I left the housebuilding industry earlier this year, taking a big leap into the unknown world of private consultancy as an associate planner with DLP Planning in Bedford. One thing I was particularly concerned about was how I was going to go from being the ‘client’ to the ‘consultant’ and reach out and develop my own client base.
I am now almost seven months into my new role and find that my network of clients is continually growing. From my experiences to date I believe there are a handful of key things you can do as a consultant to give you the best chance of expanding your client base.
Put yourself out there
Whilst it can be time consuming, networking has played a key role for me in meeting new clients. Take the time to socialise at both industry and non-industry events and don’t be shy about pitching what your business does and your role and expertise. Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward to go to events – the more you attend the more you will feel comfortable and you will become a regular face and point of contact at such places. Go to breakfast meetings, join chambers of commerce and go to business functions. Always keep your business cards handy and make sure you take plenty of them. You never know who you might meet and where that might take you.
Build on existing contacts
Avoid burning bridges with previous colleagues or employers as these networks are crucial when seeking potential new clients. In my previous role, it became evident that people tend to move around within the industry and keeping track of where your key contacts are may present opportunities to introduce yourself to a new business or bring opportunities into the business that may not have been expected. Former colleagues and businesses know how you work, so maintaining these relationships when you leave allows you to keep doors open to the possibility of instruction.
Treat clients like people, not business
Of course, clients are people and should be treated as such. The ability to be personable and friendly in a professional way is a real skill and will help build trust with potential clients. Often clients are looking for people they can work with, not just those who have the relevant qualifications and skill set. This is key for both new and existing clients as building that relationship with them will not only gain their respect but hopefully their continued business.
Use Social Media
Whilst word of mouth and face to face interaction is still a key way of bringing in new clients, social media has revolutionised the way we as consultants market our services and open up new business opportunities. Make the most of professional social media platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with a large range of clients and look for potential new ones. Don’t be afraid to reach out through platforms – the worst someone can say is no.
Hannah Albans is associate planner at DLP Planning