When you start a consulting or coaching business, there is a moment when you were this person – corporate employee – and now you are this person – business consultant or coach.

Generally, we start (or end up) working with people who are similar to us in some way.

On the business side, you’ll often find your ideal clients have something in common with you:

  • The former sales executive who is now a sales coach
  • The former marketing executive selling leadership programs to corporate
  • The former tech specialist and executive selling process optimization to corporate

Who you target

One thing I have done well, or so clients tell me, is be crystal clear on who I work with. If anyone asks (and sometimes even if they don’t), I’ll say I work with professionals out of financial services, professional services, or technology.

Does that mean I don’t work with professionals in other industries? No!

What it means is I focus primarily on my target market, and I absolutely focus my time and marketing dollars on that market.

However, if someone outside my target market likes my style and approach, I am happy to offer them a strategy session to see if we’re a fit.

I’ve worked with analytical chemists, food scientists, non-profit executives, government employees – usually recommended by a friend or partner who had previously worked with me.

How you establish relevance

I have been having tough conversations with some colleagues about orphaning their previous career success. There are a couple of reasons why people do this.

One reason is it feels uncomfortable calling attention to yourself and “bragging.”

However, I would like to reframe that for you. Think of it this way instead: If you don’t give someone the information to realize that you are a good fit, you have done them (and you!) a disservice.

When someone buys consulting or coaching, it’s because they believe the professional they are hiring understands their situation and has knowledge that will be valuable.

What better way to establish RELEVANCE than by talking about your previous experience in the situation your prospective client is struggling with?

How you own your expertise

Your experience is yours. You were this person and you did these great things. You may have moved on and started your business, but your experience is still part of you.

I urge you to dust off your successes and bring them back into your sales conversations.

If you’re a sales coach who has worked for some of the most respected brands in the world, every time you talk about your experience, you should drop those names. It will make you money.

I never fail to mention I worked for KPMG, Arthur Andersen, and Deloitte. It establishes my credibility as a consultant AND my knowledge of the professional services industry.

Multiple clients have hired me because of this, including a former Big Four partner who immediately noticed that in my LinkedIn profile.

If you’re selling leadership training into corporate, it might be super helpful to add that you’re a former SVP from the consumer products industry.

If you’re a technology specialist and former executive who has done database and systems installations, it might help to mention that as you are trying to sell more complex engagements into corporate.

This may seem obvious, but I’ll bet you’re doing this somewhere in your marketing / selling. Go look for those experiences and stories to help boost your credibility. They will help get your ideal clients to pay you big $.