One Way Not to Market Your Expertise

Is this you? Are you trying to sell yourself as a consultant by sending general messages to people (or companies) you don’t know? Promising to solve whatever problems they have?

TrashI don’t dislike this person. I just feel sorry for the enormous waste of time and effort spent in the wrong direction.

This morning I received a second email from a guy who wants to sell me management consulting. His message is hardly convincing me of his competence. He’s never met me or anybody else at my company of 45 employees. And he’s addressing the wrong person because I’m not CEO anymore. And he’s promising to solve whatever problems I happen to have. Quote:

My services are flexible, ranging from advisory services to senior management and targeted special projects, as well as interim C-level management.

I’m sorry because he’s obviously in a tough spot. Despite this very unconvincing trolling marketing effort, he’s got what looks like a good resume and it’s a well-written email. I like this phrase:

I don’t write theoretical reports–I provide hands-on, practical assistance to help companies achieve the next level.

Then I think of the effort I assume is involved in finding me and my company. How many others are getting the same offer? How many people are opening that email, let alone reading it? And I think our website makes it obvious that I’m not even the right person to send this to.

This has to be an enormous waste of time. I’ve been close to consulting one way or another since 1974, and I was a full-time management consultant for 11 years. In all that time, I’ve never heard of a consulting engagement that started with a blanket offer like this. Companies seek consultants out to solve problems. As a consultant, you have to have a focused expertise and concentrate on being found by people who have the problem you solve, but after they perceive the problem.

I wonder if a medical doctor has ever been successful offering undefined medical services to people he or she doesn’t know.

It does remind me of the snake oil cliche, a medicine that will cure whatever ails you. These are tough times. I hopes he lands a job. Fast.

(Image: Blazej Lyjak/Shutterstock)


  • parisvega says:

    Still good advice. Glad this was still on the web because its a great reminder to focus.

  • Del Chatterson says:

    I agree, Tim, especially trying to sell professional services. “You don’t know me, I don’t know your problem, but I’m sure I can help – Trust me.” Never works. Wannabe trusted advisors need to be introduced by an existing trusted advisor. That’s the only sales strategy that’s worked for me as a management consultant.
    Mass marketing may help with raising awareness and getting introductoins, but never enough to close the sale.
    My thoughts.

  • Catherine Brown says:

    I do like letter campaigns, but they take a lot of time for us to execute because I believe that making the letter personal, with a case study that matches, along with the specific reason you are targeting THEM takes time. We are agreeing then that letters can be good when done specifically and carefully then, right?

    • Tim Berry says:

      Catherine, good question, and hard to answer. I’ve got enough resistance to unsolicited sales to admit that I’m not going to be that comfortable with letters either, if they come from somebody I don’t know. I did do well at consulting for a long time, but I don’t think I ever approached somebody who didn’t come to me first. The key is to be easy to find when they start looking. Does that make sense?

  • Relationships First: Selling to the Unknown Contact | CriticalBiz says:

    […] makers of Business Plan Pro which is honestly amazing software that we have used for many years), posted a blog entry about an email he received from a guy attempting to sell consulting services to him. This got me […]

  • Scott Harris says:

    Targeting potential client with a problem is key! This is exactly why a good SEO strategy will help your efforts to capture leads from people who have the problem you solve.

  • Paris Vega, Wordpress Designer says:

    I’m guilty of being to general when trying to describe my services. Time to focus!
    Thanks Tim,
    Paris Vega
    Wordpress Website Designer

    (look how specific that title is)

  • David Lavenda says:

    Ouch. I used to get several of these a week. The idea is “if I send out thousands of these and even one responds, it might be a gig.” BTW, did he offer to help you define a target market for your product/service?

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