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1. Define your value proposition
To stand out from your competition, you need to have a selling point — a value proposition that you will present to potential clients that sets your IT consulting services apart. Your selling point could be:
- Knowledge about a specific industry sector
- Knowledge about a specific technology
- Greater technical ability
Make your selling point crystal clear to your customers so they know exactly what they can expect from you when using your services.
2. Develop expertise in your niche
Of course, once you’ve defined your value proposition, you must live up to it. Ensure that you have the relevant IT knowledge, background, and work history to deliver the results you’ve promised. The deeper your knowledge in your niche, the fewer other people there will be who can offer the same service as you do, which boosts your value.
Prospective clients often look to consultants who have delivered results in their own industry, so it can help a lot to first establish yourself as an authority in a specific sector or technology. After that, aim to get deeper knowledge and practical, real-world experience in your specialty.
Continue to develop skills relevant to your chosen niche by:
- Reading books, blogs, and whitepapers
- Attending conferences
- Exploring up-and-coming technologies related to your specialty
- Networking with other experts in the field
- Getting certified in relevant technologies
- Finding and focusing strictly on projects and clients in your specialty
IT certifications can really help show potential clients that you have experience working with a specific technology. For example, if your primary offering is to help clients architect and deploy services on AWS, being an AWS-certified Solutions Architect can help validate your expertise and demonstrate your knowledge in that area.
By defining your speciality and delivering strong results over time, you will carve out a unique space for yourself and have a better chance of staying afloat among your competitors.
3. Stay updated on relevant technologies and processes
Technology is constantly changing and evolving. An ideal solution today may be outdated in a year.
To establish and maintain your IT consulting business as an authority in your niche, it’s important to stay up to date and keep a watchful eye on relevant trends and technologies. If you’re recommending obsolete solutions to your clients, your credibility may suffer and you will lose out to competitors who are making the effort to keep their skills and knowledge current.
4. Stay updated on regulations affecting your niche
As an IT consultant, you’re not just dealing with technology. You’re also dealing with the regulations governing the technology. Government regulations heavily impact your clients, and your job is to deliver results while helping them meet their compliance needs.
Examples of technology-related regulations that have impacted businesses include:
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH)
- Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS)
Many of these regulations are specific to an industry or region, so you must develop an understanding of the space your client is operating in before offering solutions that could potentially put them at risk of violating a crucial requirement.
For example, if your consulting services focus on healthcare technology, or specifically on implementing Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems, you need to know about HIPAA and HITECH. If you’re serving an organization that operates in the European Union, you need to learn about GDPR and how it may affect the way your client can collect and store their customers’ information.
5. Keep your lines of communication open but efficient
Effective communication is key to any consulting business. Don’t waste time with unnecessary meetings. Instead, set up some project management software like Asana or Trello, to share daily updates. Have checkpoint meetings but keep them on topic.
As an external consulting service, it isn’t your job to keep up with the many adminstrative reporting duties that your clients may have for internal employees. If your client demands such activities from you, add up the time you will take for such administrative work and meetings and demonstrate that as additional overhead they’ll need to pay for.
Also remember to take initiative if your client isn’t responding to your emails and phone calls. For example, if the client is taking a long time to respond to a proposal, reach out to them yourself and let them know you’re ready to clear any doubts they may be having.
Often, clients may delay their response when they’re unsure of the pricing or services being offered. This is especially likely when it’s the client’s first time reaching out to an external consultant. By reaching out to the client and keeping your lines of communication open, you have an opportunity to re-engage with them, discuss their concerns, and suggest a path forward that works for them — all while still keeping you in business.
6. Protect your client’s reputation and privacy
Your clients may not want to disclose their external consulting activities, like who they’re working with and what they’re working on. It’s important to respect your clients’ privacy and seek permission before disclosing that they’ve worked with you. If you want to publish a case study or reference on your website, ask them explicitly about the details they’re comfortable revealing to the public.
Revealing details about your clients and the project you’re working on can also be bad for your business. If someone hears that a certain company is using your IT consulting services, they may try to poach the company from you. Before you know it, you’ve lost a valuable client.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for references
While it is important to respect your clients’ privacy, it’s totally okay to ask for references. Just make sure you are being completely explicit about who the information is going to be disclosed to and what details you’ll be sharing. Also, references from a powerful, well-established company can lead to an influx of interested potential clients to your business.
It can be also useful to include case studies with notable clients on your website to establish credibility and attract new clients, so don’t be afraid to ask permission after the completion of a project, especially if the project wasn’t a sensitive matter.
The IT consulting industry is booming. But, to enjoy your slice of the pie, you have to stay ahead of the competition. The best way to do this is to consistently show up for your clients and serve them to the best of your ability. To recap, you can delight clients by:
- Developing expertise in a particular niche
- Staying up-to-date on relevant technologies and government regulations impacting your target audience
- Communicating effectively and efficiently
- Respecting and protecting your clients’ privacy and reputation
- Asking for references after you’ve done a stellar job for a client
Bonus IT consulting tips: Initiate a marketing plan to get the word out about your services, including setting up a website, social media presence, and SEO strategy.