A Weekly Planning Process For Consulting Partners

You can't drive growth or master business development without this.

It's time for us to talk about the last activity of our weekly review process - planning and prioritizing.

You started the process by quickly checking your execution numbers (time and task audit), and used a structured template to reflect on what needs to be improved or reinforced (journaling). Now it's time to leave the past behind and create a plan of action for the upcoming week.

Before we start, something important: the planning process I'm sharing here is entirely focused on business development and growth.

As you know, there's another equally important part of your consulting business - your operations. This includes delivering client work, hiring and managing your team, and executing administrative tasks. The planning process for these tasks is different from the one I'll be describing here.

What I found working with founders and consulting partners is that, when presented with a mix of activities, they will almost always gravitate towards client work. The best solution to avoid this is by keeping them separated. One weekly review process for growth, and another one for operations.

With that said, what's a weekly business development planning process like?

It should take no more than 15 minutes, and consists of a 3-step process:

  1. Managing your opportunities (every week)
  2. Managing your relationships (once a month)
  3. Managing your time and tasks (every week)

If you don't know the difference between relationships and opportunities (or why consultants must clearly separate the two), read this post.

Managing Opportunities

An opportunity is anything you want others to say yes to. This might be getting new contracts signed. But also speaking at conferences, working with a partner to trade referrals, be featured on a relevant industry podcast.

To manage your opportunities, you need to get them out of your head. This means writing them down using an opportunity list, digitally or using pen and paper.

This sounds obvious but most consultants don't do it - even those who have a CRM add opportunities just before closing them, or don't put everything in the system to avoid being on the hook. You need to write down all the opportunities that you either have going on or that you'd like to have going on in your clients and prospects.

But clarity is not enough - what we want is to ensure execution. Next to each opportunity, write down what is it that you can proactively do to move it forward. What's the next?

To avoid overwhelm, break your actions down into ridiculously small tasks and make sure that they only depend on you. "Meeting with John" is not in your control. "Inviting John for a meeting" is.

There's much more you can do to better manage your opportunities, but listing them and clarifying the next step is the core of it. Doing this every week will bring you 80% of the results with 20% of the effort. If you'd like a template of an opportunity list to use in your weekly review, feel free to drop me a line.

Managing Relationships

It's tough enough to manage the 5, 10, or 15 opportunities you have going at any certain point. Well, imagine your relationships then. The average consultant has more than a thousand contacts!

The key point here is understanding that spreading your attention equally among them doesn't work well. I wrote about it in this post, where I also shared a simple process to manage relationships. If you haven't yet, read it now.

Your relationships, as opposed to opportunities, do not have dates attached to them. If you committed to presenting a solution to a prospect next Wednesday, you can't postpone it to next month. But if you need to catch up with an acquaintance, nothing changes if you do it now or next week.

Unless, of course, if you continually put it aside. Suddenly two years have passed and that person forgot you existed. To nurture relationships and stay top-of-mind you need to consistently invest time and attention to your selected contacts.

There are several ways to do it, but the easiest and more effective is to simply look at your primus list (the list with your key 10-15 relationships) in your weekly review, and tick the ones you interacted with.

Updating and changing the names on your primus list is not something you need to do every week - I recommend you to do it only once a month. This will ensure your weekly planning process is quick and easy to perform.

Managing Your Time And Tasks

Finally, you need to increase the chances that everything you planned will get done. To achieve this, we use several techniques that have been tried and tested by science:

  • Prioritization: Every week, you will pick the three most important tasks (MITs) from your opportunity list. Getting these done should be an absolute priority, and something you will keep track of during the time and task audit in your upcoming weekly reviews.
  • Implementation intentions: Open your calendar and commit enough time to complete each of your MITs. Schedule this immediately, just like a meeting you have with yourself.
  • Accountability: Share your MITs with your partners or a close friend, and ask them to keep you on the hook for getting those done. If you're running a bigger firm, consider using MITs in your performance evaluation and tie it to compensation.

Planning is the core of your weekly review process and paves the way to the growth of your consulting practice and career. The hardest part is to start. Keep it quick and simple in the beginning, and aim for adopting it as a habit.

Tomorrow I'll explain why you should avoid reflecting about the future in your weekly review process, and share a high-level overview of the exercise consulting partners go through every quarter to do that.

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