Podcast

Episode: 448 |
Melisa Liberman:
Coaching Independent Consultants:
Episode
448

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Melisa Liberman

Coaching Independent Consultants

Show Notes

Melisa is a former corporate tech executive turned management consultant and coach. She built and led a global professional services organization for a SaaS startup, before establishing her own coaching business where she helps consulting business owners increase their revenue. 

In today’s episode, she talks about identifying potential clients, pursuing leads, and the Independent Consultant’s Toolkit. 

You can learn more about Melisa’s services from her website, www.melisaliberman.com, tune in to her podcast at www.melisaliberman/podcast, check out The Independent Consultant’s (IC) Toolkit, and connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

Key points include:

05.59: Marketing content headlines

10:22: How Melisa works with her clients

16:48: Aligning business methods

21:32: Ways to stay top of mind

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

 

  1. Melisa Liberman

 

Will Bachman 00:01

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m excited to be here today with Melissa Lieberman, who is a coach to independent consultants. Melissa, welcome to the show.

 

Melisa Liberman 00:17

Thanks for having me. Well, I appreciate it.

 

Will Bachman 00:20

So first thing I’m going to say is, I am really impressed with the amount of content the quality of the content that you have on your website. I know you also have a podcast that’s also on the website. And just mean their lead magnets, right? Let’s Let’s, you know, say that but they’re, they’re nice ones. They’re good stuff. So tell us a little bit about what some just give us the URL of your site, and then just list off half a dozen or so of the downloads and checklists and workbooks and so forth on your site to give listeners a sense of that.

 

Melisa Liberman 00:57

Yeah, thanks. Well, I appreciate the compliment. So my website is Melissa lieberman.com. It’s missing a lot of letters. So hopefully, we can put the link in the show notes. But what I’ve created on my website is something I call the independent consultant check toolkit. So the icy toolkit, and in there, I have a lot of different workbooks that you that you refer to. So a few of the examples would be a, a, basically a process that helps clients and anyone who downloads it, create a robust pipeline in 26 minutes per day. So that’s a workbook that walks you through to create a process where you’ve got a really, you know, a consistent but efficient business development process for your consulting business. I also have one that is a list of income producing activities, so you know, different ideas of what you could be doing as an independent consultant to, to ensure that you’re filling up that pipeline and, and not doing the busy work, but actually focused on what would be income producing. So that’s another example. I also have an example of seven, a workbook that walks you through the seven mistakes to avoid the feast or famine cycle in your consulting business. And another one is the 25 ways to motivate your ideal consulting prospect to meet so to get on an initial call with you. A lot of times that’s the I think one of the biggest challenges like getting that conversation started with a potential prospect getting their attention, getting them to the place where they want to talk with you as as a potential consultant and not avoid you as someone they might think is trying to sell something to them. And then another workbook is the first call game plan. So it’s an it’s a workbook that walks you through setting your agenda and your approach for that first call. So that ultimately leads into, you know, a really good connection with that potential client and next steps. And then the last one I’ll share with you is, is a workbook that helps you really hone in on and identify your ideal client type so that you know you’re pursuing business, that’s really business that you ultimately want, and not getting into a situation that so many independent consultants do, which is really having to settle for business that comes to them that is either, you know, results in them not making as much money as they should or working more more hours and they really ideally want to so helping helping you to take control of that process. And I did identify your ideal client type. So those are a few of the examples of those freebies in that icy

 

Will Bachman 03:53

toolkit. Yeah, that’s fantastic. I you’ve done a much better job on on branding and, and giving those catchy titles than I think if my content I noticed that using some of the the, those good thumb rules like giving it enough like a listing with a number you know, the 25 ways of the seven ways that’s great or 26 minutes like how did you come up with 26 I guess it’s it sounds more precise and exact then no 30 minutes a day, right?

 

Melisa Liberman 04:25

That’s right and a little bit late gives you four minutes to go get a cup of coffee. Yeah, you know, it’s funny you say that because I when I was in corporate I was focused on the you know, on the delivery side, I was focused on implementation and operations, you know, running those organizations. And at one point the CEO called me sales repellents. He marketing was never you know, whenever marketing needed something it felt like kind of fluffy and a non value add and so I always had this kind of love relationship with the sales and marketing, I love the people but the functions themselves were felt like barriers to me in a lot of ways when I was in corporate and so becoming, you know, an independent business owner, it’s it’s been really fascinating to see how much of that I had to unravel and, and rebuilds in order to be successful in what I do.

 

Will Bachman 05:22

Let me let me just follow up on that. So you, you really do have a knack? I mean, if you just look on your IC toolkit, these are great titles and names and, you know, makes me want to dive in and explore all of them and download them. Do you have some thumb rules? Or of coming up with titles for your content? Do you have the 12 rules for coming up with great, you know, content headlines? Or tell me about that a little bit? how you’ve done this? Do you test them? Do you do some SEO on them and figure out which one’s gonna work better? Or how have you come up with these titles?

 

Melisa Liberman 05:59

Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think this applies to the consultants who might be listening here as well, which is, I talk I love talking to other other consultants, who would potentially be you know, either be my ideal client or work in this in this, you know, industry. And so I just, I love talking to them, I love hearing the, the phrases that they use, I write all of that down. With my existing clients, I write down the challenges that they’re having, I would never share anything’s, you know, confidential, of course, but just capturing those phrases that you might kind of take for granted, or might seem really, you know, kind of simplistic in a way, those are the things that are to me gold, and so that’s what I write down as I’m, I just kind of have my this little notebook that I use with all of those different phrases. And that’s what I use to create content for myself, and I found for my clients that this is, you know, works really well for them as well as their, as they’re working to create a reputation and be sought after for as the, you know, as a consultant for the work that they do. Being able to create, you know, capture those same types of titles, little free, you know, phrases that their clients use, and be able to really connect with and understand what the actual problems are that people want to be solving. That’s the approach that I use.

 

Will Bachman 07:32

Yeah. And let’s just talk about your podcast a little bit as well. Tell us about some of the episodes on your show. And we’ll also make sure to include a link in the show notes here to your show on iTunes. But tell us a little bit about your show, and some of the episodes that you’ve done that you felt really good about.

 

Melisa Liberman 07:53

Oh, thanks. Well, yeah. So in April, I started a podcast, it’s called grow your independent consulting business podcast. And it was really born out of a weekly lunch and learn that I had live every single week on every Friday, for almost a year. And I really enjoyed just creating content for people, actionable strategies for people. And so that’s really the impetus of the podcast. And so every week, I, you know, think about what challenge could could my ideal clients be facing right now. And a lot of times in my, you know, the people that I work with are independent consultants, as well. And I help help them create sustainable businesses where they’re doubling their revenue. And I’m able to do that without working so much. And so I really think about what might they be struggling with this week, and, and then I write my episodes around that. And so a few examples are, you know, how to set and adhere to client boundaries that one’s been really popular I think a lot of us struggle with, after we land a client’s really, really maintaining boundaries that are beneficial to both you know, our selves and our own, the time we want to work but also to the client and what they’re trying to accomplish. And also a few others are popular examples are four reasons why your consulting pipeline is dry. And a lot of times we think our consulting pipeline is dry just because we haven’t, you know, have we’re working on on client delivery. And so we just haven’t had a chance or it’s not, it’s not necessary to be working on building a pipeline. And so I walk walk you through in that episode, the real reason why your pipeline is dry, it’s not because of lack of time or the timing isn’t right. And, and walk through a process to to always keep that pipeline going and work coming coming in so that you don’t have that feast or famine cycle. So Those are a few, a few examples. Well,

 

Will Bachman 10:02

great. Tell us about your mode of working, do you work in group sessions? Or do you work one on one with people, if it’s one on one is it ad hoc or a weekly call is tell us a little bit about the structure of, of how people engage with you.

 

Melisa Liberman 10:22

Yeah, I work one on one with my clients. So I find that a lot of times as independence and consultants, we feel like we should know, we should know so much and for and it becomes kind of it becomes, it becomes stressful to have to admit to a group of people that you you don’t necessarily have everything together in your business. You know, on the delivery side, most of the time, my clients are very successful and really good at what they do, and provides so much value to the client. But on the business side of it owning their own business and wearing all the C level hats in their business, that’s the part where a lot of times they’ve got gaps and holes. And so I like to create a one on one environment with those clients where they can really bring me anything that might be a challenge to them, a lot of times it, imposter syndrome comes up, for example, where they feel like, you know, someone’s gonna find out that they actually don’t know what they’re doing in their business and, and maybe even on the consulting side, they don’t know, necessarily, they probably were a little bit like me in their corporate world where they were, you know, sales repellent of some sort or just never had to sell. And so I really walk them through a process, where by we create all of the infrastructure that they need. And that infrastructure is a combination of the strategy and the mindset and the tactics and process required to run a successful business to grow that business without having to hire a bunch of subs to do it, and not have to work, you know, work hourly, in order to accomplish your, their, you know, revenue goals. So we we work one on one, and we meet weekly. And as set when we first start working together, we set up set their goals, we really dive into what their specific challenges are. So it’s not kind of a prescribed course, in that way, we really tailor what it is that they need to be doing and changing and adding and adjusting in order to meet their own goals, both from a personal perspective and a business perspective. So we lay out that whole plan, and then we work together weekly to execute it. And to really, I help them uncover challenges that they that you know, uncover and diagnose challenges that they’re hitting and facing, so they can overcome those. And I also help them to see the blind spots that they may not recognize, but I know are they’re just having done this myself and also worked with so many other clients in their in their shoes.

 

Will Bachman 13:06

So if you if you don’t have a standardized program, maybe you could give us an example of what a plan might look like. Maybe you could slightly sanitize an actual plan for one of your clients to walk through. Let’s say you’ve met with someone, you’ve done the diagnostic, you’re you’re going to walk the person through the plan for the next X number of weeks or months. What would that plan look like?

 

Melisa Liberman 13:34

Yeah, sure. So I do have a framework, it’s called the double method. And so it’s so it’s a framework, a loose framework that I use as, as I coach with my clients. And the reason why it’s called double is that I helped the consultants double their revenue without working anymore, a lot of times they work less. And so using that loose framework, I pick and choose from the different strategies in order to tailor it to those specific clients to that specific, specific, specific client’s goals and challenges. And so to give you an idea of what that looks like, we start off and get really clear on what their business goals are, what time off they want to have, how many hours a week they want to work, how many months a year or weeks a year, they want to work, how much revenue they want to drive, how much profit they want to drive. So we get really clear on what the ultimate goals are. And you would be surprised that how many consultants don’t haven’t done the math, the simple math to figure out how do I reach these revenue goals? How do I reach these profit goals and really look at their business in that way versus you know, how, just taking the jobs as they come and hoping that they that they you know, reach or exceed their corporate salary essentially. And so we start off with that detailed business planning and then From there we work through. And of course, this is tailored depending on where the clients at and what they’ve already what they already have in place. But for a lot of clients, they don’t yet have a specific target of who their ideal client is and what their service offering is for those clients, one that matches back to those business goals. And so I help them really dig in and figure out what do they want to productize in what they do, so that they can sell that in a value based pricing model versus having to work hourly. And, and then once we’ve got that really strong offer in place, then we work on what I call the aligned marketing method. So there’s so many different methods of marketing a consulting business, and so we really work together to figure out what would resonate with their ideal client, and what do they want to be doing, you know, I love creating podcasts and writing, you know, writing articles and freebies, and that kind of thing. Other people don’t like that type of thing, or it wouldn’t be appropriate for their ideal client. And so we really look at what all the universe of methods are out there for a marketing approach, and then dial that in for their specific business model. So those are a few examples of some of the initial work that we do together.

 

Will Bachman 16:22

Yeah. Talk to me about some of the business development methods that you are most commonly kind of aligning on with, with your clients of what they agree to do. You know, whether that’s starting to create content or whatever, I’m curious to hear what you found. People saying, Yes, I want to do that, and what sort of results are they getting?

 

Melisa Liberman 16:48

Yeah, the old, one of the best ways and the and the easiest kind of to overcome any, any resistance to is just old school, networking, just getting on the phone with people that you you have know, in your network already and haven’t talked to in a long time, getting on the phone with new people and meeting them and connecting them to, you know, to resources that might help them as well as to, you know, to anyone that might help you as a consultant. So old school networking, I think a lot of people avoid that, because they feel like it’s time consuming. They, they might feel introverted. So they don’t necessarily want to do that. But once we get past some of those barriers and misconceptions, and get into a routine, networking is a really powerful way to build a pipeline, you probably have people in your network who you know, already that have consulting work or connections to consulting work that a lot of times I find, you know, but when I start working with clients, they’ve overlooked that low hanging fruit. And then the other method that I find to be really valuable is what I call the influence adoption method. And that is really where you’re finding, you’re finding organizations that, that somehow have accumulated all of your, you know, a good chunk of your ideal client type. So for example, it might be like a, you might, you might sell what you do to a CTO of a midsize company, just as an example. And so finding organizations where that those CTOs would be, you know, an audience member of is really valuable, because you’re speaking for example, like the my consultant clients will speak to those organizations or offer them articles or, you know, offer other ways assessments to come in and help provide value to the organization because they’re a subject matter expert. And in turn, it gives my client really easy access to those decision makers to develop a relationship with them. And, you know, kind of a pre baked sense of authority, you know, authority or reference, if you will.

 

Will Bachman 19:17

Can you share any examples of some business development approach that one of your clients has tried that did not work the way expected? It’s always interesting to hear. I mean, I’ve had my share of things that I, you know, tried and just flopped. What, what are some things that people have tried and just for them, it didn’t work work so well.

 

Melisa Liberman 19:40

Yeah, that’s a great question. What I find is a lot of times, consultants will come to me and say, and as we look at what they’ve been doing, they’ve been trying to replicate. B does c type, methods, business to consumer type, meth marketing, methods in their b2b business, and it doesn’t work. So, for example, running Facebook ads, running Facebook ads is not you could probably land a client here or there but clients who have come to me and said i’ve you know, I’ve been running Facebook ads and I’m not getting any results. It that’s because that’s a business to consumer method not a business to business method. I think another really good example are there a lot of coaches out there teaching, you know, kind of mass, direct mass marketing on LinkedIn direct messages. And, and unless you’ve got a really high volume of messages going through a process, it’s really hard to get the attention of decision makers and get them you know, to agree to an initial meeting through those types of methods.

 

Will Bachman 20:55

Yeah. What are some of the ways that you recommend to independent consultants to just stay top of mind? You can certainly do the you know, the networking, like you refer to just outbound calls, checking in with people, but you can only call your former coworker, your former classmate, you know, so many times per year before they say, Yeah, okay, this is getting a little weird, you know, it’s great chatting, but let’s get a little weird. So same Top of Mind, either by a newsletter or by social media, or what have you. What are some things that you’ve seen work really well?

 

Melisa Liberman 21:32

Yeah. So what I’ve seen work really well are tactics or strategies, such as creating our posts on LinkedIn, that keeps you top of mind, once, you know, once a week, a couple times a week, I’ve seen people doing interviews on LinkedIn and using if you’ve got LinkedIn live, that tends to be a really good way to keep top of mind. Twitter is, is a good way to keep Top of Mind if you’re you know, there’s a lot of business users on Twitter. And, and so really creating, thinking about what platform is your ideal decision maker on another one would be hosting an executive Roundtable, once a month or once a quarter. And then, and then creating content and articles related to that, to dry it, you know, to to make people aware, even if you’re not able to invite everyone, it might be a really selective Roundtable, but using those types of events that you might be doing, or speaking at a conference, using those as a way to really demonstrate your, you know, your authority and your knowledge as as well as a way to kind of center your content around something and that then you’re not having to think of a new topic every week or every month.

 

Will Bachman 23:01

Yeah. Now, I know, one consultant who’s done executive roundtables pretty successfully, she actually organizes some very large events. Amanda satelli, she’s been on the show here a couple times. But beyond Amanda, I don’t know a lot of people who have managed to actually pull that off and, you know, organize an executive roundtable to actually get executives to show up. And I mean, I definitely I promoted the idea and suggested to lots of people, but I don’t know many people that have done it. Can you tell me some stories about consultants who have done that? And what are some practical factors? Like how many people? How do they get them to show up? Like, what topics? What’s the venue? Is it zoom? Is it in person? You know, how do you? How do you as a practical matter, make those happen? And what sort of some of the collateral that you’d send out ahead of time? And how do you follow up afterwards? It just Just tell me about that, because I’ve seen very few people do those successfully.

 

Melisa Liberman 24:05

Yeah, I think that first Well, the first barrier to being successful, that you’re that you would want to overcome if you want to host an executive roundtable or a lunch and learn or a power lunch, like I used to host like those kinds of things. Um, the first barrier to overcome, what I found with most clients is a confidence barrier. So really, really owning the fact that you are an expert in your field that people will want to come in here, you know, be part of an organization have some kind of a mechanism or event like this, and that you do have value to bring to them and really focusing in on that because what I find a lot of times, is especially as we become independent consultants, and we lose the title that we had in corporate, you know, the VP of whatever, or the VP Have this and that kind of gravitas and, and driver that is associated to it, a lot of times we think, well, no one’s going to want to talk to me, they don’t even know who I am, or I don’t have this title or this company name behind me anymore. And so the very first thing that I recommend doing is on a mindset side is really getting getting to the place where you feel confident that you have the ability to host something like this and add value to the people who are attending. And then after that, on a more practical fronts, zoom, as you know, is a great way to start, you know, it all depends on your industry, and that kind of thing, or location, and what you’re targeting as a consultant. But bringing people together over zoom right now is still a really effective way, because there’s so much less investment of time and effort, right. And so bringing people on, on onto a zoom platform is always a great way to start. And eventually you may want to, I’ve had clients transfer that into a in person, periodic in person, but starting off virtually can be really valuable. And then, you know, really, really starting, it’s kind of like building a fire, like you start off with a few core individuals that you know, would benefit from each other, perhaps you’ve got a couple of past clients who have been, you know, struggling with something that is a common, you know, common set of challenges. And so bringing them together, along with a few new, you know, prospects that you might have met, or individuals that you even know what could could benefit from the title just based on where they work, and what they do benefit from the topic rather. And so, you know, you can start off small, you can bring together people who already know, you know, like and trust you and, and start adding to it from there. And, you know, offer offer to them benefit is making sure that it’s always focused on them, what benefit Can I drive for them? What did what is most top of mind to them? What would what would really benefit them taking an hour out of their day or two hours out of their day, to take a step back and think about what they’re doing in their business? You know, from a, from a bigger picture perspective, learning about trends in the industry, or that kind of thing? What would benefit them and centering the agenda around that?

 

Will Bachman 27:33

Yeah, I mean, do any examples come to mind for many of your clients that are run these that you could share in a sanitized way? Like, oh, I had a client who was in the, you know, oil and gas industry who invited people from, you know, at this title from this type of mid size firm to you, like, what’s an example make it real for us of how someone actually made this happen?

 

Melisa Liberman 27:59

Yeah, sure. So here’s a couple of examples. The first one is I had a client who, who was her ideal targeted client were CTOs of mid sized companies. And so she knew what they the, the challenges that they were facing, as they were trying to scale their technical organizations and transfer them into more of an agile an agile development organization. And so from more of a waterfall organization and process and so she brought together those individuals for you know, a few clients who were already in the process of transferring from waterfall to agile, and as well as some perspective clients. And, and she was at that, at that, you know, facilitating the roundtable and also brought in one of her former colleagues who was kind of a developer and had experienced agile in you know, in development manager who had experienced agile from a day to day perspective. And so they really walked the that executive Roundtable, you know, topic those attendees through, through what it looks like to get organizational buy in into changing into an agile framework, what the Bennett why that helps with recruiting and kind of looking at the Agile process from a 360 perspective, all the way from the you know, leader getting leadership on board to getting stakeholders on board to getting the development team on board and why it’s an asset. And, and those individuals who attended the roundtable really came away with so many different areas that they could start tackling the Agile process of transformation within their organizations, and then it transformed into that one, you know, event into a monthly event where, where it just keeps growing from that initial group that that client had created.

 

Will Bachman 30:08

So there’s kind of a guess a couple flavors of how to structure one of these one is a kind of one to many, like we have a featured guest who is an expert on this topic and is going to talk to you people about this. So it’s like one too many. And maybe there’s some q&a, but it’s mostly about the speaker. And the speaker could be an invited guest, or it could be you the consultant. And then the other model is more just the the convener where, hey, we’re gonna have a group discussion. And we’re not bringing an expert, you people are the CTOs of the experts, we’re just creating a forum where you can share with one another what struggles you’re facing, and how you’re dealing with this transition to agile, and, you know, sort of share your own lessons learned and so forth. Which, which sort of approach of those the one to many, or the convener. Have you seen people use successfully? And if it sounds like it’s Yeah, so let me just stop there and ask that question.

 

Melisa Liberman 31:11

Yeah, yeah, that’s great. What I’ve seen is the great way to start these executive roundtables is to start with the featured guest model, where either you or like you said, some, some want to bring in or both are really facilitating the conversation. And it’s a little bit more structured, so that people are getting the value out of the conversation. And also, you know, encouraged to contribute and start to get to know each other as well. And then from there, it can become much more of a loose organization where you can turn into the I’ve seen this happen a lot where you start off with this more of a very specific reason why someone would come to the roundtable, kind of, to your point well earlier, how do you actually get people to agree to this. So if you centered around the featured guests kind of model and then over time, it can transfer transform into that convener model that you just described, where you’re really bringing those individuals together. And it could be around a shared topic or just around a shared role or shared industry. And and then make it looser as as time goes on where they can, you know, really bring up their own topics, and you’re just facilitating

 

Will Bachman 32:32

Fantastic. Well, Melissa, let’s, let’s share it again, if people wanted to find out and contact you. And we’ll show this in the show notes. But go ahead and tell us any contact information or URLs that you’d want to point people to.

 

Melisa Liberman 32:46

Well, thanks again for having me today. Well, it’s been a really fun conversation. And you can find me at Melissa Lieberman calm. My name is spelled LISALIB, er, ma n. I just point that out because it’s missing some letters. And I am the host of grow your independent consulting business podcast. So you can find that on any podcast app that you listen to. And like we’ll mentioned at the beginning, if you go to my website, you’ll find the icy toolkit, the independent consultant toolkit, so hopefully, there’s some really good resources that might support you in your independent consulting business, if that’s your interests.

 

Will Bachman 33:28

Fantastic. So go ahead. Look it up on iTunes or Spotify or whatever app you may be on right now. Subscribe to Melissa show. link will be in the show notes. Melissa, it was great having you on today. Thanks so much for joining.

 

Melisa Liberman 33:43

Thank you. Well, I really appreciate it.

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