One of the most common feelings among consulting partners I work with is overwhelm. When we start to discuss their business development initiatives, they often unleash a stream of thoughts and ideas:
- "I'm in talks with John, Maria, and Alastair. Oh, also need to follow up with Michael from X and send a presentation to Jane from Y - but I don't really know how to move this forward. How can I get this unstuck?"
- "Well, in terms of opportunities we're going after companies A, B, and C. Several friends mentioned we should go after German teams, since the market is booming there. But sometimes I feel like we should simply expand within our existing clients - there's more than enough work there!"
- "I'm an email person, so every time I have some spare minutes I try to shoot an email to prospects. Phil (partner) is much more comfortable on the phone, so he just calls and chats with his contacts. Maybe we should do LinkedIn? I also heard good things about webinars..."
Yes, they are asking for tactical advice. But most importantly, they are talking to themselves. And in a very confused and circular way.
After a quick search, I discovered this is what psychiatrists call "Desultory Thinking": your thoughts make jumps and proceed in an irregular way. Apparently the adjective desultory comes from the word desultor, which was a circus rider who would leap from the back of one galloping horse onto another.
Some people call such desultory thinking natural wanderings. Others (including myself) call it "being lost". Luckily, the best medicine against it does not consist of hiring coaching or strategic guidance - it's free, and it's called writing.
How can you not get lost and confused when all your contacts, goals, and projects are on your head? It's not a sign of weakness, but proof that you're human.
Just like you do with your tasks, you need to get your relationships and opportunities out of your head and into the paper. It starts by answering:
- What are the opportunities you are working on? What are the opportunities you'd like to pursue within your clients? This includes everything from work proposals to strategic partnerships.
- Who are the most important relationships you need to nurture? When was the last time you spoke to them? What's the context? Are they a current client, a prospect, a friend, or someone you'd like to meet for the first time?
Most consultants don't do this - even those who have a CRM rarely use it properly. That's why I often recommend we start with pen and paper - simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. When you keep things simple, they can be easily understood, executed, and managed.
Once you download all of this information from your brain, it becomes tremendously easier to see patterns, identify what's the next step you can do to move them forward, and prioritize initiatives.
Take 20 minutes to do this today.