Independent consultants strike out on their own for a number of reasons from wanting more life balance to being burned out on the politics of corporate work. Yet, on day one, all are confronted with the reality that to be in business, you need clients. Getting that first client is only the first step. To sustain your business, you will need a steady supply of new business.
To maintain an ongoing source of business opportunity, you will want to consistently work to develop new business. The chart below shows how many “touches” it takes to close a sale. If you are inconsistent in your efforts, it is much harder to go from prospect to client.
- 2% close on the 1st call or touch
- 3% close on the 2nd call or touch
- 4% close on the 3rd call or touch (ironically, this is where most follow-up processes stop)
- 10% close on the 4th call
- 81% close ON OR AFTER the 5th call
Visibility and Trust
Whether you gain new business through referrals, networking or advertising, you need visibility, credibility and relationship to win new business.
You cannot be hired if no one knows who you are and what you offer. When it comes to your business, absence does not make the heart grow fonder. The last thing you want is to be out of sight and out of mind in your target market. You want to be go-to for your area of expertise! You can establish visibility by networking, advertising, blogging, speaking, social media and more.
Visibility alone, however, is not going to win business. In addition to being seen, you have to be believed.
Prospective clients need to know what you do but they also have to believe that you can do it. They have to trust that you have the capabilities to solve their particular problem. This is one reason that referrals are so powerful; it builds immediate trust. The person referring you is essentially endorsing you as a credible resource.
As a solo consultant, your reputation is integral to your brand. Your professionalism, experience, knowledge and even your associations can all contribute to your credibility.
The following tips can help you boost your credibility:
- Polish your online presence – Today, we Google before we ever reach out to a person or company. Your online presence, including your website and social media profiles, should reinforce your professional image. Keep in mind that even personal profiles are discoverable, so take time to look at them through the eyes of someone who may want to hire you.
- Get plugged in – You want to demonstrate to clients that you are connected and involved in your industry of expertise. Cultivate relationships with experts and peers in your industry, and in your clients’ industries. Join professional groups, trade associations or business-related groups to expand your network.
- Read, know and share – Keep up with what is going on in your industry. Read, network and invest in your professional development to stay current. Take the next step by sharing trends and changes with your network.
Establishing yourself as a credible, reliable resource helps clients to have confidence in your services.
“Consulting is a relationship business. A special product may make you competitive. Differentiated services may make you distinct. But only carefully crafted relationships will create a breakthrough firm”. Alan Weiss, Million Dollar Consulting, Alan Weiss, McGraw Hill, New York, 2003
Ultimately, business development is about establishing a relationship or rapport with the people who have the power to hire you. Whether you meet people at a conference or on Twitter, it can be a starting point for building a bond that eventually progresses into a long-term business relationship.
Do you have any additional business development tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below or on social media using #solopr.