One of the biggest challenges for any consultant is business development. I would be lying if I said my business was booming - always. I’ve written about the big business lie we tell one another before. Business isn’t always great sometimes it’s actually terrible.
I recently picked up a copy of How Clients Buy: A Practical Guide to Business Development for Consulting and Professional Services by Tom McMakin and Doug Fletcher. I literally found the book on the shelf at the airport and purchased a copy. I usually buy books or get sent books that come recommended to me but the title resonated with me, so I coughed up some cash and dug right in.
The following are my key takeaways directly from How Clients Buy:
It’s crucial that we recognize the seven elements of how clients buy. They have to be aware of your existence. They come to understand what you do and how you’re unique. They develop an interest. They respect your work and are filled with confidence that you can help them. They trust you. They have the ability to pull the trigger. They are ready to do something.
In professional services, we are the product. The biggest challenge in our path to become rainmakers is to unlearn what we think we already know.
If you want to be remembered, you must find a category where you can be number one. You have to know who you want to serve. Identify the type of company but also the role inside the company who you help. When selling consulting or professional services, the goal is not to identify prospects and process them like corn flakes; it is to identify a community and position ourselves to serve it over time. Prospective clients cannot engage with us unless they know us. Niche yourself and then re-niche yourself over time.
Create a point of differentiation. When there’s a really clear association in your mind between a person that you trust and the problem that they can solve, it makes it easier to refer you.
Great client relationships are built over time on foundations of trust and are not, by definition, transactional. Respect trumps charm when it comes to most buying decisions for consulting and professional services. Instead of focusing on like in “know, like and trust” focus on respect. They have to know, respect and trust you.
Clients have to conclude that: What you do is relevant to them and their goals. You have to solve a problem, support a strategic initiative, or promote an organizational agenda that is on their plate. The goal is to be a problem solver. If you can tell them a solution before they recognize they have a problem they need, you are best positioned to win the business.
New business comes from three places: repeat, recommendations, new clients with no relationship. Always start with your current or past clients.
A high-return opportunity with very low risk will attract attention. Dedicate time every day to building genuine relationships with clients and prospective clients. Never underestimate the value of networking and the value of your network.
The secret to business development is to ask lots of questions. Start from a place of empathy. No one ever needs a consultant until they do.
There are many actionable ideas you will learn in How Clients Buy. I highly recommend you pick up a copy now and dig right in.