest way to make a big impact such as trying to understand the prospects needs, etc. And of course a follow up schedule could make a huge impact as well.

      Next, I would get some market data from industry sources and customer surveys to find out his typical customer's demographics to try and nail down the buying criteria so that we could position his business to meet those. And then of course a sales script.

      There are a million other opportunities for him but I think these would have the biggest and fastest impact.

      This guy has been in business for 40 years, has been riding the boom gravy train and has never had to worry about anything other than throwing ads in the paper and answering his phone.

      He tells me he doesn't have any ideas on what he can do better. I love guys like him. They make me look like a genius.
      Interesting...I hear "I get phone calls all the time but they don't buy and I don't hear back from them"...and I do NOT think "Its obvious isn't it? He needs a website."

      Guess we see everything as a nail when we have a hammer. Me, too. You think about the cold war generals in the 50s and 60s...their solution to everything seemed to be to send the army in.

      Your idea of recording calls is a good one. This might help you.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by PaulintheSticks View Post

      Claude,

      Its obvious isn't it? He needs a website.

      I'm not positive because we didn't get that far but I'm pretty sure there are lots of issues. First I don't think he understands his prospects' buying criteria. And even if he did, I'm confident he hasn't positioned his business to meet those. And even if he did, I seriously doubt that he communicates it to his prospects. Plus he made a comment that leads me to believe he doesn't do any follow up.

      The first thing I would do is get some calls recorded to find out how he is communicating. He's not a very good communicator so general changes there would probably be the fastest way to make a big impact such as trying to understand the prospects needs, etc. And of course a follow up schedule could make a huge impact as well.

      Next, I would get some market data from industry sources and customer surveys to find out his typical customer's demographics to try and nail down the buying criteria so that we could position his business to meet those. And then of course a sales script.
      First...You had me going with that "Website" remark. Well done.

      Yeah, my first thought was that he is asking all the wrong questions when they call in. The problem is, changing what the owner says is difficult. And the owner would have to admit that he is killing sales.
      It would be much easier if there were an employee answering the phone. Someone he could blame, and you could "Fix".

      My suggestion beyond this is...
      Create a series of videos that have him answer questions that travelers ask.
      And have him talk directly to the audience he wants to attract. Videos are a great way to position yourself. Mostly because they show up well in searches, and are watched by prospects.

      But this is just a Band Aid. It's something you could do that would have a price and that may actually help.

      But the real problem is...this guy is killing sales.

      Maybe the callers are also pumping him for information, and then they book on Expedia.com. You could help him work on a script that shows why it's an advantage to book through him...and weave it into the conversation.

      The problem with all this is that the prospective client will have to change the lethargy that he's had all these years. I don't envy you your task.
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      "Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle".....Ian Maclaren
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  • Profile picture of the author bob ross
    I have a a travel agent client and she does really well. She almost exclusively focuses on cruises.

    She's had a strong referral based clientele for years but I have helped her by suggesting she tell her clients "If I can get you a really great deal on this cruise, will you do me a favor and mention me on facebook?"

    I showed her how different it is when you ask that question BEFORE they commit to it rather than after.

    I'm not her consultant, I do a lot of design and print stuff for her, but my advice on facebook promotion has translated into a bunch more business for her.
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    • Profile picture of the author misterme
      Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

      But the real problem is...this guy is killing sales.

      Maybe the callers are also pumping him for information, and then they book on Expedia.com. You could help him work on a script that shows why it's an advantage to book through him...and weave it into the conversation.
      No doubt he's saying the wrong things because obviously calls aren't turning into appointments. They're probably calling in with "how much is...?" and he's probably saying, "$XXXX" - and probably getting a ton of "I have to talk with my husband."

      In addition to knowing what to say, he also needs to know, like Claude pointed out, what's happening behind the call. Because he should be helping the caller to bring up her concerns about the competition, stir that pot a little, and guide her to see him as the answer, closing the doors on the others.

      That's more than a one minute phone call. That's effort and work! I can't tell you how many times I've tweaked my script. And I resent having to go through this whole bunch of effort with every call. But now I always get the appointment.

      So you are in the situation where not only do you need to suss out what's going on, know how to write such a script, but also how to sell the idea of sticking to a script to this guy. This guy who was making money when times were good just because people felt prosperous and you could book business even if you did the wrong things, because in a rising tide economy, all boats go up. But now where you need to be sharp to get business, the old lazy ways don't work. This guy who might say, "Script? I'm not gonna recite some script. That's not who I am yadda yadda."

      It's like having to punch out the drowning guy in order to save his life. Before he kills the both of you.

      Originally Posted by bob ross View Post

      I would think offering a free report such as "Top 5 reasons you should NEVER use online travel sites" might be a great lead generating tool.
      I think it depends on the business relationship the client is looking for. My experience is that if they need to feel happy and upbeat about working with you, then the report has to be happy and upbeat. Fear based marketing sends a negative vibe and that will turn off those people. It has to match.

      So if it's a business where people choose the lesser of two evils, where distrust reigns, then fear based reports can work better. If it's to kill termites, you want the guy who sounds more trustworthy.

      If he points out that his competitors use chemicals which can kill your dog, that's fine. If it's a Bermuda vacation, you want the guy who sounds like he offers the best dream vacation a person can experience. You're not more prone to book him because he says his competitors book hotel rooms that face the parking lot - in fact, that'll sound like he's snarky - but because he tells you about the guaranteed gorgeous ocean view you'll have.

      Originally Posted by bob ross View Post

      She's had a strong referral based clientele for years but I have helped her by suggesting she tell her clients "If I can get you a really great deal on this cruise, will you do me a favor and mention me on facebook?"

      I showed her how different it is when you ask that question BEFORE they commit to it rather than after.
      That's a great idea. I can see why that works better that way.
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  • Profile picture of the author bob ross
    Claude has a great point about creating videos.

    I would also try to get some list building together for him. Travel agents count on recurring business. Keeping in frequent contact with their customers is important even though the purchases can be years apart. Emails and postcards are both great ways to continuously market to their past customers.

    If your prospect is using print ads currently, I would think offering a free report such as "Top 5 reasons you should NEVER use online travel sites" might be a great lead generating tool.
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    • Profile picture of the author PaulintheSticks
      Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

      It would be much easier if there were an employee answering the phone. Someone he could blame, and you could "Fix".
      Yea I thought the same thing. Like most business owners, I'm sure he doesn't understand the "work on your business, not in it" principle though.

      He doesn't seem like he's got a big ego though and seems pretty open minded so he might be willing to change.

      Create a series of videos that have him answer questions that travelers ask.
      And have him talk directly to the audience he wants to attract. Videos are a great way to position yourself. Mostly because they show up well in searches, and are watched by prospects.
      Great idea.

      But the real problem is...this guy is killing sales.
      Yea, we really needs to get down to the root of the problem.

      Maybe the callers are also pumping him for information, and then they book on Expedia.com. You could help him work on a script that shows why it's an advantage to book through him...and weave it into the conversation.
      We talked a little about creating his competitive advantage. He tells me he's price competitive with the online travel companies which I find hard to believe. I'd like to see the numbers.

      The problem with all this is that the prospective client will have to change the lethargy that he's had all these years. I don't envy you your task.
      I'm not so sure I would call him lethargic. He just hasn't had a need to do anything more. Apparently he has been quite happy until the recession started in '08.

      But yea, he's an old dog for sure.

      Originally Posted by bob ross View Post

      If your prospect is using print ads currently, I would think offering a free report such as "Top 5 reasons you should NEVER use online travel sites" might be a great lead generating tool.
      That's one of my lead generation tools and is one of many possibilities for him but why spend money generating more leads when your conversions are the real problem?

      Its kind of like all of the business owners spending money on PPC and SEO to drive traffic to websites that don't convert the traffic into leads.

      If he can't or won't improve his sales skills, lead generation might be one of the things that will help if we can make the numbers work....it just depends on his conversion rate.

      Regardless this is a big project for sure and maybe there's no point in touching it unless he's willing to make a significant commitment like a several month agreement. Of course I'll make it really easy for him to get started with a first month discount and bonuses and the option to quit after a month.

      Maybe I'm too idealistic though and should just take what I can get. :confused: In that case, I would make sure he understands there are no quick fix solutions to his problems. I just really want to avoid having clients that don't get results.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by bob ross View Post

      I would also try to get some list building together for him. Travel agents count on recurring business.
      Probably the best idea yet. Constant contact with existing clients will build an iron cage around them (If the e-mails have substance and are interesting).

      Referrals, and communicating with his base will help keep him from losing clients to the online agencies. And it's easier to sell than "You suck at this and people are just now finding out"
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  • Profile picture of the author bob ross
    For a measly $5 per customer, you can send a postcard out to them every single month for a year.
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    • Profile picture of the author kenmichaels
      Originally Posted by bob ross View Post

      For a measly $5 per customer, you can send a postcard out to them every single month for a year.
      yeah babaaay...

      for 2 ish ... an in your face, bright as heck flyer ....

      OK for real.. no puns intended. Do it right ( as in buy enough or make a good deal with a friend )
      Post cards will only cost around 25 / 35 cents.

      Flyers around ".5"

      none of them will make a dime ... unless you test first.
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  • Profile picture of the author Eddie Spangler
    What kind of financial commitment are you going to shoot for one this one Paul?
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    • Profile picture of the author PaulintheSticks
      Originally Posted by misterme View Post

      So you are in the situation where not only do you need to suss out what's going on, know how to write such a script, but also how to sell the idea of sticking to a script to this guy. This guy who was making money when times were good just because people felt prosperous and you could book business even if you did the wrong things, because in a rising tide economy, all boats go up. But now where you need to be sharp to get business, the old lazy ways don't work. This guy who might say, "Script? I'm not gonna recite some script. That's not who I am yadda yadda."
      Yea I know I've got my work cut out for me if I can get him to make a small commitment and give me a shot.

      It's like having to punch out the drowning guy in order to save his life. Before he kills the both of you.
      lol

      I think it depends on the business relationship the client is looking for. My experience is that if they need to feel happy and upbeat about working with you, then the report has to be happy and upbeat. Fear based marketing sends a negative vibe and that will turn off those people. It has to match.
      Really good observation.

      Originally Posted by bob ross View Post

      For a measly $5 per customer, you can send a postcard out to them every single month for a year.
      That's all I ever used in my retail business and they always worked.

      Originally Posted by Eddie Spangler View Post

      What kind of financial commitment are you going to shoot for one this one Paul?
      I want to make it as easy as possible for him and I'm still debating but I'm leaning toward a highly discounted $400 for 20 hours for the first month ($1000 thereafter). Then I'll throw in 2 bonuses he can keep even if he doesn't continue: 1. A squeeze page ($197 value) since he doesn't have a site (he says he's been burned twice by web guys) and of course a marketing report ($97 value). Plus discounts on other services as long as he sticks with me.

      I definitely have good rapport with him and the trust level is pretty high since he was already an acquaintance. And I had him totally tied down during the meeting. I just wish I would have had the opportunity to close him on the spot.

      I need to structure my meetings better because if I would have managed it better, I might have been able to close him. Going back out there Tuesday to try and close.
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  • Profile picture of the author kenmichaels
    @ PaulintheSticks

    SMS works like gang busters for travel, especially if you give out certs.
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  • Profile picture of the author Tracy411
    Hi guys,

    I see you here talking about the art of really consulting versus offering online services. The two people I've learned a ton from thus far are Jay Abraham ("Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got") & Janet Switzer ("Instant Income"). Anyone new to consulting would get heaps of value out of those two.

    Tracy
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  • Profile picture of the author mjbmedia
    He gets phone calls all the time...................

    where do those calls come from ? (ads, word of mouth, repeat callers, other agents!, forms of marketing?)
    Who are the people phoning him? (geo demos)
    why do those people phone him? (CTA, expectation, local, etc)
    what are they expecting from the call? (to book, info, price searching, )
    Are they getting what they're expecting/ asking for (is he listening, are they even remotely targetted callers)

    He's getting a lot of calls, that may be good, it may be crap, he just needs to target them from where ever and for what ever reason they are calling (marketing), then convert them (sales)

    as you say, not really difficult. But we need the answers to above questions first up else we're stabbing around in the dark.
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  • Profile picture of the author SoundsGood
    Originally Posted by PaulintheSticks View Post

    At one point he blurts out "I get phone calls all the time but they don't buy and I don't hear back from them". Then he asks me "why?" :rolleyes:
    So what's the answer? Serious question, no smiley faces or winkies.
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  • Profile picture of the author ferrazzo75
    Very interesting post.

    I think if you can show Marketing consultant value to your SEO clients they will trust you more before they start gettin ROI
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  • Profile picture of the author ColeWriting
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    • Paul,

      I might be mistaken but it sounds like your client isn't prequalifying the price shoppers before they call him for prices?

      What I mean is, does he have any type of mechanism in place where consumers can go to first, to learn more, before they call him?

      When I refer to mechanism it could be:
      • Calling an 800 number and listening to a prerecorded message and at the end of the message they are given his number should they be ready to hire his service.
      • or being directed to a website where the consumer can download a "Free Consumer Awareness Guide to Hiring a Travel Agent"
      • Those callers that did not call his 800 number he would ask that before they discuss prices he requires they download his "Free Guide" and read it first and if they are still interested they can call him back.
      Prequalifying would reduce his stress, bring him serious buyers and send the tire kickers somewhere else.
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  • Profile picture of the author arvindsingh00
    When you are able to listen someone , then their may be more chances to know his requirement better
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  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    I would guess:

    That he needs good answers to the FAQs on those phone calls.
    I manage a hotel and most calls are quick Q and A and pricing/amenity/stuff to do oriented. I imagine his calls are similar and mostly very predictable questions.
    Here you can work his USPs/knowledge into the conversations. The best way to phrase things, for example, I get lots of question about why we charge for extra people:
    It's just $22 per person for the five people you have. There will be more breakfast consumed, more laundry to do, more cleaning... (I'm sure you could work with him for the best answers to the questions he gets.)

    That he needs an online/offline marketing presence that prequalifies and presells for him.

    And, that a major advantage he should have over the expedias and pricelines
    is accurate knowledge about mileage, transportation available, amenities, inventory (ie. hotel rooms available versus the online travel agencies (OTAs) saying a hotel is sold out because the manager is holding rooms for direct bookings...) and so on. Hotels.com has us inaccuratley close to the legal gambling towns here and they tell us it can't be changed. (Their phone agents also tell inaccurate things of all sorts to our
    guests/prospects - the worst being to tell a guest to take "Oh My God Road" to
    our hotel. A really, really bad idea to tell someone to do at night after a couple of drinks at the casino.)
    ---------------------------
    As far as pricing goes for my hotel vs. the OTAs like expedia, the retail price is the about the same. The OTA's do seem to charge a few dollars more for some kind of
    service fee. We have to pay the OTAs their 15% to 25% comission so we don't do
    discounts like AAA or AARP, so guest who are eligible for our discounts pay more than if they booked through our website or by phone. And, we withhold inventory for direct bookings during peak times. (But, customers do get the rewards points the OTAs offer.)

    I imagine his plusses and minuses are similar - but he's totally out of the picture
    if they go straight through an OTA.

    Dan
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