Business development. Finding new clients. These words are often dreaded by fractional executives. You love delivering for your clients. But you don’t like finding new ones, and it can be the most daunting part of running your fractional executive consulting business.
And there are so many options. But nothing seems quite reliable enough. There are marketplaces, job boards, in-person events, networking, referrals, and on down the line. Where should you spend your time?
You don’t have much time in the week, but you need to keep your pipeline full, and you want to do it in as little time as possible. Efficiency is everything.
Let’s talk through where we recommend you spend your precious time, and what you should avoid to fill your pipeline in as little as 30 minutes per day, and not waste all your time bidding on marketplace projects.
What we recommend
1. Leverage the people who already know what you’re capable of
Contacts from your network are those who know you well and trust you. They know what you’re capable of, and could hire you very easily. These are past managers, past colleagues, or friends from a professional environment. It could also be friends from a non-professional environment, but they likely don’t know what you’re capable of from a work perspective.
To actually execute on this, you can:
- Make a list of these people and then
- Ask them for a catch-up call.
When you reach out to these people, ask to catch up with them. Don't look at this like a sales call - this is a catch-up call to see what's going on in their lives and to ask about their company and their challenges. Maybe there's naturally an opportunity for you to help. Maybe there's not, and they refer you to a friend who might have a need. This is just opening the door to check-in with them and see if anything is there.
When you reach out via email / text / LinkedIn, give them a quick update on what's going on with you, and ask if they’re open to a short phone call to catch up. The more personalized you can make these messages, the better.
2. Expand your immediate network
Depending on your account, you can send between 100-200 new LinkedIn connection requests per week. At an acceptance rate of 30% (this is the highest we’ve seen) you’re connecting with 30-60 new contacts every week. That’s 120-240 new contacts every month!
The key is to connect with the right types of people that are going to give your business a boost. You can do a search on LinkedIn or Sales Navigator to find decision-makers from your industry that have the potential to be clients down the road. This is not an immediate ask: this is network building!
You can use a tool like Expandi ($99/mo) to automate this network building, hire a VA to do it manually, or do it yourself manually. It’s probably worth the $99/mo for Expandi or a similar tool to save yourself the time.
3. Post Thought Leadership on LinkedIn
In the last section, we talked about growing your network on LinkedIn. This step compounds with that effort perfectly: as you grow your network, you’re going to get content in front of them that legitimizes you.
LinkedIn is one of the only social media networks where a “connection” = “follower” and you can request to connect with someone which means you can request for them to “follow” you.
You don’t need tens of thousands of social media followers to begin generating business from LinkedIn. Even a few hundred dedicated followers can turn into leads if they fit your target audience and you get the right content in front of them.
Further, this is a “one to many” approach. You As you build your network, you can share your expertise in a more passive way than direct outreach that can actually generate inbounds for you.
Important note: at no point do you need to “sell” here or even mention that you’re consulting. You can mention you’re open to work, but if you do, do it in a very non-pushy way. If someone wants your help, they’ll ask for it whether you mention you’re available or not.
So, what should you write?
The best thing you can do online is share experiences with your community (we recommend LinkedIn) from your past.
This can look like wins, learnings, “mistakes,” failures, best practices, etc. E.g., our founder Bradley Jacobs wrote this post (screenshot below) on LinkedIn and got him inbound, including the message below:
How often should you write?
Honestly, the more the better. Every day if you can. If that feels like way too much, pick a schedule you can commit to. Maybe that’s once per week to start, and you can grow from there.
We recommend sitting down for 1 hour per week, outlining ideas, and writing a few posts. Then you can batch and schedule them to go out during the week so that you’re not having to write every day.
4. Curated Outbound to Curated, High Intent Leads
This means finding a list of companies in your niche where you can add unique value. Then, trimming down the list based on who:
- Has budget
- Has gaps on their team
- Has jobs open in your function
- Where you have warm intros
You won’t find that every lead meets all the criteria, but you can do your best. Reach out to 100 or so decision-makers at these companies each month.
You can expect a 10-20% response rate since this is very targeted outreach, resulting in 5-10 calls each month, and building an increasingly large list of contacts.
As you grow your list, you’ll have many more options when you do have a client opening, and you’ll never have to worry about a down month ever again.
How do you make this list?
This is what Mylance specializes in. Otherwise, you can try to make a comparable list from Apollo, Sales Navigator, or other sales tools out there. But none are specifically for your Fractional Business like Mylance Scale.
What we don’t recommend
1. Marketplaces like Catalant, Upwork, Marketerhire, and Business Talent Group
You’ve likely heard of marketplaces that help you find clients such as the ones listed above. These are popular among consultants because you likely want a project to fall into your lap, and it seems like this is a good place to find that. However, there are significant downsides to relying on these platforms, and we’ll highlight them here.
- First and most importantly to us, you’re reliant on someone else to find you project work. What happens if that dries up and you don’t know how to do business development on your own?
- First, the platforms generally take 20-50% of your profits to generate revenue. So while they’re free to use, you end up getting paid less overall.
- For every project list, 50-100 professionals are bidding on it. You’ll end up spending dozens of hours pitching projects, most of which you won’t win. Your win rate is likely somewhere in the 1 in 20 range, even for a great pitch.
- These marketplaces end up being a race to the bottom. You’ll see many qualified consultants charging meager rates for their work because of the “economic pressures” of these sites’ ecosystems. Essentially, because you’re competing directly with other professionals on the platform, you’re encouraged to slash your rates as much as possible to attract business.
- Most clients searching for talent through these traditional methods are okay paying extremely low rates and potentially receiving lower quality work. These aren’t the types of clients you want to work with long-term.
Spammy, high-volume cold outreach
Most firms that do outreach are messaging upwards of 1,000 contacts a day! This is a “spray and pray” approach that we don’t recommend for a number of reasons.
- The messaging is often poor and you’ll annoy most people you reach out to
- The conversion rates are incredibly low and you’ll have to email thousands and thousands of people to get a few meetings
- You will need multiple new inboxes since they are likely to get flagged and blacklisted. Once a domain is blacklisted, you won’t be able to use it again
Short answer: we highly don’t recommend this approach for your fractional business.
Hoping for contracts to land in your lap
Unfortunately, this is the category most people find themselves in. They’re hoping for good things to happen, without taking action. This is normal because we all have fears and imposter thoughts. We are often scared to fail, so we prevent ourselves from taking actions that could result in rejection. But those same actions that could result in rejection are also the ones that could result in success, and thus we need to take them.
Hoping is not a strategy. Sitting back and waiting is not a strategy. You need to put a system in place that has the chance to provide results for your business. A system that you can repeat every week and let those efforts compound. A system that takes tangible action every day towards your goal. It could look something like this:
Monday: send out 10 LinkedIn connection requests to new people you'd like to connect with in your industry that are decision-makers, and 5 LinkedIn messages to those in your network already asking for a catch-up call (20 minutes)
Tuesday: write down 5 ideas for LinkedIn posts in your area of expertise. Draft 1 of them (20 minutes)
Wednesday: finalize the draft from Tuesday and schedule for Thursday. Draft 2 more posts (30 minutes)
As noted above, as you build up your LinkedIn connection base, this content will be more and more important. Grow connections + validate your experience through content = more calls with qualified leads.
Thursday: schedule your 2 posts from Wednesday. Follow-up with the connections / messages from Monday. Get calls on the cal. (20 minutes)
Friday: send out 20 emails to a curated list of decision makers at companies in your niche, who likely have budget, who have gaps on their team in your function, and who have hired fractionals in the past (30 minutes).
If you do these activities every week, you'll have 3-5 calls lined up every single week.
With 12-20 calls per month, you'd likely send out 4-6 proposals and close 1-2 clients. EVERY MONTH! Which we all know is more than you need, but it will 100% set you up for success.
Update Your LinkedIn
LinkedIn is your online, on-demand resume for people interested in your value as an executive, and it’s likely already getting dozens of views every day. Make your LinkedIn work for you and turn some of these visitors into potential clients. How?
- Make your headline something that stands out. Share what you do and who you do it for so when someone reads your headline, it has a chance to "speak" to them.
- Write a bio with your niche and top accomplishments.
- Link to your Calendly so potential clients can book directly with you.
- List your "role accomplishments" under each title (not what the company does).
Build a Website (but don’t spend too much time or money)
One of LinkedIn’s main limitations is its inability to display your work samples (a portfolio) properly and it’s more of a holistic snapshot of your work experience. You might benefit from a landing page that showcases your specific consulting niche.
The key: it’s better not to have a website than to have one that’s poorly designed. And the reward isn’t there to spend $1,500 getting a decent designer. At Mylance, we give you a professionally designed, turn-key website that requires no drag and drop or design efforts from you to showcase your consulting niche.
The landing page includes:
- Your niche
- Case studies
- Your services
- Link to your calendly for calls
- And we give you basic visitor and conversion stats
You’ll have a landing page in <10 minutes, and best of all, it’s completely free to you.
Building a website from scratch is infamously tricky. Mylance simplifies this process by creating your website in a few minutes, so you can showcase your unique value-add. Learn more now!
Understand That Closing Takes Time
Closing new business takes patience and sometimes thick skin. There are many instances where you’ll have solid introductory conversations with warm leads who end up passing on your services.
Companies may pass on your services for a variety of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with you. These reasons can include:
- Budget changes
- Leadership changes
- A shift in priorities
Sometimes it just isn’t the right time. Rather than getting discouraged, remain calm and understand that closing can take time.
You have many options when a prospect decides to pass. You can:
- Send them occasional messages checking in
- Ask if you can put them on a newsletter where you share updates and tidbits of expertise
- Connect with them on social media, so they see your posts
- Set up coffee chats periodically to catch up
Staying connected with the most interested prospects dramatically increases the chance that they’ll come back to you when they are ready for a new client in the future.
Thoughts to leave you with
- Set up a system that you can reliably execute on every single week
- Efforts often don’t work immediately but do compound over time. Stay patient, stay disciplined, and focus on the process
- Own your own business development. Don’t outsource it to a marketplace that doesn’t care about you. Know how to pitch yourself, nail down your ideal customer, and put in place recurring strategies to reach them
- Don’t let fear and imposter thoughts hold you back. You’re going to get told “no” as part of this process. It’s a given. Be willing to get through the rejections to get to all the “yes’s”
This post was written by Mylance. Mylance specializes in identifying the highest quality, most curated leads for your fractional business. We use 5 different criteria to identify companies and decision-makers who are likely to need your expertise:
- Matches your niche / unique expertise
- Likely to have the budget
- Gaps on their team in your function
- Are fractional friendly
- Have warm connections from your network
To apply for access, submit an application and we’ll evaluate your fit for the service.
I help tech professionals refine your consulting niche so you can land 5-figure per month consulting deals.