Management Consulting Essentials: Networking

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If you are more busy than you appreciate you should increase your prices

I meet and talk with a lot of independent management consultants. 99% of them are extremely busy.  They are so busy that they have little time to learn new approaches, keep up with the development in their area(s) and develop their business. Most of them even complain that they are too busy. They also use their busyness as an “excuse” for not being responsive and not meeting deadlines.

When I ask them why they are so busy the unison answer is: “client projects”. My response is: “Fantastic, you must be making tons of money?” Answer: “Silence.”

The silence continues when I ask them: “When will you increase your prices and with how much?”

This series of posts will address the “many hours/low price” issue, explain the causes and provide recommendations for how you can remedy the situation.  Applying the ideas should enable you to work less hours, make more money and have more fun at the same time.

The #1 skill to master: Networking

  • How do you find clients who have a desperate need for what you do?
  • How do clients, with a desperate need for what you do, find you?

Networking is the ultimate skill required preparing for client engagements. 

Social Media Networking

Yes, social media networking and communication work. However, you are most likely not an expert in this field. Unless social media networking is your domain expertise, I will advice you not to invest your precious time in becoming one. Engage someone who are already experts in social media networking and communication, and let them do the work for you.

The bureau of small projects

I have engaged with The Bureau of Small Projects in Los Angeles to help me increase the visibility of my company and myself on the www. We have agreed that I focus on my clients and on generating content in my areas of expertise. The Bureau will help to make it known to the world. Now my mailbox is cluttered daily with notifications from new followers on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Social media networking is a long-term strategy. Don’t expect results overnight. However, social media networking has the benefit of the long tail. The effects are accumulating.

Personal Networking

Networking is the #1 way to generate leads, but selling is VERBOTEN at networking events.

Getting long-term and profitable client engagements comes through personal contacts. Clients engage with people they know and trust or with people they have been recommended by someone they know and trust.

Networking means inviting people for “a cup of coffee”, participating in networking events in you industry association, in the industry association of your clients or in other physical contexts where you meet other executives.

Never sell at a networking event.

You don’t go to a networking event “to be sold” anything, neither do the other networking parties.

So the one thing you don’t do when networking is “selling”. It is VERBOTEN. There will be more about “selling” in the next blog post, but let me just repeat:

No “selling” at networking events.

Networking behavior

Networking events are opportunities for maintaining relationships with people you already know and for making new contacts.

Your primary objective when making new contacts is “filtering”. You meet people and you let them talk. You make a very brief introduction of yourself (no selling!) and then you ask questions. Your questions will make people talk. What people say and how they say it will give you the opportunity to determine if this is a person you would want to “do business with” in the future. Whether or not they are a potential client is irrelevant at this stage. The question is if they can win your confidence.

Isn’t it the other way around? Shouldn’t I win their confidence?

I assume you are who you are, and that you are not playing a role. I also assume that what you do can be explained in a few seconds. Leave it to the other person to make his judgement. If he finds you and what you do interesting, he will let you know.

A cup of coffee

A cop of coffee is an excellent way to get acquainted with new contacts

Invite people you find interesting for “a cup of coffee.” “A cup of coffee” is a 45-60 minutes informal introduction. The “cup of coffee” typically takes place in a cafe, but sometimes also in your office or the other person’s office. I prefer the cafe as it is less committing at this stage of an acquaintance.

A “cup of coffee” meeting is introductory (no selling!). There is no formal agenda and there is no prior commitment to a next step.  However, as you have taken the initiative you must be prepared to give a helping hand to your “coffee” fellow if you can.

You can also “meet” with people virtually. Having a cup of coffee with someone in Frankfurt, Auckland or Chicago can be accomplished through Skype.

The objective of networking

Most of your business will come through your network, either directly or through recommendations.

The objective of networking is to get to know interesting people. Some of these may become your clients some day, while others may become your partners, your vendors, your sources for inspiration and so on.

Give and don’t sell

The #1 rule in networking

The #1 rule in networking is your preparedness to give and your ability to refrain from selling.

Be prepared to give to people you find interesting. I’m not talking about free consulting hours. I am talking about references to other people in your network or material to read or some other information or contacts, which could be valuable for the other party.

Don’t expect anything in return, but I can assure you: The more you give, the more you will receive.

And finally, networking is a long-term effort. Stay true to your networking activities, filter your contacts and give, give, give. People you meet today will most likely not engage you as a trusted advisor tomorrow. Be patient and act naturally. Stay in touch and they will come to you when time is right for them.

Other post in this series:

Post #1: Brand values and positioning
Post #3: Pre-qualification
Post #4: The first meeting
Post #5: Self-assessment 
Post #6: The objectives
Post #7: The deliverables
Post #8: Pricing
Post #9: The proposal
Post #10: Negotiating the price and the payment terms
Post #11: Client reference
Post #12: The delivery
Post #13: The Quest for Certainty

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