The Ultimate Guide to Lead Generation for Consultants

Oct 28, 2022

Table of contents

Introduction to lead generation for consultants

Lead generation is the process of finding and attracting new opportunities (leads) who are likely to become your clients immediately or in the future.

Effective lead generation is one of the critical success factors for an independent consulting business. If you can generate leads, you’ll be able to create business opportunities whenever and wherever you need them. You’ll avoid those feast or famine cycles that are so common for independent consultants to experience.

But, for many independent consultants, generating leads and selling are the hardest part of their businesses.

You might relate.

You can feel so confident delivering for your clients.
And, at the same time feel incapable and inadequate of selling yourself.

When you were in corporate, you likely relied on other teams to uncover new leads and close them.
Now, all of the responsibility for generating new leads and closing them falls on you.

You don’t want to make a mistake and turn off an ideal client.
Or, even worse, make such a big mistake that you ruin your reputation in the industry.

Generating leads can feel overwhelming, and at times impossible.

But it doesn’t have to be.

As a consultant, you already have the foundational skills to be successful at generating leads for your consulting business.

In this blog, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to create a successful lead generation routine for your independent consulting business, so you always know how to find consulting leads.

The 1 prerequisite for generating consulting leads

 

 

Before we dive into lead generation strategies, let’s set the stage with the one prerequisite you’ll want to have in place for lead generation as an independent consulting company.

I find that most independent consultants are missing this must-have in their independent consulting lead generation process.

I want to make sure you're not missing it too.

The element that most independent consultants miss is Being CRYSTAL CLEAR on your business development metrics

Being CRYSTAL CLEAR on your business development metrics

Why does this lead generation foundational element matters?

After you incorporate this prerequisite into your business development routine, you'll notice that:

  • It's easier to be consistent so you generate a steady flow of fulfilling, higher-paying work
  • You're evening out the all-too-common feast or famine cycles in your independent consulting business and
  • You feel so much more in control of your business results

Define your business development metrics for effective lead generation, so you’re crystal clear on the outcomes you want to create

The prerequisite is to get crystal clear on your overall business development metrics.

What are the business development metrics? Simply put, you need to either know the following numbers or make an educated hypothesis on what they are for each of your service types.

For example, if you have a business that includes Advisory Services, Strategy Work, and Delivery, that would be three separate formulas.

Ask and answer the following questions for each service type:

  • How many of this type of client do I want this year?
  • How many conversations does it typically take me to uncover a potential consulting opportunity? (examples of conversations - 1:1 networking calls, a “catch up” with someone in your network, speaking engagements, etc.)
  • What is my close rate?

After you have these crucial numbers (or your best guess if you don’t have a lot of data yet), you can map out your lead generation activities in a chart similar to this:

Example business development metrics for effective lead generation:

 

When you break your business down in this way, you get very clear on exactly what you need to be doing to generate the number of leads that makes hitting your revenue goals inevitable, while also making sure you attract clients that need the exact type of work you love doing.

How to establish a lead generation routine as part of your IC business owner process

Now that you have the prerequisite in place, let’s establish the lead generation routine for your consulting business.

What is a lead generation routine?

  • A lead generation routine is the daily, weekly, and monthly actions you take to create a pipeline of leads for your consulting business.
  • It’s important to have a lead generation routine so that you keep a steady flow of potential client work, and avoid feast or famine, which is a common problem for independent consultants.
  • The benefits of having a lead generation routine are:
    • Designed to hit your business goals. You know exactly which activities you need to complete on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis in order to hit your revenue, income, and utilization targets.
    • Override procrastination. Having this type of checklist for yourself will help you override that little voice in your head that tries to talk you into procrastinating.

Measurable baseline so you can easily adjust up or down as needed. You’ll have a measurable baseline from which to measure how your lead generation process is working, so you can adjust it accordingly

5 steps to establish a lead generation routine as an IC

What does a lead generation routine look like for independent consultants? An effective lead generation routine includes:

  1. Define your lead generation goals
  2. Know your ideal target client & their pain points
  3. Choose your aligned lead generation method(s)
  4. Break the process down into manageable steps, along with the frequency
  5. Cultivate a “business development” state of mind

Step 1: Define your consulting lead generation goals

  • The first step of the process is to get clear on your consulting lead generation goals.
  • You’ll want to know the # of leads you want to generate (use the Business Development Formula I shared above to calculate this)
  • Get clear on the exact outcomes you want to create with your business development processes, for each of your service offerings

Step 2: Know your ideal target client and their pain points

  • Understand your ideal target client and their pain points, so you’re clear on:
    • Where to find your ideal clients
    • What your ideal clients care about
    • The immediate pain points that would make a significant difference to them if solved
  • It’s important to design a lead generation process that aligns with what you most enjoy, and that also aligns with your ideal client’s typical behaviors.
  • Answer these simple questions:
    • Where does my ideal client congregate?
    • Where does my ideal client spend time online?
    • How do I most enjoy meeting new people?
    • How do I most enjoy catching up and maintaining relationships?

Step 3: Choose your aligned lead generation method

  • Identify the lead generation method that aligns best with:
    • where your ideal clients would be looking for expertise,
    • with what you enjoy doing (or, if you don’t enjoy any type of lead generation, choose the method that your clients most resonate with)
  • EXPERT TIP: I’m not saying you should expect to find a business development method that's comfortable for you. Most likely, business development isn’t one of your most advanced skills. You’ll most likely be uncomfortable in this process. That’s okay. That means you’re on track. So, choose a method you do enjoy, or at least don't despise. But, don't expect it to be comfortable.

Step 4: Break the process down into manageable steps, along with the frequency

  • After you’ve selected the 3-4 lead generation methods that align with both how you run your business and how your ideal clients want to be engaged with, break it down into manageable, repeatable steps
  • Then, set the frequency by which you’ll execute each of your lead generation methods.
  • Example:
    • In the Business Development Metrics chart above, the goal for this independent consultant would create 11 conversations (or leads) per month.
    • To do that, the independent consultant decided to set the following routine:
      • QUARTERLY: Book Quarterly Speaking Engagements
      • BI-MONTHLY: Attend an industry-specific interest/networking group
      • WEEKLY: Reconnect with 5 former colleagues and acquaintances from her corporate life
      • WEEKLY: Meet 1 new person and set up a virtual introductory call
  • I’ve created another example for you. Click here to download a specific routine you can execute to Fill Your Consulting Pipeline In 26 Minutes Per Day. Link to Free Download: https://www.melisaliberman.com/ram

Step 5: Cultivate a “business development” state-of-mind

The final piece of your lead generation process is developing an effective business development mindset so you make the most of the time you spend on lead generation worthwhile.

What is an effective business development mindset for consulting lead generation?

An effective lead generation mindset is one where you:

  • believe ahead of time that you’ll achieve the results,
  • acknowledge but don’t succumb to doubt,
  • are willing to be uncomfortable,
  • override the inner critic,
  • overcome the second-guessing and
  • are committed to achieving the outcome, even if it takes longer than estimated.

How to cultivate this effective lead generation mindset

  1. Start with a “thought audit”, which is essentially writing down your stream of consciousness about a specific topic (in this case the topic is lead generation).
  2. Through this process, uncover the main belief system standing in your way of executing an effective lead generation process (e.g. thinking “I’m not good at generating leads because I don’t like selling myself.”)
  3. Shift your thinking into a new business owner mindset. For example, you can choose to think on purpose (and find evidence) that “it’s possible I can learn the skills to create leads and sell my work with ease.” Notice that this feels so much lighter and doable. Thinking this way makes it easier to maintain a consistent routine.
  4. When you choose to start thinking about yourself in this new way, on purpose, you’ll start seeing yourself as someone who is becoming confident and skilled at being a business owner who generates leads on demand.

38 lead generation techniques for your independent consulting lead generation

NETWORKING/RELATIONSHIP MARKETING

  1. Meet with your immediate network (e.g. former colleagues, friends/family, past clients)
  2. Seek referrals from your immediate network (e.g. former colleagues, friends/family, past clients)
  3. Land & expand within your current client base
  4. Meet with your extended network (e.g. people connected to but don't know)
  5. Create referrals from your extended network (e.g. people connected to but don't know)
  6. Meet new people (potential clients, potential referrers, people working for adjacent companies)
  7. Host events
  8. Meet new people on LinkedIn and set up virtual meetings
  9. Attend conferences and online events
  10. Network with past employers/alumni groups

ADD VALUE TO OTHER PEOPLE’S AUDIENCES (COMPLIMENTARY TO OR COMPRISING OF YOUR IDEAL CLIENT)

  1. Develop relationships with adjacent businesses (e.g. other companies that sell to your ideal client)
  2. Join, engage, and contribute to online communities (e.g. LinkedIn groups, industry Slack groups, etc.)
  3. Engage in industry organizations - offer expertise, workshops, webinars, articles, and facilitation
  4. Provide webinars for your ideal clients for an organization that attracts your ideal clients
  5. Speak for organizations that serve your ideal client
  6. Speak at conferences that your ideal clients attend
  7. Speak for alumni groups (college, post-graduate, corporate alumni organizations)
  8. Podcast guesting
  9. Writing guest blogs
  10. Create trainings, mini-courses, or masterclasses your ideal clients will attend (either directly hosted by you or hosted by others with your content; always include a valuable, compelling call to action)

OPPORTUNITY MARKETING

  1. Submit profiles/proposals via marketplaces (e.g. MBO)
  2. Join reseller or affiliate programs
  3. Engage with corporate hiring managers who are hiring for full-time roles (convert them into consulting opportunities) – Episode 035 of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business Podcast
  4. Partner with recruiters

CONTENT MARKETING - BECOME KNOWN, SOUGHT-AFTER, AND GENERATE INBOUND CONSULTING LEADS

  1. Facilitate or host an executive roundtable
  2. Write articles for publications and platforms your ideal clients read
  3. Write and share white papers
  4. Get listed in a preferred provider listing
  5. Email marketing
  6. Posting on LinkedIn
  7. Social media posts
  8. Write and share blogs
  9. Create and share videos
  10. Write and promote books/ebooks
  11. Assessments or Scorecards – Episode 057 of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business Podcast

DIRECT MARKETING

  1. Create a simple offer that’s a low barrier to entry (e.g. a 1-hour lunch and learn for your ideal company) and use that as a “trojan horse” method of lead generation
  2. Cold calls
  3. Paid ads
  4. Outsource lead generation to an agency (outbound & inbound leads)

The 3 best lead generation strategies for independent consultants

You might be expecting me to give you the three very best lead-generation strategies that will create leads for your independent consulting business.

If I did give you three (or any), I would be doing you a disservice.

And, I would likely be wrong.

What I see time and time again is that all 38 of the lead generation strategies I listed above can work for you as a way to generate leads for your independent consulting business.

So, what makes the difference?

How can you choose one or a couple of the 38 lead generation strategies to implement in your consulting business?

Here’s the answer for you.

The best lead generation strategies for independent consultants meet these 3 criteria:

1. You believe the strategy will work

Ask and answer - what lead generation strategy do you believe will create a flow of leads? If you haven’t sold yourself first on the strategy you’re choosing, it won’t work. None of the strategies will work for you if you don’t sell yourself on them first.

2. You believe your ideal potential clients will respond positively to the technique

You get to decide. I’ve worked with clients who wanted to implement cold calling as one of their lead generation methods, and they believed the potential clients wanted to hear from them. They felt so strongly that these potential clients would welcome and benefit from a short, initial, unsolicited conversation.

And, it worked for them.

For most of us, we don’t believe our ideal potential clients want to receive a cold call, will pick up a cold call, or much less return the message we leave. I know I fall into this category. I believe that too.

Don’t pick a method you think your ideal clients won’t resonate with.
Pick a method, even if it’s not comfortable for you (yet), that you can believe 100% of those ideal clients will find valuable.

3. You believe you will be successful in executing the lead generation methods you choose.

When you think you’re not good at something or that what you’re doing won’t work, it won’t. It’s as simple as that.
Here’s what I mean.
When you think you’re not good at something (e.g. generating leads), you might feel awkward or frustrated. When you’re feeling frustrated or awkward, you second-guess yourself and you procrastinate. And, as a result, you don’t make any progress.
On the flip side, if you think you can figure it out, you might feel a combination of curious and committed. From that emotional state, you are much more willing to test and adjust until you figure out what works for both you and your potential clients.

For more on this, listen to Episodes 083 and 084 of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business Podcast.

 

 

Frequently asked lead generation questions:

How do I find consulting leads quickly?

I find that independent consultants typically know where to find new consulting leads, and quickly. But, it can feel overwhelming and scary so they talk themselves out of following through.

For example, when I press my clients, asking them if they needed a new client next week, what would they do? They usually give me 2-3 answers to my question, and then start backtracking.

They backtrack because they’re afraid…afraid of ruining the best opportunity, afraid of rejection, afraid of failing, afraid of everything drying up.

After you acknowledge and work through these fears, you can start pursuing the consulting leads that are most likely to be real and turn into ideal clients.

Where can I promote my consulting business?

As an independent consultant, there are so many ways to promote your independent consulting business. Look at the ideas I shared above in the section called - Add Value To Other People’s Audiences (Complimentary To Or Comprising Of Your Ideal Client)

How do new consultants get clients?

New independent consultants typically find their first clients from their immediate network of past colleagues and corporate clients and connections.

How do I sell myself as a consultant?

There are three foundational elements that are important to selling yourself as an independent consultant. I shared them in Episode 025 of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business Podcast.

In a nutshell, to transform into an independent consulting business owner who’s highly skilled with a high close rate, there are three foundational elements:

  • Transform your sales mindset
  • Partner with a complimentary provider to build your skills on the job
  • Implement what I call the dating strategy

How do I brand myself as a consultant?

Branding yourself as an independent consultant is an important strategy to become sought-after for what you do as a consultant.
Think about the one thing you want to be known for.
Talk about that.
Write about that.
Update all of your online presence to tell the same, straightforward story.
Know that narrowing down your branding won’t mean that other work won’t come your way.

The 5 lead generation mistakes you should avoid as an independent consultant

 

 

Here are the 3 most common lead generation mistakes you’ll want to avoid as an independent consultant.

Mistake #1 - Dependency as a strategy

What is dependency as a strategy?

Simply put, this is you relying on other people or companies to drive your business.

Examples:

  • Recruiters
  • Marketplaces
  • Agencies
  • Even your immediate network

I’m not saying outsourcing is a bad idea. I love outsourcing. However, there’s a difference between being in command of your lead generation and then outsourcing what you know works for you versus abdicating and feeling dependent on someone else.

Why is being dependent a problem?
You’re a business owner.
You’re not a contractor.
You’re not a consultant.
You own a business.

Successful business owners are able to market, sell and deliver their work. They’re in command.
This is one of the key ingredients to a sustainable, successful, long-term business where you don’t become stuck in the feast or famine cycle and feel forced to go back into corporate after you burn out.

Mistake #2 - Not maintaining a consistent lead generation process when you’re busy with client work

It’s so common to stop working on lead generation when you’re busy with client work. You push off and deprioritize what you know you need to be doing.

And then, you end up regretting it when your client cancels a contract or wraps up early and you don’t have any other work on the horizon.

Mistake #3 - Overcomplicating your lead generation process

You're a consultant. That means you're great at solving complicated problems.

You most likely love solving complicated problems.

The downside to this is that it's easy for you to overcomplicate things to make them feel more valuable to you.

Make sure you avoid this trap. Choose a lead generation method to try out. Notice that your brain will most likely think "it's not enough", "it won't work", or "it should be harder." Ignore that inner critic. Commit to executing your lead generation process for 60 days, so you have results to evaluate and adjust as needed.

Mistake #4 - Not consistently developing your lead generation mindset

What is a business development mindset?

When you believe you’ve mastered something, you are much more effective than when you see yourself as someone who’s bad at it or new or learning.
It’s critical to put a business owner mindset routine in place, as part of your overall lead generation strategy.

This can seem like a nice-to-have but it’s not, it’s foundational.
It can seem intangible but you can make it actionable and effective.

Be sure you include this work to transform the way you think about yourself into your routine.

For more on this, listen to Episode 078 of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business Podcast - Bad At Business Development

Mistake #5 - Sabotaging yourself by worrying you’ll create too much demand

When their lead generation process starts becoming predictable, it’s common for independent consultants to sabotage their business because they’re worried. They worry that they’ll generate too much business and that they:

  • Won’t be able to handle all of it
  • Will ruin their reputation

When you’re worried about generating too much business, you’re thinking about your business from the lens of the consultant who will be delivering the work.

If you switch viewpoint to the CEO of your business, it will be much easier to problem solve for the great-problem-to-have scenario where you’ve generated more business than you can personally fulfill.

For example, you will create strategies such as:

  • Subcontracting
  • Setting up referral programs, to get paid for referring the business to others who do have capacity
  • Increasing your pricing
  • Creating a wait list
  • Adjusting to lower-involvement offers

For more on this, listen to Episode 081 of the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business Podcast - Worry about Landing Too Much Consulting Business

 

 

Final thoughts

Let’s pull all of this together for you. To establish an effective lead generation routine for your independent consulting business, you want to:

  1. Get clear on your lead generation metrics so you know exactly how many conversations lead to opportunities and how many opportunities become clients. The math makes this so simple and helps you avoid overcomplicating and wasting time in your lead generation process.
  2. Keep your business development routine simple by knowing exactly how many conversations you need to have each week to hit your goals, and by choosing methods that align with how you and your ideal clients like to engage.
  3. Avoid falling into the consultant’s trap of overcomplicating your lead generation. It’s so common for consultants to inadvertently create problems so they can solve them. Lead generation can be simple if you let it be. Keep your eye out for ways you’re overcomplicating, over-engineering, and over-analyzing.
  4. Cultivate your business owner’s mindset. The less you think of yourself as someone who isn’t good at business development or lead generation or selling and the more you think of yourself as a business owner who’s fully capable of running a business….this is the path to achieving your independent consulting business goals and beyond.

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