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How to become a business development consultant

If you would like to share your business development expertise with others, here are suggestions to help you get started as a business development consultant.

Anyone who is involved in starting a new business will appreciate feedback from those who have "been there, done that." If you have experience or insight into developing a personal or public business, you may want to consider becoming a business development consultant to help others who are just starting out.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

1. Take a survey of your skills and strengths as a potential business development consultant. Identify specific areas of expertise along with areas where you feel less confident. Focusing on the former, write a simple business plan that will help you become a consultant. Things to consider include your marketing niche, potential clients to contact, start-up and ongoing budget, possible drawbacks, and long-term growth. Also decide if you have the temperament and patience to work with others as they cultivate a new business. If you are fast-paced and closure-oriented, this may not be the job for you.

2. After identifying target clients, work on a marketing plan. Contact the local business directory for names of companies who may be interested in your service. Make a list of word-of-mouth referrals that likewise may be interested, along with companies with which you have worked in the past. Consider posting a Web site with your services and prices listed, along with clear contact information for a free estimate.

3. Develop an advertising strategy. Compare costs of radio and print ads, direct mail, email lists, or free samples of your service at a trade show or exhibit, for example. Cold calling, which means calling unknown companies to offer services, is another option. Keep track of your contacts and follow up, if invited, within a timely manner as requested.

4. Create an attractive portfolio of advertising materials, samples, and testimonials. Use quality letterhead or print your own on professional-looking card stock. If you're not sure what to include, consult a graphic designer or public relations expert for assistance. You also can find free help on the Internet by doing a search for the specific type of help you are looking for, such as "graphic design samples" or "free public relations advice."

5. Cultivate a professional manner, appearance, and communication style. Be polite, friendly, and positive. Submit requested proposals or show up for appointments on time. Look neat and attractive. Put your best foot forward, whether in print, by telephone, or in person, as first impressions really do count.

6. Correct errors gracefully. Cheerfully apologize for misprints, mistakes, or incorrect information, and do everything in your power to make it right with the client. Keep in mind that the average disgruntled customer shares an unpleasant experience with about 20 other people, who in turn may repeat the problem to more. Overall, one breach in customer relations could cost you dozens of clients.

7. Seek your own mentors, experts, and guides to help strengthen skills and specialize in a given area. Attend trade shows, conferences, and special events in your line of business, as well as communications or training-related events. You're never too old to learn, and your consulting services will continue to improve as a result.

8. Make win-win deals. Don't go into a company looking for a get-rich-quick deal. Instead, give serious attention to the problem at hand and offer fair-minded and reasonable solutions. If the client is satisfied, they are likely to call you again and refer other clients.

As you develop a consulting business, enjoy the opportunity of learning new things, meeting new people, and providing a valuable service. In the end, the pleasure you get from your job will be of much greater value than the dollar amount you earn.

Written by Debra Johanyak - © 2002 Pagewise

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