It IS personal

Your marketing tools—such as speeches, articles, and your Web site— are just the first step. Marketing weapons get you into a prospective client's conference room, but your professional competence, communication, selling skills, and follow-up will determine whether you land the job. If you pass the initial hurdle, you'll rely on your network of satisfied clients to help you along.

Consulting is built on personal and working relationships. Referrals from a strong network of satisfied clients will eventually account for the lion's share of your business. No matter how strong those referrals may be, prospective clients will always check your references. And when you get great references from great people, you're more apt to get great jobs. Remember, clients will also check with their own networks of colleagues to get an independent sense of you and your firm. Concentrate on developing and strengthening relationships:

Build networks of supporters, clients, and collaborators who will help you.

Rely on a diverse array of other professionals and consultants who complement your skills and fill in your weaknesses.

Keep in contact with past clients. Position yourself as a resource for them.

It's a common myth in consulting that the larger your network is, the more effective your marketing efforts will be. The conventional wisdom says that the result of a huge network will always be more referrals, broader visibility, and more lucrative business.

But, in consulting, size doesn't matter. One highly successful consultant has only seven members in his business network. He is successful because all his contacts are influential in their organizations, are substantial buyers of consulting services, and are eager sources of referrals.

As you build your network, follow guerrilla wisdom: Strive for quality, not quantity. Remember, relationships take precious time to build and nurture. Make sure you're aiming at the right targets.

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