This post explores how the roles apply in a practical sense to the consulting entrepreneur.
How can you package your services to present the maximum benefit to clients?
The answer rests in knowing your place in the industry. Do you know right away if you are more drawn to one of the three roles?
Without this self-evaluation, you will spin your hard work into a wasted time and effort for you and the client.
I have a friend who is very clear about how she likes to appear and feel when it comes to her own physical presence. She understands exactly what works and is confident and adept at dressing for specific audiences. She has carefully considered and knows her personal style thoroughly. Not only is she successful, she totally has the clout and income to support it.
Now, if offering someone like her an image consultation would be a waste of time, effort and possibly be an insult. Does that mean she doesn’t need another type of service? Not necessarily!
Considering how much an hour of her time is worth, it’s easy to see how a personal shopper might actually save her time and money. I will explore more the concept of evaluating the financial cost-benefit to the client in a future post – it deserves its own space. But for now, the important thing is that, if you can assess the proper level of need then you can determine the right level of service to offer.
Another point: have the integrity to bow out if you are not the right person for a role. It will add to your credibility, especially if you offer a credible alternative with an articulate explanation, or partner with other entrepreneurs whose strengths can complement your skills.
WHAT NOT TO DO: A STORY FROM MY EARLY DAYS
During the beginning stages of establishing my consulting business ImageCube, an acquaintance asked if I would help her shop for clothes that could support a more professional image. She felt as though her peers at work were not taking her seriously and her ideas were being ignored. She felt unseen and unheard. I really wanted to help her for many reasons: I wanted to establish my consulting credentials and I owed her a nice favor.
So the both of us set forth knowing full well that I was a well-informed business image consultant, fantastic at pulling together a great style for the client’s presentation. However, I also knew at the time that we would need a shopping strategy, including where to shop, what brands or designers could support her vision and which stores have flexible return policies. I had a feeling that walking from store to store could be exhausting or if we don’t find anything she might become discourage and give up.
Regardless, my eagerness as a newbie compelled me to get in her car and go shopping at local mall without a plan. And sure enough, we became exhausted and bored from looking through racks of clothes. We found a few items and then gave up. We certainly didn’t make the dent in her wardrobe as she had hoped.
Even though it was “only a favor,” the professional demonstration that I was eager to show barely moved past the typical scene of two teenage girls passing time at the mall.
I sensed why things were going so badly, but I had not fully realized how damaging this would be.
The problem was, I was working without a proper context. I didn’t fully understand how important it was as an image consultant to help my friend get clear about her personal vision. I was making assumptions about her vision and what she meant by “professional image”. She assumed I knew what she meant. Since the vision wasn’t clear, a stylistic strategy to bring vision to life was impossible. Although I’d been in her closet, I didn’t know about the quality, fit or style of her current wardrobe or her shopping budget.
I couldn’t confidently recommend what to purchase because I didn’t know what she owns that was already working for her.
This event really made me question my knowledge and aptitude. I asked, “Am I real professional or am I a fake?” Although she was kind and we found ways to enjoy each other’s company, I sensed her frustration and have no doubt that the way I acted diminished her trust in the image consulting industry.
Despite my good intentions, I did neither of us a favor. Indeed, a very productive and vigorous business brand can be destroyed by a thoughtless stroke of sloppy execution!
The good news is that,many months later, I summoned the courage to talk about that experience with my friend. It was a safe environment where she gave me a lot of constructive feedback about how she felt during our epic-shopping-fail. I have since learned how to handle situations like this by quickly recognizing when all the right information are not in place. I found ways of salvaging similar opportunities by partnering, when the need arises, with personal shoppers or fashion stylists who can provide services that are more suited to the client’s needs.
Complement your strength with the right connections. Find ways to offer your client exactly what they need, and only what they need.