I recently talked with a consultant I’ve started coaching and asked her what method she used to prospect. She said she’d mostly been sending out cold emails to people she didn’t know and she also did a lot of cold calling.
As soon as I heard that, I stopped her in her tracks.
If you’re still doing this, I’ll ask you to stop right now, too!
It puts people off because they already know you’re trying to “sell” them.
Think about it. How do you feel when you know someone is trying to sell you?
As a consultant, coach or other expert who has exited corporate and is now a small business owner, you likely already have a pretty good built-in network. These are the people who are your warm-to-hot leads. Some will become clients. Some will refer you to others. Either way, the amount of business you can get from simply letting others know what you do can be quite amazing!
For instance, one of my clients is soaring as a consultant in her first year. She made the determination that she was going to contact and build her client base (at least initially) around people she had hired over the years both to work for her as employees but also for consulting gigs as well. Many of these people are now buyers, influencers and connectors for her. She’s had great success with this strategic approach!
You see, it’s not just about networking itself. It’s about strategy.
Here are a few quick tips on how to keep all your proactive networking “warm”:
1. Use due diligence before you start. Don’t know the person you’re reaching out to? Research your prospect and plan out thoughtful emails (or LinkedIn communications) that demonstrate you’ve read their LinkedIn Profile or website. Make the content relevant to why you’re reaching out. Find an interesting “hook” and context that will intrigue decision-makers and cause them to open your email.
2. Get crystal clear about your Unique Value Proposition. DON’T do any prospecting until you can quickly and concisely articulate what you do/offer, and the value you bring. This is a NON-NEGOTIABLE MUST-DO, whether you’re trying to gain new business or referrals. Ensure you Unique Value Proposition statement aligns with their biggest challenge or priority (or what you anticipate it would be) and highlight what is DIFFERENT and unique about you and your services.
3. Be strategic about networking. Yes, networking is one of the oldest and truest methods of getting the word around, but you need to have a strategy behind it. It’s not just about the how and why you do it. It’s about targeting the right audience that’s aligned with your business goals. And remember that it’s not all about getting new business, but getting introduced to potential partners and other strategic alliance opportunities.
4. Always follow up. Be diligent and thorough here. Set a schedule to follow up with prospects who don’t respond right away as well as to those who do. Keep track of the outcome of these conversations and be sure to stay in “no-pressure/obligation” mode when moving prospects forward to discovery meetings. Remember, not all prospects will jump at the chance to work with you right away, but if you cultivate a relationship by intermittently sending them thought leadership materials and staying in touch, you’ll ensure you’ll stay front-of-mind for when they do need you.
Above all, keep your approach simple and straightforward. Always be gracious and thank your connections for their time.
In short, be the Trusted Advisor corporate prospects will keep top-of-mind when they’re ready to move forward.
Kim Chernecki helps high-performing freelance executives, consultants, coaches and other experts, land lucrative corporate contracts. She is the creator of the Land Corporate Contracts Fast-Track System, and is a top-rated sales performance executive, facilitator, coach, advisor, speaker and strategist. A 25-year entrepreneur, Kim has consulted with executives from 100+ leading North American and Fortune 1000 companies and has, herself, started up and helped grow 10 businesses and business divisions. She’s closed millions of dollars in corporate contracts, and provides powerful strategies and proven formulas to help her clients do the same.