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Ask HN: How do you get started in B2B consulting?
22 points by mnholt 54 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 8 comments
Hey, curious to know if anyone has advice on how to break into business to business consulting. Is there a marketplace where white papers can get posted or companies post request for proposals?

It will sound too silly but: find clients first.

First, you need to know what you are doing exactly. What is your service? What are you solving? If these questions' answers are vague, you are have to go back to your drawing board. Consulting cannot happen unless you are an expert or somewhat very good at something. Better than the client you are trying to consult and ask money for.

Once you are really good at what you are doing and have confidence as well as persuasion skills, you will need to identify your niche's client sources. This could be word of mouth, SEO, door-to-door, hiring a salesperson, or simply finding a way that other consultants couldn't figure out yet so you can get those clients they didn't.

There are so many things to cover. But firstly, you must have a valid product and solve a real problem others, including the clients, cannot solve themselves or they are willing to pay someone else to take care of it for them because it is time consuming or would cost too much to hire a full time employee due to insurance, HR stuff, and liabilities.

Companies are not hanging out in a single place. Most of the companies out there don't even look for a consultant until someone brings it up to them.

Your first & the easiest consulting client should be your current employer. Second and third clients should come from your network etc.

Don’t fall into freelance sites consulting gigs. It will be minimum wage type of work.

I agree except the current employer part. Current employers are weird. I’ve found they didn’t take me seriously till I was gone. Find past employers who liked you and would want you back, offer to consult on their most pressing issues (I only work on high priority gig value problems. You’ll get a lot of value). Moonlight for a bit to build momentum, quit your day job, reach out to your whole network.

I get the weirdness- the key is to leave before it gets weird -/ before bridges are burned.

1. Figure out what you can do better than anyone else 2. Figure out which types of potential clients would benefit the most from this 3. Ensure this isn't performed by someone internally 4. The marketplace is the web. Self publish, tell the world

i met a guy semi-recently thru IH that knew a lot, somehow, about medical laboratory software.

so, he wrote some, sold some, etc.

said he plans to, as his next phase, start heading back to various industry conferences and just start shooting the shit with people and make contacts and talk shop and presumably find some contract work that might end up becoming a product (again) -- something like that.

which actually all sounded pretty reasonable.

but it didn't really resonate with me mainly b/c i don't specialize in anything - i don't know any vertical really well, so i feel like i just can't empathize all that well with that situation.

but i guess i can empathize well enough to know that it sounds reasonable to me.

i guess you'd probably have to be open to spending $1,500 or so and heading to AWS re:invent or whatever other specific trade shows there are and at least giving it a go.

i also feel like there are other 'weird' middlemen/people of sorts who hang around in these business 'spaces' - not the physical space, but the connection/business-making space.

i guess you could always go to a trade show and say, "Hey, i'm bob, i do b2b consulting for 'x'. Do you know anyone who does that type of thing besides me? Yeah, i do x, y, z, etc. I'm not sure what all I do yet. But i'd like to give it a go, whatever it is. Are people using your tool? yeah? oh, that make sense. and you have a field consulting team or you use VARs?"

Work on leads, networking, and sales as much as you can to learn the ropes and then figure out how to offload, automate, or optimize those things as best you can to create sustainability.

Talking to the decision makers and having friends or intros to help with that will by far be more effective than cold emails or random RFPs as a new company.

Find a mentor who is doing what you want to do.

This will save you time, money and failure.

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