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How to Attract Clients Without Trying

Why is winning new business easy for some consultants? You have peers who know winning a few hundred grand or a few million dollars in business is as sure as the sun coming up tomorrow.

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And if you’re struggling to grow your consulting practice then you may shake your head and wonder, “Why isn’t that me? What am I doing wrong?” Well, unless you and I talk,** I can’t say if you’d benefit from a change in course. However, I’ll show you by example what works.

Earlier this week I was chatting with the CMO of a company. Though I’d never even heard of his employer before our conversation, he inquired, “Would you have any interest in helping us?” This CMO is someone I’ve met only once, and yet he’s asking me whether I’m willing to take on a project that will be a couple hundred smackeroos.

What’s up with that? Let’s backtrack. You know that to fill your pipeline you must be: talking about the right problemto the right peopleat the right timeusing compelling language.

By the way, those four are in order according to their impact on your business.

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Talking about the right problem is, more or less, a one-time activity. Figure out what the market needs that you can do (or learn to do), and focus your new-client efforts there. Like a pit bull. Like my six year-old niece who decided she wanted an electric guitar and could be neither dissuaded nor distracted from her goal. Relentless focus. I identified a pervasive, costly market need over ten years ago, so I’m all set on that front.

On the other hand, talking to the right people at the right time is a day-in, day-out, ongoing practice. The right people are at the lowest level of the organization who view the problem you solve as a top priority and have the authority to buy. You’ll have more success with Dan Director or Vicky VP than Charlene CEO, as long as Dan and Vicky have signing authority.

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You want to add a steady stream of those targets to your contact list by walking the halls at your clients, by obtaining referrals, by being visible where those folks congregate and by hitting hot-buttons with your marketing.

Timing is tricky. It’s often difficult to predict when Bob Jones or Sally Smith will need your particular expertise. Therefore, you talk to Bob and Sally, as well as Ichiro, Mev, Jordan, Robbie, and as many others as possible on a regular basis.

You talk with them through your articles, speeches, other marketing and, especially, through one-on-one conversations. Day in, day out. The more the better. When it comes to one-on-one conversations, let natural relationship chains and serendipity guide you. Why? Because natural chains and serendipity are interesting, and your interest or disinterest in a relationship shines through in your attitude during conversations.

For example, on Monday I reached out to Nancy, a contact at a client in Portland for help pinpointing information for a different client. After chatting for a bit she mentioned she had moved into marketing. “Oh,” I exclaimed, “Does that mean you’re working for Chris?” Chris was the CMO. I had met him once while walking the halls in Portland and we enjoyed a couple of conversations as part of my regular outreach over the following years. “No, she replied. Chris has moved to some company down in Louisville. He left a few months ago.”

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Immediately after hanging up with Nancy, I jumped onto LinkedIn and looked up Chris. Sure enough, he had moved to some obscure, Louisville-based company. Within a few minutes I had located their phone number and dialed Chris. “Tell me about your move. How’s the new gig and how did you get there?” were easy, natural questions to ask and demonstrated my genuine interest in him.

Twenty minutes later, as Chris described the challenges he was facing in the new role he connected the dots between his needs and my group’s expertise. “Would you have any interest in helping us?”

As easy as that. But was it easy? Yes and no. A simple phone call surfaced a large, new project opportunity. Yet, that phone call was a result of nailing the right product offering years ago, staying focused on it, and continuously, religiously cultivating relationships.

In consulting, as in any area of life, when you employ the right techniques and practice them diligently, you’ll surpass your goals. Results that elude others will come naturally to you and colleagues will wonder how you achieve them so easily.

That’s been my experience. I’d like to hear about yours. What one technique has made it easier for you to win new clients? Please post your experience in the comments section, below.


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4 Comments
  1. Jaime Campbell
    January 28, 2015 at 11:42 pm Reply

    Solving problems publicly that have been posted over social media. This technique is the source of my #1 source of business. Not only is the person I helped now interested, but everyone else on the thread – PLUS I generally post in open, searchable groups. Our largest client found me this way.

    Next step: Solve bigger problems publicly.

    • David A. Fields
      February 5, 2015 at 11:02 am Reply

      Thanks for posting your experience winning business with social media, Jaime. It’s unusual that a consultant’s #1 source of new business is social media, so your path is particularly interesting to me.

  2. Judie Sundmaker
    January 29, 2015 at 2:00 pm Reply

    Very helpful article! Thank you!

    • David A. Fields
      February 5, 2015 at 11:03 am Reply

      You’re welcome, Judie. Thanks for the feedback! As long as you and other consultants keep asking me questions, I’m happy to share what works for me and others.

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