It takes many years to build a successful consulting business. I'm in my fifth year and I am now just at the point that I can cherry pick the clients I am most passionate and excited about helping. Here's how I gained traction....
1. Books - I've written three books plus numerous training manuals. A book is, in my humble opinion, the number one way for someone to get inside your head before they hire you. A book is like a brochure on steroids. In most instances my clients hired me because they read one of my books and then reached out OR I used the book to seal a deal that I was negotiating.
2. Speaking - I speak at lots of conferences and often make great connections by doing so. My team follows up to get appointments and then I use the appointments as an opportunity to see if my services are a good fit for helping them increase the productivity of their sales teams and/or for boosting office morale. I never take a client that I am not 100% sure I can help....I've turned down clients that are looking for services that I am not an expert at. Also, I often get hired to speak for large or mid-sized organizations. Keynote speeches are great for motivating a team for a week or even a month, but long-term results requires ongoing consultation and coaching so I always create a customized on-going consulting solution for any company that hires me for a keynote. Many of the firms take me up on it because they see that the keynote creates a spark in their team and they want to turn that spark into a flame.
3. Blogging - This goes hand in hand with writing books, but I give out tons of free content on my blogs. I have picked up clients from all around the world simply from the articles I've written.
4. Testimonials - How does a potential client know that you are worth your weight in gold? Testimonials from past clients. I do my best to collect those testimonials even though it's easy to forget to ask. Usually consultants are so focused on creating the results that the client needs that they forget to remember that the validation offered by past clients is often times the gas that fuels their ongoing business.
5. NSA - The National Speakers Association has been a huge asset to me in building my business. They have local chapters. I belong to their New England Chapter. Once a month the group meets to share ideas, insight, and more. The room is packed with others who have built awesome consulting businesses and from them I have learned the ropes and because of them I feel inclined to share what I have learned with others.
Good luck with your consulting business. Reach out if you need any additional advice or have more questions.