There are two ways to bring in new consulting business:
- Engaging with a new client.
- Opening up a new area or relationship within an existing client organization.
Each one will require different skills and a specific plan of action from you and your team. But both of these growth avenues have one big thing in common: to succeed, you need to exercise prioritization and clear targeting.
Engaging With New Prospects
If you are desperate for work and try to market to everyone, your message will be so generic that it won't resonate with serious clients. The few who listen to you will, not surprisingly, need fast results, pay less for your services, and look at you like a pair of hands. This will get you stuck in a negative cycle since you will always be struggling to be profitable.
The same stands if your pipeline is full. To accept every single opportunity that comes your way you will need to increase your capacity. But a bigger capacity means more pressure to feed it. And now you’re stuck in another negative cycle, tempted to accept any opportunity that comes your way just to keep that machine working.
Saying no to the wrong client makes it possible to say yes to the right one - or even several right ones.
Growing Existing Client Relationships
Investing our time working on existing areas and existing relationships with existing clients is the easier path. But it doesn't mean it is simple.
If your work centers around a single large client, for example, your most promising opportunity may be to expand into other business units or functional areas within that company.
From this perspective, the “new clients” are new buying centers in the same organization. If you helped the UK branch, you may also connect with the team based in Germany. If you worked with the HR department, you might be able to help the marketing team as well.
If your firm is specialized in HR solutions, however, your best shot to bring in more business might be to invest in new relationships within that HR department. That way, if your primary contact leaves the company, you can seamlessly transition to the replacement. Every account manager knows this lesson: If all of your attention is on one person, you risk losing the client when a new face comes in.
Don't Fall For This
No matter which strategy you follow, the process remains the same: you need to prioritize the most important relationships instead of just talking to the people you already know.
The most common mistake consultants make is not using any criteria to direct their business development efforts. Chances are the executives and companies you are talking to are the ones that you can easily reach. Not necessarily those who would help you reach your business goals and position you for long-term success.
To prioritize the right people and companies you want to engage with you need to understand who they are. Following intuition is not enough. This needs to be written down, clearly documented.
Doing this will not only improve the effectiveness of your marketing but also make it undemanding for your champions - colleagues, partners, fans - to help you out. The more precisely you can communicate your targeting, the easier it is for them to send referrals and make relevant introductions.
Healthy growth requires effective marketing. Effective marketing is built on top of a strong positioning. But you can’t improve your positioning if you don’t know who you’re selling to.
Take some time today to document who your consulting practice serves. It will save you time, energy, and a lot of money.