One of the biggest adjustments I have had to make to my current job is getting used to the business development aspects of consulting. In my previous consulting work, all of my clients were based on referral and that kept me plenty busy. However, that was in my hometown where I had been working for 10 years and my network, especially in logistics and supply chain was extensive. I never once had to make a pitch. In fact, only my clients, my employer at the time, and closest friends knew that I was consulting.
When I made the decision to take a break from that life and move overseas, I practically hit the reset button on my career. That is not to say I am writing this post from the mail room but the extensive network I had built has almost zero influence in my current home of Hong Kong. As I neared completion of my MBA program, I started to build a network in Hong Kong since I knew I wanted to be here for an extended amount of time. While making new contacts is crucial, exchanging business cards or adding me on LinkedIn does not mean that person can truly speak to my abilities the way my old network could. It certainly is not as fruitful when it comes to finding work.Eventually, I found myself in my current job.
At the risk of sounding sycophantic, I really love the job and feel like it does a great job of tapping into my strengths. That is, with one exception, business development. I don’t know if I am good or bad at it yet but I do know that I am inexperienced. The one aspect of business development that I am starting to feel much more comfortable with is “the elevator pitch”. If you are unfamiliar with the term, the basic idea is how do you sell your services in the short time it takes to ride an elevator with a potential client. Sometimes this is known as the thirty-second spiel. There is a natural ambiguity to consulting work that often raises many follow-up questions and skepticism. The term consultant is so versatile that it never really answers the question “What do you do?”.
When I call my mobile phone carrier, I am connected to a customer service consultant. Many of my LinkedIn contacts are recruitment consultants and then you have the kind of consultant I see myself being: An experienced managerial professional with a expert understanding of a specific methodology or system who is hired by varying clients to leverage that expertise to improve some or all aspects of their operations.
Ironically, this post is becoming quite lengthy so I will leave you will my ultimate point. Whether you are new to consulting or a seasoned veteran, the necessity of having a concise and jargon-free elevator pitch cannot be understated.