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How Your Consulting Firm Can Benefit from My Experiment with Outreach

There are people you’ve not talked with in years, and it’s a shame. They’re good people, you enjoyed your relationship with them, plus, reconnecting could help generate business for your consulting firm.

But if you’ve been out of touch for so long, is it really possible to renew the relationship? And if so, how, and is more than one bar of To’ak Art Series Blend required?

Any time you sort through your consulting firm’s network to identify your Network Core, you will find dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of previously strong, A- or B-level relationships that have slipped away.

You think, “Oh, I remember Jack! He was a client of our consulting firm years ago.” Or, “I wonder if Alicia is still the head of that trade association. We haven’t talked since the late ’90s.” Or, “Sarah… Sarah… Hold on. I forgot I had a sister!”

I’m no exception. Even though I’m a huge believer in the value of relationships, sometimes it’s hard to keep up and my consulting firm’s contact list harbors more than one A relationship I’ve inadvertently let dwindle.

Therefore, I decided to run a brief experiment on outreach to lapsed contacts.

Our Experiment

  1. My assistant selected a slew of contacts with whom I’d had no contact for more than two years. How he selected these contacts is important, and I’ll get to that in a moment.
  2. I sent a very brief outreach message to each one. The message is also important.
  3. We tracked the response rate.

Because of the selection approach, we included contacts that are notoriously difficult to reach—such as an ex-client who rose to become the CEO of a large company and was too swamped to respond to me when he didn’t need our services.

Our Learning

Old contacts still love you! Almost 40% of the people I reached out to responded to me. (Including that swamped CEO.)

Email performs well; LinkedIn is less effective. We only used LinkedIn direct messaging when we didn’t have an up-to-date email address for the contact. None of those LinkedIn outreaches generated a reply.

The Impact

Will those revived connections lead to consulting projects? Absolutely.

Though, perhaps not directly.

What I know with absolute certainty is that when you are in conversation, projects pop up for your consulting firm. It’s the most undeniably reliable cause-effect relationship I’ve seen in the business development process for consulting firms.

The projects come from:

  • The people you’re talking with.
  • People who know the people you’re talking with. Your conversations sparks your contact to recommend your consulting firm to someone they’re connected to.
  • People who are totally unrelated to the people you’re talking with. Because you’re chatting with people outside your normal sphere, you’re passionate, excited, confident and chock-full of interesting stories to share. All of these allow you to surface and close more projects.

Our Approach

First, my assistant located a dusty (i.e., out-of-date) version of our Network Core.

Starting with the Network Core was a shortcut since it guaranteed everyone on the list was an A-level or B-level relationship with my consulting firm at some point.

(If your consulting firm hasn’t gone through the exercise of identifying your Network Core, you can use your current contact list.)

Then, without sorting in any way, my assistant chose the contacts that happened to be at the top of the list. Literally, the names that were in the first rows of the database. This is important. If you sort or edit your list, you’ll lose opportunities. Trust the process and reach out to everyone, starting at the top of your list and working your way down.

My assistant located each person’s email address as best he could using our historical records, supplemented by LinkedIn and a Google search where necessary.

I then sent a very simple, outreach email designed to maximize the response rate.

The Relationship-Restarter Email

The format of the email to restore a relationship is simple:

The subject line is a personal question that you think your contact will want to answer, such as, “Are you still in Boston?” or “Did you retire?”

Jot a one-line message. Two or three short sentences, anchored by a question. Something like:

Hey Bobzilla.

We haven’t talked in FOREVER! Are you still in Boston? Are you still running the Beanroasters business? I’d love to hear how you’re doing.

-David.

That’s it. That’s exactly the formula we used for our outreach experiment, and it worked surprisingly well.

That note is easy to write and easy to send. You can pound out 10 of those in 10 minutes and instantly generate two or three conversations that reinvigorate relationships and benefit your consulting firm.

Have you ever tried reaching out to a long-lost contact? If so, what was the result?


19 Comments
  1. Jeff Kincaid
    September 8, 2021 at 7:25 am Reply

    Unbelievably simple. A must add to my prospecting activity. Thank you

    • David A. Fields
      September 8, 2021 at 7:16 pm Reply

      Yep, simple works. Easy to implement and effective–that’s a good combination! Let me know how it works for you, Jeff.

  2. Tony Rodriguez
    September 8, 2021 at 7:40 am Reply

    Thank you David for the great suggestion and simplicity of the email. I will try it. Regards, Tony

    • David A. Fields
      September 8, 2021 at 7:16 pm Reply

      Good on you for trying it. Make sure to update me with how the outreach works for you, Tony!

  3. Terrel Transtrum
    September 8, 2021 at 11:37 am Reply

    David, you are generous and smart. A powerful combination! Only a week ago a face and name of a former client passed through my mind. Reacting with an email, a phone call from them rekindled our friendship and opened up a discussion about a problem we will be able to help with. My inspiration from your timely article is to change my perspective from “former” client to valuable member of my core network. Thanks a million!

    • David A. Fields
      September 8, 2021 at 7:25 pm Reply

      What a terrific case study, Terrel! Whether or not you end up winning a new project with your former client, you’ve renewed a relationship and that means you’re already richer. Thank you for sharing your success with me and other readers, Terrel.

  4. Terry Chevalier
    September 8, 2021 at 11:39 am Reply

    I agree. My LinkedIn outreach success rate is often very low unless through a warm intro (which even then is hit or miss). For emails, I have found using hunter.io is a great way to guess emails if I don’t know it. I get ~80% success rate in getting a response through that method.

    • Debbie Garrity
      September 8, 2021 at 2:42 pm Reply

      Thanks Terry for sharing this resource.

    • David A. Fields
      September 8, 2021 at 7:26 pm Reply

      Excellent addition to the process, Terry. We hadn’t used hunter.io for looking up emails (mostly because we didn’t find many missing emails); however, if we do end up needing to look someone up, we’ll give that a shot. I’m glad you let me and other readers know about that resource.

  5. Haris Ahmed
    September 8, 2021 at 2:11 pm Reply

    I have been wanting to do this for sometime and had been frozen because I did not know where to start… thanks for simplifying it! Now, I just need to do what you suggested! Thanks

    • David A. Fields
      September 8, 2021 at 7:30 pm Reply

      You’re not the only one who gets frozen, Haris. The simple email template should help shake you loose. You can start this week! (Make sure to let me know how it works out for you.)

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