The thing is, it's about what you CAN help the business do. Most people ARE risk averse and especially during times like these, they're not willing to go out on a limb to try something completely new or trust the advice of someone with whom they have no rapport. Does running scared in business often mean that people leave money on the table or that they operate in an inefficient manner or that they're not optimizing different aspects of their business? You betcha. But what they're doing is what makes them feel safe and comfortable.
You have to understand that as the underlying need first and alleviate that which people fear before they can take the next step. Take a really hard customer-centric look at your business and your offerings. Are you framing your offering in such a way that it appeals to the new recession-minded entrepreneur? Are you fulfilling a need that they have? If not, can you re-align your business so that it can?
You may want to look at the challenges that small businesses (especially in start up) are facing and present your services in a way that addresses those challenges.
The challenges that come to mind are:
1. Money. Many small businesses and start ups don't have the money to hire a consultant, even if they wanted to. You may be able to overcome this obstacle by guaranteeing results, a commission structure, or deferring payment until the client's business reaches some milestone (revenue, number of customers, etc.)
2. Lack of knowledge. The people that you are trying to help may not know that they need help. Three approaches that might help with this issue are creating a valuable newsletter that goes to target customers, writing articles for local newspapers or newspapers that your target customers read, and speaking to business organizations or teaching relevant classes through a community college or other local organization.
3. Uncertainty about whether you can help them. Every day, small business owners are approached by consultants telling them what they should be doing, shouldn't be doing, and promising solutions that sound or are "too good to be true." To overcome this issue, consultants need to have credibility. This might be done by building a reputation (perhaps using the approaches identified in point 2, above) or by guaranteeing results in a way that creates customer confidence.
4. Competition. Many community colleges and other local resources (RSVP, for example) offer help to start ups and small businesses at very low rates. Can you compete on price, or do you offer some sort of guarantee or additional support that the other options don't provide?
You have to identify what they need and then sell to what they want.
For example if someone says I need more money, sell them a solution that will provide them more freedom. Remember people don't pursue money but they pursue the options that money provides.
See if you can slightly alter your mindset about prospecting and selling. Start by embracing the reality that need and want are in the prospect's mind. Rather than pushing on that river, look for prospects who are (a) open to evaluating the POSSIBILITY your services would have value and then (b) do indeed have want and need for what you offer.
See the development of rapport as something that occurs as you have those sales and other conversations. (Not some sort of emotional bond.)
Create a list of questions to use to uncover a prospect's POSSIBLE need and want for your services. Include questions that help uncover whether the issues of fear, etc. are something to explore or not. However, most questions should help uncover very practical want and need. Those are the things far more people will be willing to talk about.
When you uncover need and want, offer services using consultative-type phrases like, "...may have value." Use benefit statements that loop back to what the prospect him or herself said. Very gently add other issues, or leave them off the table for now.
After describing services, ASK for the business.
I am sure you have lots to offer. All of the above can help open more doors and I hope you find it useful.