Recently, we talked about straightforward ways consultants can find more leads who ultimately become new clients.
Today, we’re going to talk about the reverse. How do clients find consultants?
While this might seem elementary to seasoned veterans, it’s a good refresher to step back with and ensure you’ve got your bases covered.
Referrals from Colleagues
Probably the best — and easiest — opportunity you have to get a new lead, is when one of your current or former clients refers you to someone else.
This is the magic of “word-of-mouth.” People will more easily buy services if they’re buying on the recommendation of someone whose opinion they trust.
The takeaway here is, of course, to make your clients happy so referring you to someone else will be easy. (You can always ask for a referral, too, especially if you know you’ve delivered for your existing client.)
A Referral from an Industry Influencer
A referral from an industry influencer – people like analysts, beat writers, bloggers, vendors, other consultants who provide complementary services – is evidence that your name is “out there” and your reputation is beginning to precede you.
Maybe you’re active on LinkedIn or Twitter, so much so that an author who works in your field, or another influential person with thousands of Twitter followers may see something you’ve done, and refer you based on that indirect contact.
What you can do to help make this happen: Reach out to these influencers yourself. Get introduced at trade shows. Respond thoughtfully on Twitter or relevant industry discussion forums. Make sure you’re “out there,” and the buzz around you is that of someone who delivers.
In the absence of a solid referral, buyers will go to the Web to find a consultant who might fit their needs. For business consulting, the most common research sources are search engines (e.g. Google), LinkedIn and directories maintained by professional organizations like the Institute of Management Consultants.
One note on search: buyers are likely to search for information on how to solve their problem first, rather than just do a broad sweep for consultants in their area of concern. This is why good website content such as case studies, articles and blogs are so important. They help cast a wider net.
Takeaway: you need a polished web presence — a website with a crisp value proposition and calls to action, a professional LinkedIn profile and, perhaps a Twitter account. Find some industry directories to list your business in and, please, plan some thoughtful and relevant web content to attract buyers.
Buyers look to print media, too, to see what’s going on in their industry. Both general business publications and more niche trade journals have reporters and editors who are always looking for new insights on the news, or for a good idea for a story to get thrown their way. Build relationships with editors or reporters at trade publications, which you can leverage into news coverage. A few quotes from you as an expert source in some well-read trade journals will go a long way to becoming the kind of consultant who is sought after, rather than one who is always seeking.