Part 2 of “The Recipe to Become a Sought After Consultant”
We’ve already discussed track record and now want to look at the sub-category of, “relationship building / networking”.
This falls right after “track record” as when you begin consulting, who are your easiest clients to target? Those you have built relationships with in the past.
How do we build relationships? I was lucky enough to be 3-4 years into my career when ‘networking’ went from face to face to much more internet based. Why was I lucky? Because I learned both.
A few rules of thumb that have worked for me:
1. Connect people who can help one another. It only takes 10 minutes of your time; and people will remember this.
2. Help others when you can; for free. In other words, if your area of expertise is “marketing” and someone says to you, “I want to put together a marketing plan, but don’t know the compenents”, don’t ask them for money. Send them a sample of something you have done or to a website so they can learn. Good chance they’ll come back to you if they can’t execute it on their own. I always (whether working for someone else or myself) keep 1-2 “pro bono” business projects going.
3. Be honest. If you are not THE BEST person to consult on a project with someone, refer them to the best person. They will thank you for it and you will not only get referrals, but more projects from that company in the future.
4. Use internet networking tools; make it a priority to spend a set amount of time per day on whichever social network you have found works best for your industry. LinkedIn has always worked for me. The trick is, HOW you use it. I will typically go to the ‘group discussions’ and see if there is anything I feel strongly about. If yes, I respond to the discussion. More often than not that sends someone to my profile where they see me as a ‘consultant’ and I receive a message or email.
5. Maintain relationships with executives; other than the ones you’ve worked with or for. Some of the best relationships I have are with executives that I haven’t worked with or for, but I’ve met on an interview, in a networking session, etc. and they have been great for not only referrals, but also for references. A “personal” reference from the CEO of a fortune 100 company that you have not worked for or with speaks loudly.
6. Listen. No matter how much knowledge you think you have of an industry or company, listen to the executives. listen to the managers. most important, listen to the employees who will be using your services; the recipients…they will decide whether you are successful or not. By listening to them, you will build trust quickly.
7. Do not tell companies they have problems when they seek out consultation. It is your job to offer solutions, guidance, and insight; but don’t do so without assessing situations for yourself.