How to find clients for your ITIL/ISO 20000 consultancy

Although some people have excellent expert knowledge in the ITIL or ISO 20000 areas, that doesn’t guarantee that they will be successful in business. Why? It’s because if they don’t know how to sell those skills – i.e., find clients – what’s the point? There will be someone with more sales and marketing capabilities, maybe less expert knowledge, but he will be, usually, more successful at selling ITIL and/or ISO 20000 consultancy jobs.

So, expert knowledge is important – that’s not questionable. But, there are some other things that are needed if you’d like to sell ITIL/ISO 20000 consultancy services and acquire new customers.

The requirements

To better understand how to approach a potential customer (as a consultant), let’s find out why a company might require someone from the outside. Here are a few of the most relevant reasons:

  • Knowledge and experience – if the company doesn’t possess enough know-how and experience in ITIL/ISO 20000, they will need to look for it on the market.
  • Time pressure – companies usually set targets for implementation. That could be an internal decision, but usually comes from outside the company (their customers, competitors, regulators …). To gain enough knowledge about ITIL/ISO 20000 in a short period of time … well, it’s hard to expect that. Even if you do that (e.g., by taking extensive trainings), experience is one of the important factors for successful implementation.
  • Overload – it happens that companies are overcrowded with daily (or project) jobs. ITIL/ISO 20000 implementation requires someone to devote a significant amount of time to finish the job, so it’s hard to combine extensive daily activities and the implementation project.

These are, also from my experience, the most prevailing reasons why a company would hire an external consultant.

What kind of person are they looking for?

Before we go into deeper discussion about sales techniques and how to gain customers in your ITSM (IT Service Management) consultancy, let’s see what characteristics an ITSM consultant should have. Here are a few of the most important characteristics that an ITIL/ISO 20000 consultant needs to have:

  • Expertise – of course, if the company has expertise within its own employees, it wouldn’t look for a consultant. But, that means that expertise in ITIL/ISO 20000, including extensive experience, is must-have for a consultancy job.
  • Reputation – potential clients will try to search for information to evaluate your work. If you are a newbie in the business, that could be a big issue for you. Otherwise, quotes from previous customers, or their contacts, is something that proves your previous work (and the potential client knows what they can expect).
  • Business approach – someone who claims to already know, without going into details of the customer’s business, what to do and how to implement is selling copy/paste documentation. And that’s all the customer will get: i.e., nothing usable. What a consultant needs to do is assess the customer’s organization, understand what they are doing and how (from business point of view), and then approach the ITSM assessment and suggest what to do.

Once you are clear on the customer’s needs and what’s required from you, the hardest part can start – finding a client. Read the article Who is your ideal project manager for ITIL/ISO 20000 implementation? to learn more about the ITIL project manager’s capabilities.

And … sales?

That’s where the real work begins. You know what (potential) customers require, you know your capabilities, and now – you “just” need to sell your services. If you have already been on the market for some time, then you know your targeted market segment. Issues arise if you are beginner. Well, if later is the case, look around you. Analyze your previous experience or contacts you have, and that will open opportunities. But, here are a few tips on how to find potential customers:

  • Use a salesman approach – that doesn’t include only marketing activities (like, e.g., preparing marketing materials, sending targeted emails, or using online marketing tools and techniques), but you also need to look at your business as a salesman – e.g., define your market (global, only in your country, or regional), whether you will work alone or in partnership with someone, define target customers, etc.
  • Go public – this includes speaking at conferences or conducting trainings (classroom-based or virtual). You will get noticed – that’s how you can stand out from the crowd. Trainings and conferences bring a lot of direct, topic-related contacts. Or try social media – you can participate in discussions in expert groups, and people will notice your expert knowledge.
  • Analyze contacts, including social networks – that’s not valid if you just finished your education. But, that’s rarely the case in a consultancy business. Generally, people spend many years in a certain industry and then start a consultancy business. And they have a lot of contacts. So, sort them by relevance or importance, and there you have potential customers.
  • Publish articles or white papers – you have to offer something in order to gain something back (like, being engaged as a consultant). People like to read well-written and up-to-date articles. Once they realize that your expertise and experience are what they are looking for – then the “sky is the limit.”
  • Add value – don’t fight by lowering your price – my experience is that customers don’t necessarily appreciate that. Instead, try to add value, that is, some bonus that will mean something to them. For example, if you are offering consultancy, offer some training (included in the price) as well.

Don’t waste your chance

No matter how you get a new client, once you have them, try to keep them as satisfied with your work as possible. Yes, that could mean you have to go a few “extra miles” (like go a bit out of the scope, be at the customer’s disposal even when you don’t really have to, etc.), but there is no better thing (in business) then a happy customer.

Once you finish the project, you will leave that customer with (besides an invoice to pay) new experience and knowledge. And that’s hard to express in monetary value. Your previous work is your best marketing tool. So, be careful!

Use the free  ITIL and/or ISO 20000 Project Proposal to make your ITIL/ISO 20000 consultancy services up-to-the point.

Advisera Branimir Valentic
Branimir Valentic
Branimir is an expert in IT service management (consultancy, training and tools), IT governance (training and consulting), project management and consultancy in IT and telecommunication. He holds the following certificates: ITIL Expert, ISO 20000, ISMS Lead Auditor and PRINCE2.