The easiest source of new business is, of course, current clients. However, setting your existing clients aside, where will you find your next, new client? Below are the two best places to look.
The quest for new clients can feel like a game of hide-and-seek, where you’re the six-year-old and the clients are your eleven-year-old brother who somehow manages to stay hidden despite your best efforts to unearth him. (For the record, Derek, I knew you were behind the living room curtain.)
Where on earth are those precious new clients to be found? The question is all the more pressing when your portfolio of current clients is deflating like a leaky tire. The two most likely places to find your next client are…
Your Audience at an In-Person Speaking Engagement
Presenting to a room of at least 30 decision makers is the sure-fire, fastest way to new clients. Of course, that assumes there are at least 30 decision makers in the room (and if there aren’t, why did you take the gig?).
Literally, every single on-stage presentation I have given has led to new clients, and most consultants I work with have similar results.
Public speaking cements every one of the Six Pillars of Consulting Success:
Know – You’re on stage… Know is assumed.
Like – When your charming personality shines through, you build Like.
Trust – The mere fact that you’re on stage, plus your real-world examples create Trust.
Need – Examples of others’ situations and a quick diagnostic in your presentation create awareness of Need.
Want – Your appealing, passionate portrayal of the outcome fuels Want.
Value – With personal wins in your examples, Value is obvious.
Of course, you need to know how to follow up with your audience and you have to be diligent in your post-meeting activities.
Personal Contact with Your Network (and Introductions)
The most reliable, reasonably quick route to a new client is through personal touch with your contact list. That means phone calls or in-person meetings.
Don’t hide behind email. If you have contacts who are more responsive to email than the phone, send an email asking for a phone call. For everyone else, go directly to phone calls.
Consistent phone time leads to consistent new business. It’s a pretty easy equation.
The biggest challenge some consultants encounter with this approach is the lack of a network to call. If you only know 15 decision makers, you run out of opportunities quickly. Or do you?
Your two goals during a conversation are to build the relationship and to solicit an introduction that allows you to build a new relationship.
When you know how to ask for introductions correctly, you can parlay a tiny list of decision makers into a respectable, 100-to-300 person list in a matter of a couple of months. And with that size contact list, your phone calls will routinely produce new business opportunities.
Have these two sources worked for you?
Where have you found new clients?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
Great information and advice, David, as always. To some extent prospecting is a numbers game. But a personal touch is absolutely necessary to find high quality qualified prospects. People rarely refer up significantly in status or quality. So it’s a good idea to start with your A+ networking buddies. They will likely refer folks like themselves.
Paula, your comment about who people will refer you to is exactly right. That’s one reason it’s important to know how to ask for introductions properly. When you use the right language in your introduction request, you receive more introductions and higher quality introductions, too.
A thought provoking post…
I wonder how many consultants, who are looking for new clients today, were “internal consultants” yesterday – where their “clients” were well known to them. The transition to owning your own consulting practice brings with it the need to think like a marketer (sorry, I know that is upsetting to some…). It can be a challenging transition if you focus on your services, their features and their benefits. A common practice as an “internal consultant”, but not the best perspective when you strike out on your own.
Instead, consider the type of client you wish to serve and the types of problems they face that are important to them (important enough that they need to act now and would be willing to spend money to make them go away). Compare that list with your own capabilities. Highlight especially, those problems where you have an approach or methodology that is not only effective – but where you also possess a point of differentiation that matters to your target clients.The advantage of this approach is you can now identify your best potential prospects and your discussion about their problems will be focused on them, whereas a conversation about your services is more focused on you. This shift can make a big difference to your success.
You now know who to engage with and you have a short list of topics that are important to your prospect, that they are motivated to solve. See David’s work on the Context Discussion and the Perfect Proposal and you will have an effective recipe to follow that should guide you through a productive discussion.
Another approach I have used successfully – – I contact area CEOs to request a brief 1:1 to solicit advice or conduct research. I never ask for more 20 minutes. I am yet to find a CEO who does not grant my request, with most volunteering at least an hour (everyone likes to be asked for advice, but it can feel awkward to be prospected when we do not believe we have a need for consulting). Further, I have always left the meeting with at least 3 contacts of their peers to repeat the process with.
David, the research/request-for-advice approach to expanding your contact list can be excellent. In fact, I used a similar approach to build my Rolodex of CEOs quite a number of years ago.
However, you also have to know the “rules of engagement.” For instance, turning your interview into a pitch or an inquiry of whether or not there’s an opportunity for you is a no-no and gives consultants a bad name. There’s a process for turning a relationship that was initiated via an interview or request for advice into a potential prospect, and if you follow that process you’ll find yourself with a valuable network. If not, you’ll find yourself with a bunch of contacts who won’t pick up the phone and won’t refer you to others.
Thanks for the insightful comment, David.
“There’s a process for turning a relationship that was initiated via an interview or request for advice into a potential prospect, and if you follow that process you’ll find yourself with a valuable network. ” – Curious to learn what this process might be? Covered in another post maybe?
Good catch, Nik. Yes, that process, called The Turn is covered fairly extensive in The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients.
Thanks for asking!
It was upon reading this article that I realized that ALL of my clients last year came from speaking engagements. And I scheduled 3 yesterday as a result! Thank you.
Terrific case study, Greg! If you’re willing to continue your example, I’m sure many readers would be interested in how you scheduled three speaking gigs in a day–many consultants struggle to book speaking engagements.
I am finding, David, that it first takes time to build a relationship and rise to the top.
With everyone not an employee now a consultant, there is a lot of noise for the C Suite to deal with.
I find regular contact through multiple sources allow time for a CEO to get to know me, see my worth, and ask how I may e of help.
Jo, you’ve covered a couple of interesting points in your comment. First, as you imply, it doestake a trusting relationship to win a consulting engagement. That’s why outreach to your current network is one of the two most likely places to find your next client. Presumably, within your current network you’ve had more of the regular contact you mention as necessary.
The second point you inadvertently surfaced is the assumption that the CEO is the person whose attention you need. While that’s often the case in small clients, it’s definitely not the case with large, corporate clients. CEOs tend to be poor targets for most consulting and, in fact, the C-Suite of large companies in general isn’t a terrific target for consultants. You’re always best off finding the lowestlevel of the organization that has the problem you solve, the urgency to solve it and the budget authority. In small companies that may be the CEO; in large companies that could be a GM, a division leader, a VP or even a senior manager.
Thanks for contributing your valuable thoughts to this discussion, Jo.