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More Clients and More Free Time – the Old School Way

Let’s go old school. There’s a choice consultants make every day, and I am convinced that consultants who choose correctly will experience huge gains in their productivity and business-development efforts.

Before I reveal the details of this game-changing choice, let me quickly review the problems it addresses. (I could reveal the surprise immediately, but then you’d mutter something like, “I already knew I should choose the blue pill.” And you’d stop reading. Where’s the fun in that?)**neo-and-morpheus-with-pillsProblem #1 facing many consultants: Prospects aren’t responding to your inquiries. You’re sending beautifully nuanced emails, sometimes with painstakingly crafted collateral attached and… nothing. No reply. The other side of the email chain is apparently anchored in some mystical place out of touch with the real world like Narnia or Oz.**

Problem #2 facing many consultants: You’re in a time crunch. Working projects, meeting prospects for networking lunches, writing blogs and following up on past-due invoices. Your to-do list extended itself past the edge of the whiteboard, ran down the wall and is curled lazily on the office floor.

This frustrating combination of unresponsive prospects and work-overwhelm is extremely common. Fortunately, in my work with myriad consultants, I’ve seen one tweak you can make easily and immediately that will mitigate both problems. That tweak is your choice of communication mediums. The phone is your friend.

Too many consultants are hiding behind email when they should be picking up the phone and making a call. While prospects are in your funnel, you should be calling them, not emailing them. Is it ever okay to email? Sure. But think of email as your supplemental communication medium, and the phone as your primary.

Anything of any importance whatsoever should be handled in a phone call. Not only are emails easily dismissed, ignored, overlooked and generally low-impact, they’re a lousy communication medium.

It’s very difficult to communicate emotional content effectively in an email. (And remember, emotions are what convert prospects into clients.) When it comes to moving prospects forward in the funnel, emails aren’t the worst choice, but they’re pretty close.darwin_writes_message_on_beIronically, I also see consultants squandering valuable time on in-person meetings that could easily be handled by… you guessed it, telephone. Face-to-face time is definitely the richest form of communication and it affords you ample opportunity to build rapport, trust, etc.

On the other hand, tearing three hours out of your day (including travel time) to “grab coffee” with someone who hasn’t expressed solid interest in a specific project is not a smart use of time.

Early on in the relationship, talk by phone. If you’re personable and attentive (stop surfing the net while you’re on a call!), you can accomplish 85% of the relationship-building at a fraction of the cost of an in-person meeting. I have proposed, won and delivered large projects entirely over the phone with prospects I’ve never once met in person.

Alexander Graham Bell gave us the telephone in the late 19th century and it’s still the best, most effective and efficient business-building tool in your arsenal. Like I said, let’s go old school.

When do you think in-person meetings are warranted? I’ll give you my thoughts on that in the comments section in a day or two. In the meantime, what do you think? When does the benefit of an in-person meeting outstrip the enormous cost?

  1. Michael Boezi
    July 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm Reply

    Great post, thank you. I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels for a couple weeks on the very issues you raise here. What do you do then? Change of strategy!

    • davidafields
      July 2, 2014 at 1:31 pm Reply

      Indeed! If what you’re doing isn’t creating results (and you’ve given it enough time), then make a change. Let me know if the next couple of weeks create more traction.

  2. Gordon G. Andrew
    July 2, 2014 at 1:06 pm Reply

    David, I know that you are 100% correct. I understand that all the reasons I don’t pick up the phone are fear / rejection-based. I also know people who have built successful practices solely through cold calling. So thanks for the kick in the pants. I’m setting some goals for myself to make phone calls, rather than pitch letters, my primary means of generating new business. I’ll give you an update at the end of the summer. Thanks. Gordon

    • davidafields
      July 2, 2014 at 1:34 pm Reply

      Good insight on what’s blocking you, Gordon. Chances are you’ll find warm calls a heck of a lot more fun and more profitable than cold calls. I’m looking forward to receiving your end-of-summer update.

      • Gordon G. Andrew
        July 2, 2014 at 1:42 pm Reply

        David, I’ve seen research, and learned first-hand, that warming up a prospect in advance of a call does not have a material effect on whether they take the call, or are receptive to it. But market response notwithstanding, I do know that sending a quick note in advance of a call always makes me more confident, and more likely to actually make the call. I’ll keep you posted on progress. Thanks again.

  3. Tom Borg
    July 2, 2014 at 2:08 pm Reply

    One of the keys to good telephone contact is persistence. One of the mistakes I made in the past is to default to email mode only when I did not get through to the prospect on the telephone after only one call. It is pleasantly surprising to see prospects respond to realistic tenacity.

    • davidafields
      July 2, 2014 at 9:33 pm Reply

      Great point, Tom. Thanks for contributing.

  4. Adam Gelles
    July 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm Reply

    There are two instances in my mind when you MUST have face to faces during the sales process.
    1. A complex sale – if you sell an offering that requires multiple decision-makers you must use a group meeting to manage against the “nay-sayer”
    2. A multi-departmental sale – if you sell something that requires two or more departments to “sign-off” a good tool is a gourd meeting well managed to close the deal. To some extent see #1.

    • davidafields
      July 3, 2014 at 7:20 am Reply

      Interesting point, Adam. Do you find your consulting projects are so complex that they require lengthy, in-person discussions? Similarly, have you not found that you can communicate with multiple decision-makers one-on-one on the phone?

  5. Dawn Rasmussen
    September 18, 2023 at 6:14 am Reply

    Finding it challenging since COVID to get people on the phone – You call the office their not in and PA’s / receptionist wont give out mobiles.

    Do you have any tips on getting people on the phone.

    • David A. Fields
      September 18, 2023 at 11:26 am Reply

      Wow, Dawn, good on you for finding a very old article! You’re right that over the past decade, it’s become increasingly difficult to connect with people on the phone without some sort of prior engagement. Therefore, always start by creating a dialogue via email, direct messaging (e.g., via LinkedIn) or some other channel. It doesn’t have to be much. A simple yes/no question followed by a short answer from the other side opens the door to ask for a phone/Zoom conversation.

      Great question. I think we’ll also use it in our Monday LinkedIn live Q&A (

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