Your Network Is The Key To Success.
It has become increasingly apparent to me over the years that a successful business consulting or coaching business is not driven by your academic qualifications, your knowledge or your skills, but by your access to a network of people whom you know and whom are willing to recommend you to others. I would go so far as to say that mediocre consultants and coaches can often have thriving consulting businesses because of their business connections, whereas superior consultants and coaches can sometimes have mediocre consulting businesses simply because of their lack of market reach. Most of us lie somewhere in between these extremes.
So what does this mean for you and your consulting practice? Firstly, it means that you need to create and nurture business connections that are prepared to recommend you. Secondly, you must try to ensure that every client you work with is referenceable. In other words, your work must be of a sufficiently high standard that clients will consistently be happy to refer you to others within their network.
Thirdly, when you complete satisfactory assignments, you should ask each and every client to refer you to three of their business connections and to make introductions for you. Stick with three and avoid two or four or five. Three is a manageable number and it does not stretch your average client further than he may be prepared to go. Also, make sure the introduction includes “permission to call” from the people to whom you have been referred, so that they are expecting your call when you make it.
In my opinion, when you are in hunting mode, cold calling offers mediocre and often disappointing results so why would you want to spend a lot of time chasing after gazelles that you will never catch. Consulting is a trust based business and it will yield very little if potential clients are not given the opportunity to get to know and trust you as an individual or as a reputable firm, before they will consider engaging you to work with them or in their business. A reference from someone they know is the best trust builder of all and it turns cold calling into warm calling instantly.
Pushing Out The Free Line
The development of the Internet has changed the way in which small consulting or business-coaching practices operate and present themselves. Having your own website is now inexpensive and it creates a shop window that allows you to display your range of services and your knowledge for the whole world to see. Creating a blog that offers free advice on a range of business topics can also help to establish your business credentials, while benefiting potential and existing clients. Give away your best stuff for free so that potential clients can extract tangible value from your knowledge and expertise. In time, it also creates trust and a measure of reciprocity wherein potential clients may wish to purchase one of your products or engage with you for some of your professional services.
Videos have become increasingly important as a medium for sharing your knowledge and expertise. If you are camera shy, you can use tools like Camtasia or Screenflow to communicate or to teach your audience about a topic where you have expertise. These tools allow you to create and show a series of slides and/or computer screens while you speak directly to your viewers with a voiceover. If you have the confidence to speak directly to camera, this will enhance the viewer experience and help the audience to get to know you and consequently build trust.
One of the best teachers in this genre is Brendon Burchard and he delivers high quality video presentations to camera. Check him out at www.Brendon.com. He is an ex-consultant with a large consulting firm and now makes a great living teaching a range of business topics. Well-known presenters like Burchard often use teaching videos lasting more than an hour but generally speaking, the average business consultant will do better by presenting short 2 to 4 minutes snippets of useful information. Most people have short attention spans and will click to something else if you waffle on for too long.
You can have your own free YouTube Channel and so it is relatively inexpensive to create and upload your content. I currently have 175 free business videos available on my own YouTube Channel
Again, this may not be for everybody but it is useful if you can seek out opportunities to speak at conferences or to business groups as an expert in your field. Communicating valuable content to an audience establishes you as an expert and can often lead to audience members seeking you out for a consultation or a referral to someone in their network who needs what you have to offer. It takes a bit of self-confidence to put yourself out there as a speaker, particularly if you are typically somewhat introverted. However, the payoff frequently makes it worth the effort.
Webinars are somewhat like a combination of the media discussed earlier in this article. You can present to camera or simply show your computer screen or presentation, while delivering your free content to a pre-invited audience of subscribers or followers. You control access and also have the ability to allow participants to contribute comments or questions in text or voice during the webinar. This makes it interactive in nature and therefore it has added value for your audience. There are several providers of Webinar services but the one that I normally recommend based on price, functionality and the number of attendees you may invite (limitless), is called WebinarJam.
All of the initiatives discussed here have a core focus of extending your network of clients, prospects, contacts, subscribers or followers. Your business consulting or coaching practice success is completely dependent on a strong network and your market reach. So how many of these tools and tactics are you using in your practice right now and how many more will you consider using in the future?