Can one simple question lead to a half-million dollar deal?
For Jason Parks, principal at The Clever Consultant and long-time IT consultant, it did.
Recently, he called a client to catch up and asked: “What’s on your plate for fiscal year 2014?” The client had a few projects brewing, as a matter of fact. A few days later, Jason was working on a proposal for a pretty large deal.
The obvious lesson is: Poke around, ask questions, maintain relationships. And one phone call can make a huge difference.
So check in with each of your clients to discuss what strategic initiatives they’ve been assigned for the coming year. Doing so will not only help you get in front of client challenges, but it will also give you an opportunity to recommend projects of value for next year.
You don’t need to set up anything formal; a simple phone call will do. Just make sure you talk to your client before a budget is created – so 3 or, optimally, 4 months before the end of the fiscal year.
Important questions to ask during the conversation include:
• What strategic objectives are you focused on next year?
• What’s the priority?
• Who is sponsoring the project?
• Is there a budget allocated?
Also, make a point to connect after the budget has been developed, so you can find out which projects made it in.
(One note: During the actual budget planning process, which can take anywhere from 4-8 weeks, leave your client alone. They’re under enough stress and don’t need to be fielding calls from you. Do act as a trusted resource, however, if they call on you.)
When you help clients get in front of next year’s objectives, they will begin to view you as a peer and partner. They’ll recognize that they can have a simple conversation with you without you trying to pin them down for a sale. And when clients feel more comfortable opening up to you about their actual needs, it will benefit your consulting business in the long run.