A lot of smart folks I speak with struggle to sell strategy separately from execution.
It feels like they have to be sold together or not at all.
The thing is, as long as you’re offering your hands for sale, people will always want it instead.
But the problem is, once they see your hands are for sale, you’re implying that your advice comes for free.
If I can get the advice part for free, why would I ever pay for it without also getting the execution done at the same time?
Here are a few ways to approach this to give you more success selling strategic advisory services without doing the execution work yourself.
1. Charge a lot for execution work
The business case I’m indicating is that if you need my hands, the problem is severe or expensive and should only be purchased for a short period of time.
It then makes sense to hand off anything possible to someone less expensive, which is partly why I only do interim CMO work for a maximum of three months. It doesn’t make sense for me to do things when you can hire someone 4x cheaper to do the heavy lifting.
The value when I do execution work as an interim CMO is to get a lot of big things set up and rolling quickly. Usually, it involves making hires, putting out fires, taking over for absent leadership, and reacting to sudden opportunities.
After three months, I move to advisory-only services once the people and systems are in place.
2. Limit execution to strategic engagements
Strategic engagements may include positioning exercises, website strategy, market research, or go-to-market planning, to name a few examples.
You provide a deliverable, but you won’t be there to grind out social media posts indefinitely.
Your deliverable is strategic and leveraged in nature.
In this case, your work is not pure advisory because you’re delivering work product, but it’s also not in the weeds either. It’s closer to executive-level work, but you’re still selling deliverables.
If you want people to pay good money for your advice, they shouldn’t be able to get your hands for cheap.
Nobody pays the intern CMO salaries. Don’t do intern work.
3. Remove all execution work entirely
Eventually, the goal is to remove execution work or significantly limit it.
Execution work done by you is inherently not leveraged. And that means your earning potential will be unnecessarily suppressed.
By removing execution work from your suite of offerings, you are forced to demonstrate the value of your expertise in itself.
Maybe you’re an industry specialist helping clients navigate the intricacies of their problems.
Or perhaps you’re a method consultant who brings order to marketing chaos with a formal system you’ve devised.
Or maybe you bring a suite of tools, templates, people, examples, and more—making it easy for your clients to execute quickly.
Ideally, you do all of the above. But the important part is your brain is positioned as (and is) worth spending a little more on.
You are a fixer. You bring the people and resources to get the job done—all within a budget that makes sense.
The bottom line
The bottom line is, if you want to move to advisory work, you have to stop doing low-level execution work.
Find people who do that stuff cheaper than you. Create an ideal example of how things should be done and let them use that as a guide.
If you want your expertise to be valued, you have to work on showing how what and who you know—along with your tools and knowledge assets—are worth spending money on.
Drop the low-level stuff or make it prohibitively expensive and your clients will naturally see the value in your pure advisory services.
P.S. I teach this stuff along with a library of resources in Mindshare. Hours of training, coaching calls, a peer community in Slack, and more. Perfect for marketers seeking to sell strategy and get out of trenches. Jump in while the getting is good.