In Part 1 of this series, I talked about:
- the stress of having to constantly scramble for new business,
- how desperation is detrimental to your business, and
- several ways to snag new clients.
Now, I’ll show you some additional ways you can find new clients. All the techniques I talk about both in Part 1 of this series and in this article may not get you clients fast–after all, this isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme.
I like to think of it more as if you’re growing an orchard: you plant seeds, water them, nurture the seedlings, and over time, you’ll have a productive, ongoing crop of continuing business that needs relatively low maintenance.
Anywho, on to the tactics!
#6 Conduct a training or a class
Conducting a training or class is a great way to establish credibility–and you’ll need credibility especially if you’re starting out. There are a number of ways you can offer a class. You could teach a class through the continuing education program at your local university. Some communities have a network of non-university-related adult education classes, and you could teach through that network. You could also offer a class or training through your website (you do have a website, right?) and set it up as a webinar (you can host your webinar using a tool like GoToMeeting).
A training or class is a great way to get in direct contact with prospective clients, especially if your consulting niche relies on direct interaction or private individuals for your client base. But even if the people attending your class aren’t going to be clients, you can at least have a feather in your cap of having taught a course; if you taught through a university, that’s additional credibility for being affiliated with a university.
You can gain additional credibility by posting testimonials on your website from attendees/students in your training. You do have a website, right?
#7 Network with other consultants who have complimentary skills and who can refer work to you
This is how I got my first clients. After leaving my day job at a software company, I kept in contact with some of my colleagues who were already doing consulting work, and had somewhat different skillsets than mine. I let them know that I was available to do consulting, and within a couple months, started getting work from them on projects for which they needed my skills.
I subcontracted with them, but you may also be able to bill the client directly, depending on whether your colleague is comfortable with that arrangement. If possible, I prefer billing the client directly, since I then control the billing, and have the additional benefit of establishing a direct relationship with the client–which can and usually does lead to future work.
#8 Offer a free analysis/review of prospective clients’ situation and needs
This is a fairly common technique among consultants, since it’s a way to:
- build a relationship with the client,
- establish credibility for your skills & experience,
- establish your integrity for looking out for the client’s best interests, and,
- steer the client toward your services by showing the value/benefit of what you provide.
For example, you’d discuss the client’s current situation, making sure to elicit their pain points–the things that most trouble them–and then prepare a summary review which you’d then discuss with them. You can e-mail the review, but you’ll want to follow up with a phone call or in-person meeting, since personal contact is going to be much more effective.
In your review, you’d summarize their current situation (both the positive and negative) and the problems they’re facing, then suggest possible courses of action. I always like to give the client a couple options for any problem, along with a cost estimate for each option, as well as the pros & cons. That way, the client has more information so they can make a better, more-informed decision.
Typically, your suggestions will be tied to your services, but you always want to provide the best value to the client; sometimes this means you may deter them from some services if they’re not needed. This is actually really good, since it bolsters your credibility as someone who’s looking out for their best interests, rather than just trying to make a buck. After all, a sustainable business is built on long-term relationships, and isn’t just a flash in the pan. Remember: you’re growing an orchard.
Ideally, what you want to do is provide the client with a compelling list (a concise list, no longer than 3-5 pages) of their biggest problems, and how you’d solve them. The client will likely already know about all the problems, but you not only show that you intimately know their business, but that YOU can make those problems go away.
Lord knows how much I’d like it if someone showed me a list of my biggest problems and told me exactly how they’d make them disappear. I guess that’s one reason why hit men get paid so much.
#9 Ask for referrals
If you don’t ask, you won’t get. Ask for referrals from existing clients, prospects, colleagues, people for whom you’ve subcontracted, or whoever you know who might have a connection to a potential client. This gets your foot in the door with new clients, since you’ve been recommended by someone they know, and as we all know, word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing channels.
So, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral. But be sure that the person you ask will be happy to refer you. That means that you need to make sure you focus on providing reliable, stellar service. You’ll also want to make it easy for people to find you: give them your business card, your URL (you do have a website, right?), your phone number, whatever.
#10 Speak at places where your prospects gather, both online and offline
Think about your prospects, their traits, and where they might gather. Figure out how you can reach them in a compelling way.
For example, I know a personal organizer who spoke at a PTA meeting a local school (after getting her foot in the door with a referral from a client who’s on the PTA board). At first, a PTA meeting might not seem to be a natural place where her potential clients would gather. However, nearly all parents struggle with organization, juggling the demands of work and family, as well as how to teach and model organization skills to their kids–especially for homework as kids get older or are in middle school or high school. Every parent can identify with the challenges of being on top of things. So, talking about those struggles and how she can help is a great way to connect her value to potential clients at a PTA meeting. This is also a great example of how she was able to think outside the box to tap into potential clients.
And no, I’m not saying you need to scream from a soapbox on downtown sidewalk like a religious zealot (apologizes to you religious, soapbox-screaming zealots). Be professional. Act like the people you want to attract. Be likable, and make people feel comfortable.
For online gathering places, you may need to think creatively too. I’ve talked about posting on forums within your niche, but there are other ways to reach potential clients. Think Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook.
#11 You do have a website, right?
OK, enough already. If you still don’t have a website, sign up to get my free guide to easily creating your professional website.
Creating your website is a commitment to your business, and is a way to show yourself–and the world–that you’re serious about your business. Making that public commitment will get the ball rolling on your business, and will actually force you to start doing other things to build your business.
Go ahead, snag the free ebook now! Check out the link below or on the sidebar.