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[Updated] The Easiest Source of New Consulting Clients

The quest for new clients to grow your consulting firm 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.*

Where on earth are those precious new clients to be found? The question is all the more pressing when your consulting firm’s portfolio of current clients is deflating like a leaky tire.  

Almost seven years ago, I suggested that the audiences at your in-person speaking engagements are one of the best sources of new clients. However, while in-person speaking can still generate clients, you probably encounter fewer opportunities to employ this tactic now than in the past.

Therefore, the updated, most likely places to find your next client are:

A Sibling of Your Current Client

The sister division of your client inside a large company or another portfolio company held by the PE owner of your current client are good examples of sibling companies. (For a moment there you thought “sibling” was literal, right?)

Since your consulting firm is already producing high quality results at your clients, you start your relationship with sibling prospects with virtually every one of the Six Pillars of Consulting Success in place:

Know – You’re already in the family—a known commodity.

Like – Presumably your current client contacts will vouch for how nice your consulting firm is to work with.

Trust – The results you’ve delivered reinforce that you’re a credible, reliable resource.

Need – Executives who perceive a need in one part of their organization or in one company, are likely to see the same need elsewhere.

Want – Success in one division or company sparks desire for sibling enterprises to keep up.

Value – The proof is in the pudding. Chocolate flavored, of course. You have generated results, and the value of replicating those results elsewhere is obvious.

Your next step is to create relationships with the siblings—as obvious as it seems that they should work with your consulting firm, they may not reach out to you unprompted.

Personal Contact with Your Network (and Introductions)

The most reliable, reasonably quick route to a new client is through personal touch with your network; i.e. conversations on the phone, Zoom/Teams or in person.

Don’t hide behind email and direct messaging. Although those mechanisms can instigate a conversation, to win clients, quickly move to a medium where you can hear and, ideally, see each other.

Consistent conversations lead to consistent new business. It’s a pretty easy equation.

The biggest challenge some consulting firms 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.

Tribes of Your Influential Partners

Even if your consulting firm’s network is thin, your partners’ tribes may harbor a broad range of high-potential prospects for your consulting firm.

When a highly trusted voice suggests to someone that they should consider engaging your consulting firm, you’ll get a look. And if the trusted figure’s reach is extensive, your consulting firm will receive a lot of looks.

You can reach your partners’ tribes through direct introductions or indirectly through collaboration on articles, podcasts, webinars, panels, diagnostics, etc.

Have any of these sources worked for you?

  1. William J. Ryan
    December 13, 2023 at 8:12 am Reply

    Conversations that lead to connections have led to clients for me (look at me trying to be clever like David!) so I focus on using blogs, newsletters, and videos to prompt discussions from both sides. It’s nice when someone reacts to a message I’ve created but it works to use a message I know a former client has experienced as a chance to have a deeper conversation and, to ask if they know others too. Same is true to forge partnerships I have found where strengths compliment offerings.

    • David A. Fields
      December 13, 2023 at 9:31 am Reply

      It sounds like you’ve established a very effective networking and communication strategy, Bill. As you rightly point out, constantly expanding your network and creating new relationships will help you win business. (And also experience the joy of knowing more people.)

      Thanks for adding your insights to the article, Bill!

    • Tyler Mogavero
      December 13, 2023 at 5:37 pm Reply

      The thought and consideration that went into your post expanded my viewpoint. Thanks!

  2. Hugo GM
    December 13, 2023 at 12:20 pm Reply

    Still the good old methods of doing a good job and networking are the best. All those magical LIn meeting services take too much time and few results. Great post David.

    • David A. Fields
      December 13, 2023 at 4:16 pm Reply

      Exactly right, Hugo. The “silver bullet” solutions you receive emails and linkedin messages about every day do not produce the results or the ROI of ol’ fashioned network-building.

      I appreciate that you added your perspective, Hugo!

  3. Praveen Puri
    December 13, 2023 at 12:43 pm Reply

    This is spawning ideas for me to increase my connections! Thanks David!

    • David A. Fields
      December 13, 2023 at 4:17 pm Reply

      Perfect, Praveen. If the article inspires you to meet a few more people then we’ll mark that down as a win!

  4. Roger Herod
    December 13, 2023 at 9:47 pm Reply

    From my experience potential clients are always very interested in finding out which companies or organizations you’ve carried out relevant project work for in their industry or region. You need to make sure that the companies or organizations would be willing to act as a reference. This approach helped me develop many consulting projects in North America and Europe. Clients generally seem more willing to engage your services if they can mention to their bosses which leading companies in their industry you’ve done project work for.

  5. Roger Herod
    December 13, 2023 at 9:49 pm Reply

    From my experience potential clients are always very interested in finding out which companies or organizations you’ve carried out relevant project work for in their industry or region. You need to make sure these are companies they respect and that the companies would be willing to act as a reference. This approach helped me develop many consulting projects in North America and Europe.

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