The Ultimate Guide To Consulting Partnerships (Scale Your Sales)

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What is a consulting partnership, and why should developing them be one of your primary focuses as a consulting business founder?

A consulting partnership refers to a relationship you build with someone who works at an organization that serves the same audience as you.

For example, at Consulting Success®, we coach entrepreneurial consultants to build profitable, strategic, and saleable consulting businesses.

As the CEO, a part of my role is to develop partnerships with other businesses that also serve entrepreneurial consultants — like a software company that creates software for consultants.

By the end of this article, you’ll learn…

Ready? Let’s dive in…

consulting partnerships presentation by michael zipursky

What Is A Consulting Partnership?

A consulting partnership is a strategic relationship that you form with other businesses, professionals, or experts who serve the same market as you.

Think of it as a mutually beneficial alliance.

Both you and the partner combine your strengths, helping each other grow and provide mutual value to your target market.

For example, consider a management consultant like Tiffany Rosik. She might partner with a software company that offers project management software. Tiffany brings her in-depth industry knowledge, and the software company offers a suite of product that serves her client’s needs.

Because they both serve the same type of client (businesses who seek help with project management and digital transformation), they are able to partner up, leverage each other’s audience, and provide new forms of value.

These types of partnerships are used in all different industries and companies of all different sizes.

Why?

Ultimately, consulting partnerships are so effective because they create leverage.

Once you start to take on the role of a consulting business founder, you can reach dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of ideal clients at once by “borrowing” a partner’s audience.

If you want to scale your consulting business, then you’ll invest your time and energy in these sorts of advanced business development strategies.

By building consulting partnerships, you can accomplish a lot more than if you try to do it all on your own.

Doing lead generation through a partnership will help you generate leads without the discomfort of having to do cold, 1-to-1 direct outreach like cold calling or cold emailing.

4 Benefits Of Developing Consulting Partnerships

Developing consulting partnerships offers 4 primary benefits: lead generation, referrals, authority building, and increased revenue. Here’s how they work.

1. Lead Generation

Without an incoming flow of leads and opportunities, you’ll struggle to grow your business consistently.

Consulting partnerships can supercharge your lead generation and pipeline.

Consider a strategy consultant partnering with a well-established market research firm.

They can access the research firm’s client base, and the firm could introduce the consultant’s services to their clients who might need strategic guidance.

The two parties could deliver a webinar to their joint audience, growing the pool of potential clients for both businesses.

If you were to present your ideas and expertise in front of an audience of your ideal clients, I guarantee some of them will reach out to inquire about your services.

Creating consulting partnerships will give you more opportunities to generate leads at a scale that goes beyond mere cold outreach.

And let’s get real here: most consultants don’t like doing cold outreach anyways.

So, doing lead generation through a partnership will help you generate leads without the discomfort of having to do cold, 1-to-1 direct outreach like cold calling or cold emailing.

2. Referrals

Referrals are another critical component of your overall consulting pipeline. And a well-chosen partnership multiplies your referrals.

Let’s take a sports field consultant who specializes in helping clients design, build, and manage sports fields. They partner with a construction company that actually does the work of building fields for little leagues, parks, and teams.

The construction company, in return, refers corporate clients seeking help with the design and management of the fields.

Both businesses generate quality referrals for each other, growing their client bases in a mutually beneficial way.

If you create relationships with an organization, they will often refer people to you because they know you, like you, and trust you. That’s what makes referrals so powerful.

The trust they have in you is passed on to whom they are referring to you.

3. Authority Building

Partnerships can bolster your reputation and establish you as a trusted authority in your field.

Imagine an ERP consultant partnering with a prominent tech firm known for its ERP software.

The ERP consultant could write guest articles, present on webinars, and speak on panels that the ERP hosts.

The partnership helps both parties build authority, enhancing their appeal to people who are looking for help with ERP implementation and strategy.

Think about how you can leverage partnerships like this to…

  • Publish guest articles
  • Deliver presentations at conferences
  • Host webinars
  • Speak on panels

The list goes on.

Consulting partnerships provide you with opportunities to share your expertise and provide value in a way that builds your authority.

4. More Revenue

Finally, consulting partnerships can significantly boost your revenue.

For example, consider a marketing consultant who is launching a productized consulting offer: a course on how clients can develop an organic marketing strategy.

The consultant could offer this course to their email list of potential clients.

They reach out to their network of partners who serve a similar audience.

The consultant’s partners agree to help promote the course.

For every sale they help generate, they receive a commission, creating an incentive for them to help promote it.

As a result, the marketing consultant is able to 10X the amount of promotion they get for their new productized offer.

By leveraging partnerships in creative ways, consultants can lower the cost to acquire new clients — leading to profitable, sustainable growth.

In the next section, I’ll explain what I do personally to establish thriving consulting partnerships.

5 Steps Establish Thriving Consulting Partnerships

Here are the 5 steps to develop thriving consulting partnerships that are beneficial to you, your partner, and your mutual audience.

Step 1. Determine Your Desired Business Outcome

Before you start establishing consulting partnerships, determine what you’d like to get out of these partnerships.

Are you seeking to get new clients, broaden your service offerings, or aim to enter new markets?

For the majority of consultants, you’ll build consulting partnerships to help with lead generation and new clients. So I’ll focus on that aspect of partnerships for this section.

Ensure that you understand why you are building these consulting partnerships before you do anything else.

Step 2. Get Clear On Your Ideal Client

If your goal is lead generation, then you’re leveraging these partnerships to get in front of your ideal client.

If the partnerships don’t help you do that, then they aren’t beneficial.

So, before you start developing consulting partnerships, it pays to gain clarity around your ideal consulting client.

Whether you’re just starting a consulting business or you’ve been running a consulting business for a decade, I’ve personally seen it always pay off to revisit your ideal client profile — and get deep into their characteristics and psychographics (wants and needs).

There’s a reason that we teach an entire module on this inside of our Clarity Coaching program.

You must know characteristics like…

  • INDUSTRY. What industry is your ideal client in?
  • SIZE. How much revenue does your ideal client’s company make? Approximately how many employees work at their company?
  • LOCATION. Where is your ideal client located in the world?
  • SENIORITY. What level of seniority does your ideal client have?
  • JOB TITLE. What is your ideal client’s job title?

And you must also know…

  • The main PROBLEMs they are dealing with inside of their business and industry.
  • Their desired future state — the OUTCOMES and RESULTS they are looking for.
  • Any HESITATIONS or OBJECTIONS they might have before hiring a consultant to help them solve their problems and get them results.

Create a document where you store this information about your ideal client. It will be incredibly helpful for all areas of your consulting marketing strategy.

Step 3. Write Down Where You Can Find Your Ideal Client

Now that you deeply understand your ideal client, make a list of what type of media they consume, the products or services they purchase, where they hang out online, and what they read.

Is there a specific law firm they use? An accounting firm provider? A piece of software they love?

Is there a trade association blog they read? A YouTube channel they watch? A digital or print magazine they subscribe to?

List it all: organizations they take part in, associations they join, communities they participate in, etc.

The goal here is to find non-competitors whose audience consists of your ideal clients, and to make a comprehensive list of these sources.

Step 4. Reach Out To People In Those Organizations

Once you’ve completed this list, you begin reaching out to people running these organizations.

Your goal now is to build a relationship with them.

Reach out with a value proposition that emphasizes mutual benefit.

You’re not selling your services; you’re offering a partnership that can help both parties.

In my experience, the best way to start a partnership is by giving, not asking.

If I want to partner with someone who also serves independent consultants and small firm owners, I’d invite them to the Consulting Success® Podcast.

We’ll have a conversation, get to know each other, and they’ll get to share their knowledge and experience with the Consulting Success community.

We both benefit. But I begin the relationship by providing them with an opportunity that will help them.

Begin any partnership by giving instead of asking. Reciprocity will kick in. Your partner will naturally reciprocate your goodwill.

This relationship-building process can take weeks or even years. But once the relationship comes together, it will be well worth it.

Step 5. Structure & Support The Partnership

Once you’ve found a prospect who’s interested in formalizing a prospect, it’s time to negotiate the terms of the partnership.

It could be financial, like a referral or commission-based deal.

Or, it could be promotional. You’ll promote their products and services and they will do the same.

Be clear on each party’s roles, responsibilities, and benefits. Formalize everything with a written agreement to avoid future disputes.

The key here is to structure each partnership as a win-win engagement.

The more incentives you create for both you and each other to support each other, the more inclined you’ll be to ensure the partnership is beneficial.

Naturally, some partnerships will be more fruitful than others.

For the ones that aren’t working as well, try and support them the best you can.

But your energy is best spent doubling down on the partnerships that are working.

Remember, the key to a successful partnership lies in mutual benefit. It’s not just about what you gain from it. It’s what your partner gains from the relationship.

By leveraging partnerships in creative ways, consultants can lower the cost to acquire new clients — leading to profitable, sustainable growth.

Get Help Implementing Consulting Business Development Strategies

If your entire business development strategy is merely reaching out to individual ideal clients, you’re not doing enough to build a scalable consulting firm.

As a consulting business owner, it’s critical that you focus on business development activities that will not only put you in front of a few ideal clients — but hundreds, thousands, or even millions.

And developing consulting partnerships is one of the highest ROI business development activities for founders, CEOs, and managing partners.

If you want to learn how a business development strategy for high-6 and 7-figure consultants, our Clarity Coaching Program and community can help.

In our Clarity Coaching program, we’ve helped over 850 consultants to build a more strategic, profitable, and scalable, consulting business. And we’ve helped many of them become leaders of their consulting businesses — growing from independent consultants to consulting firm owners.

We’ll work hands-on with you to develop a strategic plan and then dive deep and work through your ideal client clarity, strategic messaging, consulting offers, fees and pricing, business model optimization, and help you to set up your marketing engine and lead generation system to consistently attract ideal clients.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CLARITY COACHING

You’ll learn how to make more money with every project you take on — and how to land more clients than ever before. Learn more about Clarity Coaching and get in touch to talk about your situation and goals.

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