How Consultants Get Their Business

Typically, a consultant gets business by establishing relationships with people who have recognized a need, perceive the value in addressing their need, and are therefore willing to pay a consultant for help. The difficult part is in finding these people. In an ideal world, your consulting business would grow through having a good reputation and receiving referrals. Clients would immediately recognize your capability and invite you to submit a proposal.

Sadly, the world is not ideal so you'll more likely than not need to engage in business development. This can be something as simple as crafting your resume to emphasize experiences you have had to reinforce your reputation with prospective clients. That may not be enough though to keep your phone ringing off the hook so you'll likely need to spend more time on your business development.

Business development is made up of two parts:

  1. Positioning yourself to spot opportunities which is often called marketing.
  2. Moving from identified opportunities to an acceptable offering otherwise known as selling.

In most small consulting organizations, consultants are expected to perform their own marketing and selling. This makes sense since it is the consultant that is out meeting people and understanding their businesses. In larger organizations there may be a separate marketing or sales force present. Even in such situations, the consultant can be instrumental in spotting the opportunities to be of service to a specific client and even more critical in determining the scope and cost structure of any engagement.

Spotting opportunities is a key item to remember as you'll often find that clients, without a little prompting, will have little appreciation for how you can be of service to them or their organization.

So you'll want to establish yourself as a trusted business or technical advisor and then actively seek out inefficiencies that can be addressed or revenue growth opportunities that can be targeted. To get yourself in to this very important advisory role you can do several things

  • Understand government compliance regulations so that you're in a position to assist clients with such efforts.
  • Keep track of trends in an industry so that you can act as an information resource.
  • Keep track of changes in a company so that you are always informed about where your skills could be applied.
  • Stay ahead of the technology curve so you can anticipate where people will be headed so you can meet them there.
  • Conduct research above and beyond current engagements.
  • Keep in touch with previous clients so that they remember your name.
  • Strive to meet new people in your client's organization. Go golfing, have lunch, go to the company picnic (if you're invited).
  • Take on public speaking engagements.
  • Write articles or white papers.
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