How To Get Consulting Clients During A Recession

Unfortunately in every recession, depression or economic downturn the demand for consulting services plummets. Consulting is tied so much to the markets in general that if you’re a consultant, you’ll definitely feel the economic cycles pretty much amplified. If people and businesses are doing well, you can make tons of money. But if there’s less money in general, you’re among the first services where spending will be cut.

So if you are a consultant, and you’re in the middle of a recession, what should you do in order to get consulting clients? Find my 7 tips below but first let’s see why are people spending less on consulting services during a recession. Also read my article how to get consulting clients to find more information on this topic.

The Reason Behind Cutting Consulting Spending During A Recession

Interestingly, there are two main reasons why people and businesses cut back on consulting services during hard times. And only the first one is what you would think of intuitively. But to actually find ways to get more clients during an economic downturn, you really need to understand the second one as well.

  1. People and businesses have less money. This is self-explanatory. Unfortunately people always cut back on things that would make them stronger on the long run first.
  2. People are fed up with smart guys bossing around. When there is a downturn in the economy, people and businesses usually face more challenges. In those times consultants seem to know it all, and preach what you should and shouldn’t do. They admittedly do it in hope of people hiring them because they know the solution, but the effect is usually the opposite. When everyone is telling you what to do, you just don’t want any help anymore.

During the Coronavirus panic in 2020, I wanted to help people telling them what to do in a difficult economic situation — just like thousands of other consultants or virtually anyone having an online presence. I had to realize that people did not find this helpful, even if it was genuine and it would have helped them should they have followed my tips. In reality they got fed up with all the advice they’d gotten from virtually everyone.

7 Tips To Get Consulting Clients During A Recession

In this part I’m going to refer to your clients as people. This is true even if you’re a business consultant, and might actually be your first step toward getting more clients in difficult times. Why? It’s always individual people who make the decision of working with you. Even if you’re consulting businesses, at the end of the day you need to convince individual people that they have a problem and you’re the one who can provide a solution to their problem.

Tip #1: You Need To Change

You need to realize that if you’re not getting enough consulting clients during a recession, you need to change the way you operate. This might mean the services you offer, the way you acquire new clients, or even your prices.

Simply put, if you continue doing what was successful during an economic boom but this time without any results, you might just better close down. Find new ways, be innovative, change your operation. This will be the key to your later success.

Never forget the quote widely credited to Albert Einstein:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

Tip #2: Find Out What People Need In This Situation

You need to ask your (previous) clients and your market in general what their biggest problems are right now.

They definitely have problems, maybe bigger ones than before. These problems are usually substantially different than they used to be, and the reason most consultants can’t get clients during difficult times is that they are pushing the same thing as they used to when everybody had tons of cash.

So don’t hesitate to call your clients or acquaintances and ask them what they are struggling with. Create online surveys and ask the same question. Send it to your friends, business acquaintances and newsletter list.

This then can be a good starting point for what you’ve learnt in tip #1. Once you know the actual problems of your market, you can find new services that answer those particular problems.

Tip #3: Advertise More

This I know is quite the opposite that most businesses do during tough times. But maybe it has something to do with why most businesses fail during a recession…?

You need to realize that during difficult times people – your target market – are just not that open to any kind of communication. And this is definitely true for marketing communication, i.e. when you try to pitch them on your services. You simply need to bee seen more often in order to people accept you and reach out to you for a solution.

I have two good news though related to this one:

  • Advertising, in this sense, does not necessarily mean spending more money. What’s more important here is to get in front of people more often. So sending out more newsletters, publishing more articles, uploading more YouTube videos etc. are all good answers for a tough situation.
  • You can get more for your ad money. As more and more businesses withdraw from the advertising market during a recession, ad slots are getting cheaper. So if you are willing to spend money on ads, you’ll get much greater reach for less.

Tip #4: Offer Less

Let me explain this one with an example. If you’re a business consultant, during an economic boom your most sought after services should be helping businesses to expand and piggy back on the general well-being of the economy. A few examples would be how to create a franchise system, how to open another store, how to expand their business to another state or country. These are fascinating goals, and pretty big ones to be honest.

On the contrary, during a recession most businesses focus on “small” problems like how can I pay my employees this month, how to generate cash flow immediately in order to my business to survive.

So a recession is usually not a good time to sell your clients on big goals. Focus on smaller targets, everyday problems or tasks and they’ll be much more likely to work with you.

Tip #5: Use Your Network

I can’t stress enough that for a new business traditional sales channels perform much better than online methods. But the same holds true for economically difficult times.

So please stop focusing on selling online if you can’t get clients online. Contact your clients, business acquaintances or even family members instead and find out what they need. Contact them by email or even better on the phone.

In a recession, trust is even more important than during “normal” times. And will there ever be more trust between two people than the fact that they’ve known each other for a long time?

Stop chasing the holy grail of getting consulting clients online in times when it’s just close to impossible. Take your phone or contact list and call everyone on that list. You’ll be surprised to see that this way you’ll be able to at last get consulting clients, or at least some great recommendations.

Tip #6: Recommendations

And here we are at the next tip, getting recommendation from previous clients or business acquaintances.

A recession is not a good time to whine about why you shouldn’t call a previous client asking them for recommendation. Simply call them. Let them tell you how much you helped them, and ask them if they know anyone who might need your help in these difficult times.

Good news is, most people are willing to help. And this way they can kill two birds with one stone; helping you by recommending someone, and also helping that someone by recommending them your services.

Tip #7: Build A List

This comes down to trust again. I know you would need consulting clients right at this very moment, but it’s just not how things work in the consulting industry.

It is of upmost importance to build trust for you as a consultant so that people be confident when it comes to the buying decision, and this just gets amplified during a recession. And there is no better way to build trust online than a newsletter.

Put together a Lead Magnet, start your email list if you have none, and start communicating to your subscribers. This way not only can you learn what they really care about (by looking at email statistics or even asking them) but also build that trust you really deserve with your regular communication.

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