Reader Question on "Proactively Managing Relationships"

Is there a rule that help us prioritize?

Last week, I wrote about the need for some kind of system to steer our attention to the relationships that are likely to be the most important to our long-term success.

I got a question from a reader on prioritizing contacts that is extremely common. With his permission, I'm sharing it here:

As you mentioned, I have hundreds of contacts and find it difficult to prioritize only 5-10 of them every week. There are good friends and colleagues that I know I need to get in touch with, but is there any specific criteria that I can apply to decide who are the ones that "make the cut"?

First, I'm glad to hear you have a large network you can tap into. Now it's time to make it deeper and strengthen those relationships.

The right answer (you may have expected this) is yes and no. Yes, there are specific criteria you can use to prioritize which relationships you're going to invest your time and energy in. But no, they are not universal.

This is because consulting businesses make use of different business models. Even boutique consulting firms with 2-5 partners - which is the profile of most of my clients - operate in different industries, target companies of different sizes, and adopt different marketing strategies to build pipeline.

To give you an example: I mentioned your nurturing list can include not only dream clients, but also strategic partners and mentors:

  • If you run a transactional consulting practice (in marketing, IT, business services as a whole), you only need a couple of ideal clients with large budgets to win the year. Your list could include existing contacts or key decision-makers you want to meet in these selected accounts.
  • If you run an episodic consulting practice (let's say, in venture capital or the M&A space), you need a bigger deal flow. This means you might want to develop strong relationships with key investors and portfolio companies - strategic partners who can refer you to multiple businesses.

Focus is the word. A big contract might make your year, but a great relationship can make your career.

Last thing: if you're stuck and can't seem to come up with your top names, give yourself 5 minutes and complete the list anyway. It may not be ideal, but taking action (and developing business development habits) is what matters when you start.

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