Business Development Plans for an Interim Executive or Management Consultant
Here are some of the top business development channels we have seen for independent executives.
We understand you are the absolute best at what you do and can solve that CEO’s problem. In fact, you can solve most CEOs’ problems. So why isn’t anyone signing on the dotted line or referring you more?
There’s a big difference from when you’ve had a very successful career as a long-term, full-time employee inside of an organization, to being someone who has more of a characteristic of parachuting into an organization for a short to medium term and you’ve got specific objectives to do. It’s far more focused than one may think of making that transition as one, you’re always out there marketing, you’re always doing business development.
By far, doing business development and sales on yourself is the most challenging part of being an independent executive for most. We often hear, “It is so much easier to sell someone or something else than myself.” You would think that since nobody knows you better than you, you are the best one for the job of selling yourself.
So why are some executives so good at it while others struggle year after year?
Don’t Assume You Know Yourself Best
It is amazing how two people can be talking about the same thing but describing it two different ways. You want to define what you can do for companies in the same or similar words that your potential clients would describe it. The best source to figure this out is past clients or colleagues you have worked with before. The words you use and the point you are getting across should be from the perspective of your potential customers. Be careful of focusing too much on what you want and keep in mind what your potential clients need.
Build Your Brand for Business Development
As an independent executive, it is now all about you and your brand. Manage your brand the same way a Fortune 500 company would manage it. What do you want to be known for? Is your information and the look & feel across your online and offline footprint consistent? If two people meet and find out they both know you, will they both essentially say the exact same thing? What is that? This should also be consistent with the previous section and how you are presenting your expertise and how you help companies. Also, consider beyond what you want and need, and look at what you can do for others. Don’t focus so much on finding opportunities for yourself that you miss opportunities to connect and help others. This is one of the most powerful brands you can have.
Make Yourself Relevant
One of the best ways to find a situation is you no longer have a title; you’re no longer a VP of Sales or COO. You’re a problem solver. So start looking at your history and in your communications. In your conversation be clear on ‘here’s the type of problems I solve’. Most companies don’t say ‘I’m looking for a part-time VP of Sales’ or ‘I need someone with sales management expertise.’ They say ‘I have a sales problem.’ They also don’t always say ‘and I am looking for someone to solve it.’ To help with that, make yourself impactful and memorable. Nothing does that better than numbers. You want someone to be able to meet you today and tomorrow and still remember the types of situations you have solved and what kind of impact you had on them. The easier a referral source can remember this information, the more they will remember you when the next CEO is discussing his sales issues. They will remember your story about a sales situation similar to that and the impact you made.
Play to Your Business Development Strengths
Some executives are better at marketing themselves and doing business development than others. They may end up with the same outcome of more clients, but they don’t all have the same strengths and use the same playbook in doing so. They play to their strengths. If you love meeting new people, talking and chatting, then networking and events are significant resources. If you love to write and keep up with current news, leveraging social media and a strong online footprint may be more comfortable and productive. Just be sure not to rely too heavily on the areas of comfort and make progress on all business development fronts.
Always Doing Business Development
We too often see executives taking on an assignment that is 4-5 days per week for a period and little or no business development efforts go on during that time. Their business development efforts don’t pick up again until their assignment is nearing an end at which time it may take a few months or longer to rebuild momentum. Out of sight, out of mind. If you are only keeping in touch with your contacts when you’re on the search for your next assignment, their motivation to keep you top of mind goes down.
Diversify – Use Multiple Business Development Channels
As mentioned above, never rely on just one source for all of your business. Here’re some of the top business development channels we have seen for independent executives:
- Referrals – Past employers, past clients, networking contacts, social media links, etc. The number one thing we can say is ‘Keep in Contact!’
- Networking – It is always wonderful when you can show up at a networking function and meet someone who needs your help but since that isn’t always the case, has a backup goal. Simply get out and meet people.
- Social Media – A great place to reinforce your brand and your expertise. What is the one thing you want to be known for? That should be the theme throughout your communications, postings, tweets, blogs, etc.
- Intermediaries and Online Marketplaces – Always great when someone else can do most of your marketing and business development for you. This is a growing marketplace and is worth the time investment. Keep your expectations realistic and review Tips for writing the Perfect Interim Executive Profile.
As daunting as it may seem, there are various of approaches and opportunities for building your business as an Independent Executive. Step back, and think about what advice you would give a CEO for building their business. Treat yours in a similar fashion.