Are you good at what you do? Maybe, maybe not. If you were your client, or more importantly, a prospective client, how could you tell?
The problem is, they usually can’t. They’re forced to take your word for it, and if they in any way don’t trust you, or themselves, they won’t risk giving you their hard earned grant or donor’s money to find out.
How do you prove your expertise to your potential nonprofit clients?
1) Stories. People learn by stories. You need to be able to cite examples of how you took a problem of a client and solved it to everybody satisfaction. It’s even better when you can show that the client either earned money or saved money as a result of your engagement.
2) Portfolio. For many consultants, it’s easy to show a number of samples of your work. Having this readily available in a specific computer file, or better yet, on an online portfolio page attached to your website (not necessarily available to the public, but the URL you can provide when you think it’s appropriate for a client) can go a long way in proving you can do the job.
3) References. Who have you worked with before who loved your results? Having a list of references ready, and pre-approved (in other words, well before you actually give out their name to your next potential client, already letting them know that they are a reference and that somebody may call them) is a great way of proving that you can do the work. It’s amazing how the word of somebody who your new client doesn’t know, who circumstances might be very different from their own, and who obviously had a good experience (or else you wouldn’t have given them as a reference) weighs so much in the decision-making process.
4) Statistics. While I’m the first one to say that “stories trump stats,” you need to have the statistics to back up your stories. Can you show that your work increased revenue to your former client? The problem with this approach is that you need to remember to ask for the numbers from your clients, preferably before they stopped becoming your clients. It’s easy to do great work for a client. In the rush to get the next task done, it’s not often easy for the client to get you the numbers that prove your great work. Be persistent.
Of course, having all of these lined up before you encounter your next potential client is much easier than having to rush around to get them when they’re looking for a proposal in less than a week. Building these and other ways to prove your client that you are the best professional they can hire for their mission might not get you every job, but it will make getting any job much less stressful.
Want more great nonprofit consulting tips? Go to ThinkNP.com.