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4 Ways To Get Your First Consulting Client (Without Cold-Calling)

By Michael Zipursky

Many consultants have trouble finding their first client.

I want to offer you a few ideas to help you to go out and win your first consulting client.

Here are 4 ways to get your first consulting client.

Your challenge is getting to be visible so that your ideal clients know that you exist — so that they’re then able to hire you.

1. First-Degree Connections

If you’re just getting started and you want to find that first consulting client, the first thing that you should do is leverage your first-degree connections.

So who are these people?

These are people that you are directly connected to — that you could send an email to and they would respond or whom you could call and have a conversation with. These are connections that you could invite directly for a lunch or a coffee meeting.

These are people that you know. Maybe you don’t know all of them very, very well, but they would know who you are. That’s low hanging fruit.

You want to reach out to these people right away. You want to reach out to all of these people. Don’t hold back — go after all of them. Let them know what you’re doing right now. Find out what they’re up to. Look to see are there any potential ways that you might be able to support them, or to help them.

That’s a great place and yet I see many consultants who don’t do that.

I’m not talking about just think people who you think right now might be ideal clients.

I mean talk to everybody.

consultant talking to her 1st-degree connections looking for 1st consulting project

Oftentimes, what will happen is someone that you know, who you don’t think is an ideal client may know someone that could be an ideal client.

I’ve heard stories of a consultant who talked to someone like a school teacher that they know, maybe a teacher of one of their children, and that teachers is getting their hair done, and the consultants told them what they’re up to. They’re at the hairdresser and they overhear someone talking about whether they work at a large company and they’re looking for help in this specific area. Now the teacher knows about you as a consultant can say: “one of my student’s parents is doing exactly that. I’d be happy to connect you.”

That could never happen if they don’t know what you’re doing now.

You might say: “Michael, the chances are so slim.”

Sure — but there’s a chance.

There’s no chance if those people don’t know.

Reach out to all of your first degree connections: everyone that you’ve worked with in the past, whether it’s a boss, a vendor, a supplier, a friend, a relative — anyone that you know, reach out to and let them know what you’re up to.

2. Second-degree Connections

Number two is second-degree connections. Second-degree connections are people that you don’t know directly. If you don’t know the ideal client directly, but you know this person, and this person knows your ideal client, your ideal client is a second-degree connection.

So what they want to do is go to all these people who are your first-degree connections, who are connected to your ideal client, which is a second-degree connection and say:

“I see that you’re connected to this person. Can you put me in touch with them?”

consultant talking on the phone with their prospect

And in many cases, they’ll say yes.

Now if they don’t say us, or if they don’t respond, then what you can do is go directly to the ideal client, reference the person that you both have in common, and that can often start a conversation for you.

A great place to understand how this all works is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn will show you who your first-degree connections are, who your secondary connections are, and you can filter some search criteria to identify those ideal clients.

3. Direct Outreach

Number three is direct outreach.

And so it kind of touches on what I just mentioned here, is this dynamic of going directly.

But let’s say you don’t have a second-degree connection to introduce you to your ideal client.

Then, what you want to be doing is you want to go directly to them and you want to do that in a way that isn’t all about spam, hype, promotion, or sales.

Instead, especially if you’re in the consulting business, you want to be focused on adding value, creating relationships, being relevant for them.

So reach out to them, find out what’s going on, let them know, comment about an article that they wrote or some news you saw about their company or how you’ve worked with others in their industry before.

The name of the game is to get on the radar of people.

If you’re going to be a good consultant or it means that or it means that you already have expertise and experience in your subject matter — your challenge is not your skills or expertise.

Your challenge is your marketing.

Your challenge is getting to be visible so that your ideal clients know that you exist — so that they’re then able to hire you.

Direct outreach is a really good step to take after you’ve done number one and number two.

4. Sell What They Want To Buy

Number four is not so much about targeting. Number four is more about how you start to think about winning that first client.

The key to this is to sell what they want to buy.

A big mistake that many novice consultants make is they try and force their methodology, their package they’re offering down the throat of a buyer.

And if a buyer doesn’t want that, if it’s not what resonates with them, if it doesn’t really speak to the current problem that they’re having and the solution they’re actively searching for, they’re not going to buy it. It’s going to be a much more difficult sale to make.

Or if you’re offering something that is so new that no one’s ever thought of it before, you haven’t validated the market actually wants it, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

So the key is to use the first three steps to create conversations with ideal clients, and then in those conversations, to validate and confirm what it is that they actually want — and how that ties into what you can provide.

And then, sell what they want to buy.

consultant winning first sale

Not what you want them to buy — what they want to buy.

Find out what is it that they’re looking for right now — and then offer it to them.

“Would something like this, this — that had these things in it — would that be helpful for you?”

And they’ll say, yeah, because that’s just what they told you that they want.

It becomes a much easier sell to make them trying to ram your concept or your methodology that they might not want.

So figure out what is it that they want and then how do you position your offerings and your expertise so that aligns with that and then offer it to them. Offer it as a path to solving the problem that they have and getting the result that they want.

When you follow these four steps and work them consistently, you’re going to be able to land that first client much faster and make a lot more progress and feel a lot more momentum in the early days of your business.

I wish you great success with this, and as always, feel free to reach out through where you’ll find many resources to help you to grow your consulting business.

Whether you’re at the earliest stages or you’ve been a consultant for 10 or 15 years, looking to get to the next level, we have resources for you.

2 thoughts on “4 Ways To Get Your First Consulting Client (Without Cold-Calling)

  1. Raymond says:

    Thank you Michael…

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