If you’re like most professional service providers I know, the motivation behind your choice of profession had nothing to do with a desire to get into sales…never mind being required to sell in order to do what you set out to do in the first place.

The real-world result of this is a “two-hats” dilemma — requiring one hat for your role as a business builder and a second one as a service provider.

Business development feels like it requires a personality, skill set and tool kit completely different from those associated with the counsel or service you provide.

How do you find prospects? How do you manage your time and create new growth opportunities?

The good news is that there are productive business development strategies that relieve this stress and bridge the disconnect.

The key is to create an approach to business development that grows out of the way you serve your clients. Do this and building a practice becomes much more organic. 

Where To Begin

Here’s a straight forward way to get started.

First, forget everything you have heretofore believed about how you should create visibility and connect with the best prospects. Don’t fret. We’re not suggesting that the solution is to trash everything you have in place. You might ultimately decide that pieces of your existing strategy have a place in your effort. 

Next, create a profile describing your ideal client. A robust profile will articulate the problem or challenge you solve — the relief you provide — for your ideal client. It might also include specifics like industry, size or revenue of an organization, location and other characteristics that enable you to think in terms of a targeted pursuit. 

Third, begin building a list of all who are already connected to your ideal client. This may include advisors, suppliers, associations, affiliates and even specific employee roles — anyone already engaged in a working relationship with your ideal target. Go as deep as you can here.

This is your pool of potential allies. This I group is central to changing the arithmetic related to your time.

A Trusted Ally Story

Karen provides management consulting to small businesses.

Her pool of possible allies included area chambers of commerce, lending institutions and CPA firms.

Her mission was to position herself as an indispensable ally to these groups as they, in turn, sought to serve her ideal clients — the small businesses of their communities. 

Karen created a sixty-minute workshop focused on “The 5 Management Steps Your Small Business Clients Can Take To Be Prepared For A Recession.” She offered the workshop as a complimentary service to her prospective allies — those already serving the small business community. 

Three things happened. 

  • Her calendar began to fill up with workshop opportunities for financial service institutions and CPA firms;
  • Because her content spoke directly to a concern of small business owners, a number of her new allies scheduled encore presentations with the sole purpose of inviting their small business client base;
  • As attendees found value in ideas introduced in Karen’s workshop, she began to receive calls directly from small business leaders wanting to explore how to implement her ideas in their organization. 

Today Karen’s focus on allies provides a framework for every business development decision.

Does this opportunity/activity/investment strengthen relationships and make me more indispensable to my allies? 

The Trust Factor

Over time Karen earned the trust of her business development allies. They had confidence that (a) she would deliver value to their clients, and (b) would not abuse the opportunity they afforded. Her closest allies had no hesitancy in providing introductions to their best clients. 

Had she taken any action that might jeopardize the relationships she benefited from, her trusted status would have disappeared. 

Had she taken the relationships for granted, they could, over time, grow weak.

She did neither. She maintained close communication with her allies, seeking their input on issues she might address, and creating three or four new workshops every twelve months.

And she always protected the ally’s relationship with their clients. Karen made herself a central part of the team of each one of her allies.

Her time and resources increasingly focused on doing one thing — identifying and speaking to a problem/challenge/question faced by her small business targets, and packaging her “solution” in a way that supported the efforts of her allies.

The two-hat dilemma is gone. Marketing, lead generation, presentations and even proposals are aligned with the management consulting she offers — providing answers to the most vexing issues faced by small businesses.

Talk to Karen today and she will tell you she doesn’t need more prospects. She needs allies.