Outreach to consulting clients, prospective clients and influencers is still the core of your consulting firm’s efforts to grow.
Why? Because pound for pound, outreach (a.k.a. network building) is the most reliable, consistent, effective vehicle for driving new consulting business.
Then, why don’t you or your consulting firm conduct outreach as regularly, reliably and enthusiastically as you should?
For the same reason you freeze when your Aunt Genevieve kindly offers you a chocolate-covered fish stick: you’re just not sure what to say.
Okay, saying “No” to fish sticks is easy. On the other hand, lack of clarity around outreach calls engenders all manner of anxiety.
You need two, outreach-simplifying techniques:
SCRIPTS and PRODS
When you’re unsure how to open a discussion with a consulting contact, you expend anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour pre-planning voicemails and conversations. What a waste of time and energy.
You waste that time and energy because you’re confronting two levels of anxiety:
- General concern about the outreach situation: “I’m not sure what to say to someone I’ve only met once.”
- Specific concern about the individual: “I’m not sure what to say to Beatrice Butterscotch.”
The combination of general and specific concerns is absolutely brutal: “I sure as heck don’t know what to say to Beatrice Butterscotch, the CEO of Bittersweet, whom I’ve only met once.”
So, do you reach out to Bea? No, of course not.
We can fix that.
SCRIPTS stands for, well, nothing. Scripts are scripts. They are pre-written word tracks that guide you during consulting outreach activities. Scripts will address your general, outreach anxiety.
You could script out every individual consulting conversation, of course, but that would be inefficient. You’re better off curating a portfolio of general scripts that prepare you to succeed in 90%+ of your outreach scenarios.
For instance you may want scripts for contacting a new introduction, an old flame, or a past client.
Fortunately, if you search the library of articles on this site, you’ll see it’s littered with scripts you can adapt for your own use.
PRODS stands for Perfectly Remembered Outreach Discussion Starters. They provide conversation topics for your outreach to a specific person, like Bea Butterscotch. PRODS will address your specific outreach anxiety.
Without PRODS, the time preceding each consulting networking activity is tough. You review old notes, try to remember what was important from past discussions, and rack your brain in search of some sort of valuable subject. Often, you just give up and skip the outreach opportunity altogether.
But there’s someone who knows exactly what to talk about:
To be more precise, historical you. The you who, after completing a conversation with a contact, jotted down the topics you should talk about during the next outreach occasion.
Every time you hang up the phone, finish an email exchange or walk out of a meeting with one of your consulting contacts, write a note for future you and put it in your CRM. The note looks something like this:
Ask how the global project went. Did she go to Mexico? Did she like the fish sticks in mole sauce?
Then, the next time you’re scheduled to reach out to your consulting contact, no thinking or digging is required. Your notes offer you Perfectly Remembered Outreach Discussion Starters.
This technique seems simplistic, and it is. PRODS are a simple, massive gift you give to yourself.
With your anxiety handled, you conduct more outreach, surface more opportunities and sign more consulting projects. Tada, life is good!
Quick question: do you make notes for yourself that ease your outreach efforts?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
Those are great ideas! Thanks David!
I appreciate the feedback, Praveen. Let me know how implementing these couple of techniques work for you.
Thanks for sharing these techniques, they are very informative! (specially for me that I am starting my solo consulting firm)
Congratulations on your new firm, Fernando, and welcome to the exciting world of independent consulting! Let me know how you progress, and feel free to post your questions on these articles.
David, thank you for providing this information and reminding us about the importance of “outreach”. I forced myself to do it at first and found it gets easier with time.
I did a quick search on your blog for on “Best CRM” but didn’t find an obvious blog posting about CRM software that you recommend. Do you have a few favorites where the combination of price and functionality are a step above?
Great question, Michael. The CRM system itself is not as important as how you set it up and manage it. There are definitely best practices that make a huge difference on that front. (We’ve done some webinars on CRMs, and typically set up the system for clients.)
In terms of the platform, my team uses Pipedrive and the majority of our clients use it also. It’s simple, inexpensive, and if you set it up correctly, it serves its purpose perfectly.
Congrats on persisting with outreach until it became easier. You’re an excellent model for other consultants who are struggling with outreach.
wow – PRODS is such an unbelievably helpful tip. Here I am just putting in every life note I can think of under one section of my CRM. Spent # of hours just to review these notes and find the “right” topic for the next convo. Not anymore. Thanks, David!
Raven, your future self is going to be so thankful to your thoughtful, prepared, organized, historical self. You’ll become your own best helper every day. Woo hoo!
Thanks for posting your feedback, and let me know how the PRODS habit pans out for you.
Great article on writing notes for my future self – like backwards time travel.
I’ve recently started getting more methodical with outreach. Until now, I’ve been keeping track of contacts and notes in an excel file. Any recommendations on a good, yet inexpensive, CRM solution for an independent consultant?
Kudos for you for being more methodical in your outreach. That will pay off in spades.
In terms of the platform, as I mentioned to Michael in an earlier comment, my team uses Pipedrive and the majority of our clients use it also. It’s simple, inexpensive, and if you set it up correctly, it serves its purpose perfectly.
I’m glad you wrote and shared your experience, Ken