Not long ago, I shared my thoughts on how consultants can outsource and delegate more tasks. It doesn't matter if the tasks are administrative, related to business development, or even parts of your clients' projects and engagements. You gain efficiency and effectiveness if you offload more of those to freelancers, subcontractors, and even your clients.
But there was something in that blog post that caught the attention of several readers. It was a mention to one of the golden rules of modern management: Don't outsource what you can automate.
Here are my thoughts on when and how consultants can leverage automation to generate new and better business opportunities.
Neither The Devil Nor The Magic Solution To Your Pipeline
Thirty years ago, a consultant in search of new business might have had to spend a lot of time attending conferences, wining and dining prospects, or throwing money in mass advertising. But not anymore. Internet, new technology, and digital tools added new rules to the game, allowing you to build relationships and source opportunities much more effectively.
Most consultants can benefit from learning how to take advantage of automation for their business development efforts. But if you think new tools are the solution to your pipeline problems, you are fooling yourself.
Automation is just an instrument to scale our activities, once we know they work. Hiring tools and automated workflows without solid processes in place is a recipe to waste money, time, and energy. Effectiveness comes before efficiency.
Identifying Opportunities For Optimization
Before thinking about how to automate tasks, you need to learn what exactly can be automated. Which tasks are time-consuming, recurring, and monotonous?
The best way to do it is by keeping a daily diary of how you spend your time. Do this for two weeks, and with this data you will start to see the patterns. You might also want to divide your business development tasks into categories, such as:
- Engaging with existing clients
- Doing outreach/pursuing dream clients
- Networking with prospects or referral sources
- Content creation or personalization
- Social selling/social media marketing
- Data gathering, reporting, and visualization
- Admin/management tasks
That should give you a list of tasks that could be automated. But don't go shopping for tools just yet! The next step is to document your process - ideally in the form of SOPs.
You Need Solid Processes First
Creating and updating standard operating procedures is important for three reasons.
First, because doing so will make it easier for you to find redundancies and inefficiencies in how you do things right now. If you have never done this before you can expect to save at least a couple of hours of workload every month, forever. It's the most simple and effective way to increase your pay (profit/hour) and overall work enjoyment.
Second, not every recurring task can (and should) be automated. You might decide to delegate or outsource some activities that are central to your business, or that occasionally need individual customization. Having SOPs makes the whole process of finding and training someone to perform them easier.
Finally, having a documented process will help you select the right automation tools. With more than 7,000 marketing solutions to choose from in the market, the task can be daunting. SOPs are important even if you decide to hire an advisor or external partner to help you build those systems.