External Champions: the Best Supporters of Your Consulting Firm (How to Find/Build Them)
All your consulting firm’s visibility-building and marketing efforts pale next to the power of a champion—an outsider who promotes your firm to others. Your consulting firm can actively create champions and super-champions who will rapidly build your business.
Think of the last time you spontaneously recommended a product or service to someone else. You went out of your way to tell your friends that they have to try Dandelion Chocolate’s Mokha Mocha Beans,* and now those delicacies are totally sold out.
Or consider Mozart. Despite his prodigious talent, today’s musicians would not be performing masterpieces such as The Marriage of Figaro or the Jupiter symphony had Mozart’s father, Leopold, not toured him around Europe and thrust young Mozart into the public’s eye.
You championed those espresso beans (or maybe I did) and Leopold championed Wolfgang.
Who’s championing you?
Who’s thrusting your consulting firm in front of likely prospects? Who, outside your staff and vendors, advocates for your consulting firm?
If you’ve ever had a champion, particularly one inside a client’s organization, you know their impact on your consulting firm can be transformative. A single individual can double or triple your revenue, dramatically expand your portfolio of clients, and increase your renown.
There are many, many smart, accomplished consulting firms producing excellent value for their clients. A fortunate handful are rapidly growing thanks to the efforts of an outsider.
Your consulting firm can be among those fortunate few.
The best champions—super-champions—are much more than recommenders of your consulting services. They’re partners who are committed to your success.
5 Steps to Build External Champions for Your Consulting Firm
1. Find Likely Champions
Most consulting firms stumble upon a champion or two over the years. You can actively seek them out if you know what to look for. A few characteristics of potential champions:
- You already have an “A” relationship. (i.e., look in your Network Core and focus on people with whom someone in your consulting firm has a strong, personal connection.)
- They are influencers with numerous connections.
- They are high-energy, highly charged, in-motion doers. These people stand out amongst the crowd of worker bees and you can’t help but notice their high energy level.
- They have recommended other services/firms to you, or do so easily when you ask for a recommendation.
- They are enthusiastic about your consulting firm’s work.
2. Deliver Specialness
Performing great work and providing excellent value are table stakes for any consulting firm. The line between appreciation and championing is crossed with specialness: a surprising level of benefit in some area.
To create a champion, your consulting firm has to step above table stakes and deliver something that is notably above and beyond what your potential champion expects.
Inside a client, your above-and-beyond value could be an extra deliverable, ultra-speedy responsiveness, beating the planned timeline, a cookie-laden care package or something else.
Importantly, you won’t create a sense of specialness just by delivering the pre-specified outcomes of your consulting engagement to a particularly high degree. In other words, “great work” is not enough.
You can plan this step. What will your consulting firm deliver during your engagements that will create a jolt of “Wow!”?
3. Offer the Role
Don’t wait for your potential supporter to organically develop into a champion.
After you’ve built up a strong relationship and your potential champion has expressed delight in your specialness, offer them some superhero tights.
More specifically, ask whether they are willing to brainstorm ways they may be able to support your consulting firm.
You can be very straightforward with this step. At this point you have a good relationship and your supporter believes in your consulting firm. This is not the time to be coy, shy or subtle.
For instance, communicate that when they recommend you to others, they become a source of value too.
4. Reciprocate Emotionally
The secret to champions is that they experience a massive endorphin rush from promoting your consulting firm. They are emotionally compensated.
The more you ensure your potential champion receives a powerful, emotional benefit, the more successful your development campaign will be.
You’ll need to pay close attention and clue into the individual’s emotional drivers.
For instance, many champions enjoy the feeling of having contributed to someone else’s growth. Others, love the status that comes from being the first to recognize a new, high-value resource.
Reward your champion with exuberant, heartfelt thanks for their help. Share your joy, praise their efforts, and ensure they are recognized for their role in your consulting firm’s growth. Acknowledge their vision and foresight.
Don’t ruin your efforts by offering them extrinsic rewards, such as financial compensation.
5. Try Again
Champions are enormously powerful for your consulting firm. They are also frustratingly elusive.
If your efforts to cultivate a champion fall flat, don’t give up. Persistence pays off in spades.
One champion can noticeably improve your consulting firm’s fortunes. Ten champions can elevate your consulting firm beyond your current dreams.
That outcome deserves your consulting firm’s consistent, tenacious efforts.
Have you ever had a champion support your consulting firm? Please share your story.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
Thanks David! You’re our champion.
It’s a team sport, Yosef. We work together to be champions!