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A Quick Trick to Refresh Your Consulting Firm’s Network

Over time, your consulting firm’s network can dwindle as you lose touch with ex-clients and fail to maintain other contacts. Fortunately, there’s an easy method to reawaken dormant relationships and enrich your pool of potential consulting clients.

Remember Yuri? Sure you do. He was a client of yours, and even though you haven’t chatted in a few years it’s hard to forget someone who chomps on a chocolate cigar all day like a mashup of Churchill and Willy Wonka.

Your consulting firm’s network is probably loaded with folks like Yuri—connections you’ve let drift away. It happens.

As you focus on current clients and your hottest prospects, warm contacts cool.

You become hesitant to reach out because you have nothing new to say and the communication gap yawns awkwardly. The months keep flying by, and in no time a year or more has passed since your last interaction with most of the people you’ve met and chatted with.

These are cool contacts. Not cold contacts–i.e., people you’ve never met and who wouldn’t recognize your consulting firm. Not warm contacts—i.e., people you’ve connected with recently. And also not hot contacts–i.e., current clients and people with whom you’re actively engaged in conversation.

Cool contacts are a largely untapped source of high-potential prospects for your consulting firm.

Fortunately, cool contacts require only a little sprinkling of attention to bring them back to life, even after a long period of dormancy.

We have found one, simple method that rekindles relationships with your consulting firm’s cool contacts that is easy, fast, and extremely effective:

The 1:1:1 Email

An email that painlessly reconnects you to cool contacts and sets the stage to re-engage in conversation.* The structure is:

One focus: Them. (Yes, this is a Right-Side Up technique.)

One line: Easy to write, easy to read.

One question: An easy-to-respond-to query that prompts engagement.

A few examples:

Subject: You Still in Boston?

Hi Yuri.

Waaaaay too long since we’ve caught up. Are you still living in the Boston area?

Warm regards,

David

Subject: Chocolate Cigars

Hi Yuri.

Seems like forever since we’ve talked. What’s that brand of chocolate cigars you like?

Warm regards,

David

Subject: Does this email address still work?

Hi Yuri.

Does this email address still work for you?

Warm regards,

David

The 1:1:1 email requires less than a minute to compose and each batch of 1:1:1 emails you send will typically generate a 50-80% response rate.

After Yuri responds, you invite him to connect for 15 minutes on the phone. Since he’s already made the decision to respond to you, he’s likely to agree to a new conversation. (The power of internal consistency.)

Chocaboom! Your cool contact is now warm and you have the possibility of discovering a latent project opportunity.

Important Usage Notes

  • Make your question easy to answer. Responding to “How are you?” or “What have you been up to?” demands too much effort and will dramatically reduce your success rate.
  • Remember the goal of the 1:1:1 email: reestablish a relationship and engage in a live conversation. That’s it. You’re not trying to sell.
  • Once you’re in dialog with Yuri, an opportunity to work together may arise, but don’t force it. That’s a good way to burn the relationship you’re trying to warm up.

Write 5-10 1:1:1 emails every week, and in no-time your consulting firm’s network will be bursting with lively conversations and new project opportunities.


22 Comments
  1. Dan Monaghan
    June 29, 2022 at 7:06 am Reply

    David,
    I’ve found that a free lunch can rekindle a relationship. Something like, “In the area next week. What day works for lunch to catch up?” Has a high response rate. All the better if the restaurant has great chocolate cream pie!

    • David A. Fields
      June 29, 2022 at 8:44 am Reply

      Good idea, Dan, that is particularly applicable if you’re traveling or if your network is generally nearby. You could skip the lunch and go right to the pie: “In the area next week. Have chocolate. Want some?”

      The only downside to that approach is it’s capped by the number of lunches you can have in a week which, for me, is about 40. 😉

      Thanks for adding the excellent relationship kindler, Dan!

  2. Barrie Atkin
    June 29, 2022 at 9:02 am Reply

    Many Thanks David for this simple, easily doable and elegant suggestion. Now I have NO excuse not to be in touch with “cool” past clients.

    • David A. Fields
      June 29, 2022 at 9:04 am Reply

      Exactly right, Barrie. Try sending out a few 1:1:1 emails today (you could knock out five during your lunch break), and let me know how it goes for you.

      I appreciate you posting your reaction and committing to action, Barrie!

  3. BARRIE J. ATKIN
    June 29, 2022 at 9:13 am Reply

    OK, will do. 🙂

  4. Jason
    June 29, 2022 at 9:49 am Reply

    Hey David.

    I have also found that my highest response rates come from short emails that offer the opportunity of an easy reply. The trouble I have is finding a topic that is relevant and personal.

    As a remedy, I send an offer to catch up and/or a little about what I am up to. Not ideal, but I can reach out to more people and at least stay on their radar.

    What do you think of this approach? Any advice for improving it?

    • David A. Fields
      June 29, 2022 at 10:00 am Reply

      Good question, Jason. Two thoughts:
      1) You’re working too hard to find a relevant topic. An easy default is “Do you still work at XXX?” Even though you’re writing to the person at their work address and it’s obvious you know they still work there, your contact will still respond. They won’t think you’re dumb, they’ll think you’re interested.
      2) One of our clients uses a “here’s what’s up with me” type email and she has a decent response rate. You could try that if the 1:1:1 is too challenging for you.

      I don’t recommend asking to catch up in the first email. Leave that for the follow up.

      Thanks for the question, Jason–many other readers were probably wondering the same thing.

  5. Jason
    June 29, 2022 at 10:14 am Reply

    Hey David. Not to be too pedantic, but I can tell where they are by checking LinkedIn. I may even contact them through the platform. Do you still believe they won’t think I am dumb? 😉

    • David A. Fields
      June 29, 2022 at 12:05 pm Reply

      Of course you can see where they are. Doesn’t matter. No, they won’t think you’re dumb. The main reason is: they won’t think about you at all. The don’t really care whether you’re dumb or not. They care about themselves… and they’re thrilled that you’re taking an interest in them.

      Separately, contacting through LinkedIn isn’t quite as good as email, but everyone also knows that LinkedIn is chronically out of date so asking someone if they’re still with a company doesn’t even border on dumb.

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