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  • Writer's pictureDeb Zahn

Getting More Consulting Clients by Getting in Front of the Right Prospects

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

When I first started consulting, I was all over the place.

And not in a good way.

I was so eager (and even desperate) to get work, I reached out to everyone I could think of. I set up meeting after meeting and lunch after lunch, just hoping and praying that someone would hire me.

But I wasn’t getting clients.

Truthfully, there were so many problems with my approach.

One of them is that my outreach was just plain scattershot. Other than the fact that they were people in my industry, there was no rhyme or reason to who I was reaching out to.

I was treating everyone the same, as if I had an equal chance of getting business from anyone I met with, which obviously wasn’t true.

And I didn’t start getting clients until I changed what I was doing.

One of the most powerful things that I did was prioritize who I would spend extra time reaching out to.

At first, it felt counterintuitive. Why on earth would I reduce the list of prospective clients? Wouldn’t that reduce my chances of getting clients?

In short, no.

It increases the likelihood of me getting clients because it allows me to:

  • Get in front of prospective clients who are a better fit, meaning they are more likely willing and eager to pay for something I could do.

  • Free up my time to prepare more strategically for the meetings, which dramatically increases my chances of getting a yes.

How Do I Prioritize Prospects?

First, I took a deep breath and assured myself that it was a good idea. I had to be willing to step away from ineffective-yet-oddly-emotionally-reassuring panic activity and give myself permission to do less to get more.

Then I made it simple. There are many fancier ways to do it, but fancy doesn’t always yield better results. Often it just yields more work that you don’t get paid to do and not being any closer to getting clients!

I was after good enough. Good enough to help me make better decisions and get business.

Here’s how I did it—and do it to this day!

I created two categories of people I would do direct outreach to:

  • Hot prospects

  • Medium-hot prospects

Hot Prospects

Hot prospects are people I know well and could easily get a meeting with. I know that they have some type of a demand that I could potentially help them with—demand meaning they have a need that they've acknowledged and are willing to pay to solve or achieve.

Prospects fall into the hot category because I have good reason to believe that if I spend extra time and energy cultivating them, I’ll likely get a contract with them within a couple months (or less). Prospects that fall within this segment are my top priorities for doing direct outreach. (This is likely who your first clients will be.)

As I grow my business, hot prospects also include past and existing clients as well as people who they refer.

Medium-Hot Prospects

Medium-Hot Prospects are people who know me or know me by reputation and who I could likely get a meeting with. Getting a meeting is not a slam dunk, but I have good reason to believe that I could get one.

I may not know exactly what they have a demand for, but I have reason to believe that they might want something that you have to offer. I think if I cultivate them, I could possibly get a contract within three or four months. Even though they aren't my top priority, I reach out to folks in this category while I am engaging my hot prospects because I anticipate a longer lead time.

Precision is Your Friend

Unlike marketing and other types of outreach, this is by design a precision approach. I am deliberately targeting a lower number of prospects but, if I spend the time and energy cultivating them, they will have a higher and faster prospect-to-client conversation rate.

And when I focus on activities that have a higher and faster conversation rate, I get to get to the good part, which is serving my clients and having a livelihood that support the life I want.

What About Everyone Else?

I assure you I do not ignore everyone else. I just use different marketing and outreach strategies to warm them up and try to get some of them on my hot or medium-hot list.

Wait…So Do You Even Need a CRM system?

That is not to suggest that you don’t need a good Customer Relations Management (CRM) system. You do. But when you are feeling stuck or not getting the results you want, go back to the basics. Use something simple to make decisions and then track it in your CRM.

Are You Ready to Prioritize and Outreach Smarter?

I want to make it easy for you. So I am sharing the Excel tool I use to prioritize who I’m going to reach out to. Click to download the free tool!

Want More Help Making Your Consulting Business Succeed?

Check out the Craft of Consulting Membership. In this community, you'll get me and other consultants helping you make decisions and take action that get you results. Plus, you get your own cheering section filled with folks invested in your success!

If you apply and are accepted, you'll get your first 30 days for free to make sure the community is a fit for you!

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