“I’m really good at what I do, but marketing isn’t my strong point. If someone else could develop the leads and get me appointments, I’m sure I could land more clients. Can’t I just hire someone to do my marketing for me?”
It sounds appealing, doesn’t it? No more networking, soliciting referrals, sending letters and emails, speaking in public, writing articles, standing around at trade shows, and finally — no more cold calls.
Yes, you could hire someone: a contract marketing representative, commissioned salesperson, or telemarketer. A marketing rep will search out leads for you, make the initial contact and sometimes even make a presentation to the client. Contract reps most often work on retainer, plus a bonus when they close a deal. A rep can’t guarantee that he or she will bring you business, and you pay the retainer no matter what.
A salesperson will make contacts for you and present your business to the client. Some salespeople will research their own leads; others expect you to tell them who to call on. If you can make it worth their while, salespeople will work for you on straight commission — you pay them only when they make a sale.
Telemarketers will make telephone contact with the prospects you target. Some will try to set up appointments for you. You need to provide the telemarketer with a list, which you can purchase from a list broker or compile from directories or membership and subscription lists. Telemarketers expect to be paid for their time, whether or not their calls are successful. You can give them an added incentive by offering a bonus for each appointment they make.
But here’s the reality. For a professional or consultant running a one-person shop, hiring someone to market for you will probably be a waste of money. As a one-person business offering services for a fee, your earning power is limited by the number of hours you can work. Unless your rates are already quite high, it will be difficult for you to bring in enough money to pay for talented marketing help and still make a profit.
For example, if you charge $100 per hour, and bill 22 hours per week (the national average for consultants), your maximum earnings are $2200 weekly. If you pay a salesperson 15% commission on that, he or she gets $330 per week. What quality of salesperson will you get for that amount of money? How much time will he or she be willing to spend on your account? Can you see that you would have to pay much more to keep a skilled salesperson working for you?
If this example makes you think you’d rather hire a telemarketer by the hour, consider this. Could a telemarketer give the kind of answers prospective clients typically need when you get them on the phone? Clients resent being called on by an uninformed person. Unless you are prepared to spend many hours working with a telemarketer to bring him or her up to speed (and pay for the time), this approach is rarely effective, and may backfire with customers.
The most you can realistically expect from a telemarketer is to make calls with the purpose of identifying the right person within an organization, verify or obtain contact information, and deliver a message or invitation. A productive use of telemarketers can be to inform prospects to watch for a mailing from you or remind them of an upcoming seminar. But you still have to provide them with the list of people to call.
Unfortunately, a business without an effective marketing and sales arm is not yet a viable business. Successful consulting and professional practice firms always have at least one principal owner who brings in the clients. When you’re the only owner, learning to market yourself is an absolute necessity.
If you find it too difficult to learn marketing skills yourself (or don’t want to), consider partnering with a colleague who was born with the marketing gene. Or, subcontract to a larger firm. You will have to give up a percentage of income that way, too, but you’ll avoid the mistake of paying for marketing help that doesn’t pay for itself.