The average consultant has hundreds, sometimes even thousands of relationships. And while it's true that every opportunity is attached to a person, spreading your attention equally among them doesn't work well.
Research says that we spend the most time with others who come into contact naturally. This might sound obvious but it's often ignored by many consultants.
When asked who you spend most of your time with, most people answer their family and best friends. Science says that's not necessarily true - it shows we spend time with the people that go to the same church or gym that we do. Those with whom we work every day. Those who live closer to us.
It doesn't matter the reason - similar interests, close physical location, or a random combination of factors. The fact is that life steers us towards those certain people.
But if you want to consciously improve your network and grow your consulting business, you need to take control of that process. That's why we need some kind of system or mechanism to steer our attention to the relationships that are likely to be the most important to our long-term success.
Managing Your Relationships In Three Simple Steps
This system should not (and must not) be complicated or require much of your time. Otherwise, you won't implement it. Here's a suggestion for busy consultants:
- List key relationships and plan initiatives;
- Take action;
- Review and repeat.
The very first thing you need is take some time to list those people. Who are the most important contacts that can help you grow and improve your business? This list can include not only dream clients, but also strategic partners and mentors.
We call this the primus list, and it should include no more than 15 people - if you are doing this for the first time, you might keep it under 10 names.
Then plan how you will initiate or move the relationship forward. Next to each of the names on your primus list, write what's the next proactive step you can take to do so. It can be sharing an article or presentation, asking for a time to catch up, inviting them to an event.
The second step is taking action. Pick at least 2-3 of these actions to perform this week. Pre-commit by blocking time on your calendar for business development - think of it as client work and you will take it seriously.
The last step is reviewing your list:
- Every week you should tick the people in your primus list you interacted with.
- Once a month you can update the list by adding or removing people and planning your actions for each one of them.
Bonus points if you invite someone else to keep you accountable.
Of course, this is a simplification. There's a lot of ideas, tactics, and best practices to make such a system work. But if you consistently do this - every single week - you won't have pipeline problems for long.
Business development doesn't need to be complicated to work.