Before running through this list it is vital to point our one key thing. Do not be desperate. If you are desperate then this may not be the time for you to be launching your consulting career!
Desperation is probably your greatest enemy when you are out prospecting. If you are desperate then think seriously about sub-contracting or getting a job until the heat dies down a little bit.
Some tips for getting the next client...
1) Get out of your office!
Unless you are Tom Peters, and you aren't, they are not going to come to you! Get out, get in front of them,m network, talk to them, impress your value on them without being too direct.
2) Follow up or ... go away!
So you have met people while networking. great, now what? Did you ask the golden question? E.g. How can I help you to get more work? Did you resist the urge to hard sell during the networking meeting? yes? great..
So now you need to follow up. Remember rule number 1, unless you are Tom Peters they are not going to come to you. So call them, set up a second meeting, see if they will take the time to sit with you over coffee or lunch.
3) Cold calls work.
In our game cold calls really do work. Call them to get to meet them. meet them to get to impress them. Impress them to get the opportunity to sell to them.
Normal rules apply. leave something of value behind you. Call a few days, maximum of a week, later. Check up.
4) Don't call to see how the quote is going!
"Ahh.. yeah. I'm just calling to see how the quote is going, if you need any additional information, or if I can assist you further." - You Goose! You've done this haven't you? I know I have.
Don't do it, resist the urge. What you want to say is "I'm just calling about the quote we gave you. It was a fair while ago and I am wondering if the work is still planned to go ahead, and if so are we still in contention. Please let me know, if the quote doesn't meet your needs right now then we would appreciate knowing."
Period. You have done the right thing. Your relationship isn't strong enough that they are going to call you to tell you the quote stinks. So call up and be honest... always be honest!
What can they say? Yeah the quote stinks.
"Can I resubmit"
"No its too late"
Okay, so what. Get moving after the next account and don't burn any bridges here. In fact you might want to try to book a meeting with them on this call for a couple of weeks or months down the line.
5) Be frank at all times.
You are in business. So are they. Your meeting is a meeting between commercial representatives of two companies. Do Not be coy, don't beat around the bush, don't wait for them to move onto the subject in the hope that they will offer to give you some work! It doesn't work like that!
When the moment is right, and that could be three meetings in, then tell them. "Listen, over the past X meetings I think I have a pretty fair idea of what it is that you are doing here and what you are trying to achieve. We have been thinking about it and we think we could add value in this specific area. Particularly as we have a very strong track record of helping our clients to do that."
Straight talk always helps. You are not there to eat the crumbs that fall from the table - you are there to add value so be proud of that and state as much. The client is also there in a commercial conversation.
6) Ask for the next step.
"Okay so I think we have a fair idea of whats going on now. We believe we can help you to achieve what you want to achieve. Do you think it is worthwhile taking this any further down the sales process (Yes, say sales process) or do you think you need to work out some of the finer details?"
What is this statement doing? You are giving the client a choice of several ways to say yes to you right? Warning - this is for once you have a to and fro type of relationship up and running. Do this on the first meeting and you are likely to be bounced.
7) Don't do work for free
I run into this a lot with the large scale projects. It really annoys me. The goal is for them, the client, to get as many contractors to do a lot of preliminary work while promising nothing to nobody.
You need to make a decision here. I prefer not to do freebies. It sets the wrong precedent and doesn't help you get any leverage over the longer term at all.
If there is a little bit of work done then quote for it. If they tell you that others will do it for free them you answer needs to be along the lines of how much value you know that you can add to their operations, and that you can't support free work right now. (These are tough times for everybody after all)
Support your case with history, testimonials and other proof of capability stuff.
If they aren't willing to do it then stay engaged, but bow out of the proceedings for this one. You want to earn continuous flowing cash after all. That is the name of this game if you recall. Any attempts to see it as something different are disingenuous.
8) It is over said and underdone - but remember that you deliver solutions, you solve problems. You don't just make sales!
Get them talking about the problems they are facing, their plans for the next few months of year, and their burning issues. Offer to help them work through one of he problems and let them know that this is the way your sales process works. You help them arrive at the means of solving their problem, and then if you have done that correctly you should also get a chance to bid on it in pole position.
In summary the overriding factor to success in generating new clients is one of confidence. Confidence that you can add value, and the confidence that you have the right to be sitting there speaking to this person as a peer, an equal, a partner with whom you can help to solve problems.
Be active, keep calling, be honest, and do not ever let rejection get you down. How badly do you want this anyway?