In the late 1970s, total strangers would walk up to my father and say, “Hey, aren’t you Richard Dreyfuss from Jaws?” It was probably because my Dad looked like Richard Dreyfuss. After all, no one said that to my Mom. As far as I know. Anyway, as consultants wouldn’t it be great if more prospects would walk up to us out of the blue and exclaim, “Hey, aren’t you that guy who solves the problem I have?”
As your reputation and renown grow, that will happen more. But for now, it’s on you to actively expand your contact list. No doubt you’ve implemented plenty of marketing tactics, but marketing only increases your visibility; it doesn’t necessarily help you meet new clients. So, let’s create a list of ways to start new relationships.
10 Practical Ways to Meet New Consulting Clients
Ask for Introductions
This is the master strategy for meeting new prospects. An introduction from a current client to one of her colleagues or peers is consulting gold. You can ask for introductions from others too—anyone you interview or meet along the way. Prospects who turn you down for a project are a particularly good source of introductions.
Walk the Halls
Whenever you’re at a new client’s site, make it a practice to meet other executives in the building. There’s nothing like a face-to-face first impression, and since you just happen to be “just down the hall” from the CEO or EVP or some other good contact, why not pop your head in and introduce yourself.
Similar to walking the halls, use your project at a new client to meet with a wide range of contacts. I always interview an extremely broad range of stakeholders for any project. Kickoff meetings and report-outs are also good excuses to issue far-reaching invitations.
As long as you’re building off of an existing project, extend that leverage outside the organization too. Benchmarking the competition and collecting industry best practices are good reasons to meet new prospects while creating value for your client. (Note: never solicit new business while you’re talking to someone on behalf of an existing client.)
One consultant I know in Toronto has used his weekly newspaper column as a platform for interviewing virtually every senior executive in his target market. Rare is the person who doesn’t want to be cited as an expert or highlighted as an exemplar of best practices.
Your speaking, writing, and other marketing activities will produce more prospects if you build in a mechanism for connecting with your listeners and readers. For example, at the bottom of this article I’ll ask you to write a comment because: 1) you’re smart and when you comment I learn from you (and so do other readers); and 2) it’s a good way to start a relationship with you if we don’t have one already.
LinkedIn is explicitly marketed as a way to make valuable, new business contacts, so no one is surprised when you reach out to them and ask to connect. You’ll have to take it one (or two) steps further though to establish a real relationship. Other online vehicles include partners’ blogs, emails, podcasts, webinars and so forth. When your content is distributed to a partner’s list, you’re suddenly visible to a multitude of new prospects. Many of those prospects will jump onto your list… if you explicitly ask them to contact you.
These are often the business equivalent of meat markets; however, they can be effective. I have picked up a couple of clients from old fashioned meet-and-greet get-togethers.
Like networking events on steroids. The crowd is bigger, most of the attendees are in a market you’re targeting and many are experiencing the problem you solve. (How convenient!) The little-known secret to establishing relationships through conferences is attending the same one multiple years in a row.
What other ways have you found effective to meet new, prospective clients?
I had a couple other approaches in my notes, but I want to hear yours. How else have you expanded your network and met high-potential prospects? Please add your thoughts and ideas below in the comments section.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.