~Sally Stalcup, Stalcup Consulting

Every week, my daughter (sixth grade) writes definitions for 20 vocabulary words and then uses each word in a sentence. When I was recently asked by a client, “What are some effective ways to initiate a relationship with a consultant?” I thought of my daughter and began creating my response by defining “relationship”.

 Relationship: the way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other; the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.

Thinking about how you and your organization regard and behave with an investment consulting firm starts with a strategic plan. Create your plan, keep it current and revise/reassess as needed to achieve the connection you seek. Here are ideas to get started.

Do your research. Learn about the consulting firm, qualify them to determine if your strategy(ies) may be of interest to them. Review their website; use public information that tracks search activity to learn what types of searches the consultant has completed or has in progress. Look at the managers they have hired/recommended – what characteristics do these managers possess?

Populate the database. Learn how the consulting firm accesses manager data. Do they use their own database or an external/industry database? Be sure to populate your information in the necessary database ahead of the call or communicate that you are in the process of doing so.

Contact the right person. Be sure to play by the consulting firm’s rules and contact who they say. If your research hasn’t lead you to the right contact, call the receptionist and ask him/her whom to call. If you strike out, reach out to your industry peers; many will share this type of helpful information. Once confirmed, leave a message for that person and follow up with an email providing information on your firm/strategy(ies). Upon connecting, ask for a meeting and about next steps for communicating with their field consultants if appropriate.

Be a resource. If you have an expertise in a particular area, offer to share an educational piece on it. Send the piece and follow up with a call to discuss further. If willing, offer to have them meet or speak with your subject matter expert to provide additional education (avoid being salesy).

Meet at conferences. Many industry conferences offer access to meeting consultants and learning about how to navigate their firm (e.g. AIMSE, IMI, Pension Bridge). Having the face-to-face contact there often helps to open the door to the next communication.