This is a comeback story, a rebirth of a career by a career expert.
“I did something really stupid about 10 years ago,” said career thought leader Brenda Abdilla. “I told my consulting clients that I was changing my business model and then I shut down all aspects of my business except for the executive coaching part.”
Abdilla is a respected and sought-after career and leadership coach. We met when I helped her edit her fourth career book.
Today she works with corporate leaders who want more effective strategies for team accountability and collaboration, and with professionals who are navigating a change in their high-level careers.
In fact, more than 90% of her coaching clients get promoted, land the role they desire, or address their core issue within 12 months of engaging her.
But there was a time of struggle.
“As I said goodbye to the business that earned me six figures as a speaker, trainer, recruiter and occasionally as a coach, I eagerly began to network in my local market,” said Abdilla.
“Guess what happened next?” Nothing.
“It was alarming to realize that I had no professional credibility in my local market, the greater Denver area,” said Abdilla. “I quickly realized that I had never really taken the time to develop my local network since my consulting clients were all over the country/world.”
Abdilla can now say she has a thriving business and truly loves her work and her clients. Here are the three strategies she used to build her network and acquire ideal clients:
Work for free until you can work for a fee. “This is an old adage I learned as a pro speaker and it works,” says Abdilla. “As you meet people and make professional connections offer to do your work for free in the form of workshops, lunch-and-learns, presentations etc. Unless you prefer to cold call and collect rejections, this method will work, but it takes time.
Put together a one-to-three-hour program with your best material and offer it for free or a very low fee to your budding network. You won’t have to stay in the free zone for long if you really deliver. This concept works well if you are trying a new added service to your business as well.”
For example, a few years into her executive coaching business Abdilla decided to add career coaching to her services, which was serving a different market entirely. So, she put together a super-low-priced package and got a few clients to try it out. It was a hit.
“My current fee for that segment is approximately 22 times what that initial package cost my first few test clients,” says Abdilla.
Stop thinking in terms of competition. Abdilla says: “If you think that you will build your network by connecting only with potential customers, you are going to need to expand your thinking in a big way.
The way a thriving network can build your business is through partnerships, resources and alliances—and none of those will come from your clients or potential clients. As you are building your network you will want to include people who are in the same space as you are and have an abundance mindset.
For example, I am in two different mastermind groups with people who specialize in the same type of coaching I do. In the past month alone people from those groups have given me ideas, invited me to be a guest on their podcasts and even a referral for a client. And of course, I do the same for them.”
Be impeccable with your craft. “When we feel desperate, we tend to focus more on business acquisition than on excellence and impeccability in our craft. If you want to build a network where one does not exist it needs to be the other way around. First, you must serve; get results for clients; differentiate yourself by truly delivering.
Stop trying to convince people of your excellence and show it instead. Otherwise, you are just part of the noise. Don’t waste your money on a drip campaign or try a short cut that promises to make you the overnight guru. Get back to work perfecting your craft on real people.”
Bottom line: One of my favorite networking authors, Harvey Mackay, says we need to dig our well before we are thirsty. In my studies on business development, two of the top five ways to attract high-paying clients involve networking. The secret weapon for attracting new clients: relationships.