You are probably falling prey to a couple of biases when determining which relationships your consulting firm should nurture, and that’s costing you business. Fortunately, as you’ll see below, you can correct the biases easily.
You know that most of your consulting firm’s projects—which, for now, I’ll assume are focused on pain au chocolat optimization—emanate from your Network Core. (If you don’t know that, please spend a few minutes with this book.)
Therefore, you focus your consulting firm’s outreach and relationship-nurturing efforts on your Network Core.
Except, in all likelihood you’re including people who shouldn’t be in your Network Core and you’re overlooking important contacts. Those problems are conspiring to reduce the effectiveness of your consulting firm’s business development activities.
We can remedy the situation and boost your consulting firm’s business development results with guidance from Alvin, Bailey and Benita.
ALVIN is the CEO of the Furry Fishball Chair company and you’ve known him for years. (Their product.) Since you have an excellent, collegial rapport with Alvin, you classify him as an A relationship. Groovy.
As a CEO, Alvin is a decision-maker who could hire a consulting firm like yours for the mid-six-figure fees you so richly deserve. Therefore, you classify him as a 1 (a decision-maker).
But there’s a problem: you’ve succumbed to the Familiarity Bias.
As your relationship with a contact deepens, your belief that they can help your consulting firm win business increases disproportionately.
Yes, Alvin is a decision-maker, and yes, you’re buddies. As a result you want to think that he would buy services from your consulting firm. But Furry Fishball Chairs will never need help with dough density, pastry pass-through parameters, or any of the other areas in which your consulting firm specializes.
Alvin may buy consulting services, but, realistically, he won’t buy from your consulting firm. Therefore, he’s not a 1. Take him out of the A1 box. At best he’s an A2 and, quite possibly, he’s an A3 who doesn’t belong in your Network Core at all despite his CEO title.
Action Step: Scour your A1s and remove anyone who wouldn’t/can’t actually buy the services your consulting firm offers. They may be in the wrong industry, the wrong function, a business that is too small or one that is too large. Don’t let your strong relationship blind you to the fact that they’re not really buyers.
BAILEY is a Sr. Temperature Analyst whom you know well thanks to your consulting firm’s work with Patty’s Erie Bakery, where Bailey works.
Bailey is in the bottom layer of the management cake; however, you respect her work, like her, and believe she’s a fan of your consulting firm. You classify her as an A2. She’s not a decision-maker, but you have a great relationship and maybe she could introduce you to someone who could bring you in on a project.
Familiarity Bias has struck again. (As has the Direct Connection Bias—more on that later.)
Because you think very positively of Bailey, you overestimate her ability to help your consulting firm win projects.
The reality is Bailey barely rises to the level of a weak A2. She can introduce you to one person who might be another link on the way to a decision-maker. Even though you like Bailey immensely, she should be reclassified as an A3.
Action Step: Reevaluate your A2s and remove anyone whose influence is weak—either because they can’t introduce you directly to buyers of your consulting firm’s services or because the number/quality of buyers they can introduce you to is low.
Finally we reach BENITA, who is a confectionery critic with Croissant Quarterly. She also hosts the Pastry Podcast and YellowCake YouTube channel, both of which are widely followed. You’ve crossed paths a couple of times with Benita and she interviewed you once for an article.
You classified Benita as a B (moderate relationship) and a 3 because she doesn’t work at any prospective clients and probably never will.
Oops. You’ve been hoodwinked by the Direct Connection Bias.
Direct Connection Bias
When considering the influence power of contacts, closeness with decision-makers tends to be overvalued, and reach tends to be undervalued.
Benita doesn’t work at a potential client, so you discount her importance. However, her reach is enormous and if you create a close relationship with her, she could potentially expose your consulting firm to dozens, hundreds or even thousands of high-potential decision-makers.
Action Step: Search for strong 2s in your consulting firm’s contact list. Pay particular attention to any contacts that have broad reach in your target market. Provisionally elevate strong B2s into your Network Core and actively nurture those relationships.
Your consulting firm’s time and energy for relationship building is limited.
Hence, it’s essential that you focus your energy on your Network Core, and equally essential that you rid your Network Core of the Familiarity Bias and Direct Connection Bias.
Can you think of a contact you’ve been nurturing who has been a waste of time, or an influencer who deserves more of your attention? Below, please share one opportunity to improve your Network Core.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.