Consulting is all in your head. (Except for the chocolate. That’s in your stomach.) What you see, hear, think and say are all cerebral. Therefore, your mindsets hold outsized importance over your consulting firm’s success.
Unfortunately, a couple of common, business development mindset errors hold many consultants and consulting firms back.
Does either one affect your consulting firm?
Let’s be consulting-ish and look at business development on two dimensions: Zeal and Energy
Your Business Development Zeal captures how likely you are to see potential project opportunities for your consulting firm when you’re in conversation with a prospect, raise those opportunities as a topic of conversation, and aggressively pursue those opportunities.
- Oblivious – You (or consultants in your firm) rarely or never see potential project opportunities when you’re in conversations with contacts. This could derive from your total focus on the relationship, unwavering attention to a current project, discomfort exploring a contact’s situation deeply, or an underdeveloped ability to connect the dots between a client’s situation and your consulting firm’s capabilities.
- Alert – You uncover and recognize project opportunities when you’re in conversation with prospects and introduce the possibility of working together.
- Assertive – Your reason for having conversations is to find project opportunities for your consulting firm, and when you see opportunities, you doggedly pursue them.
Your Zeal corresponds directly with your focus on winning business and, to some extent, inversely with your focus on relationships.
Your Business Development Energy describes how actively you engage in conversations with contacts who could potentially become clients for your consulting firm.
- None – You (or consultants in your firm) stay away from business development. This aversion could be because business development is perceived as “yucky” or “sleazy,” or because of some belief that more experience is required, or a total lack of contacts to talk with.
- Opportunistic – You primarily engage in conversations with prospects who come to you with an expressed need. They contact your consulting firm thanks to referrals, your marketing efforts or prior knowledge of you.
- Active – You diligently, consistently initiate conversations with contacts, whether or not your consulting firm is busy.
The combination of Zeal and Energy create a grid that captures the Business Development mindsets of everyone in your consulting firm.
Common Mindset Problem #1: Wrong Goal
The most common mindset error among consultants who dislike business development or engage in it as infrequently as possible is based on an erroneous assumption.
They mistakenly believe that rainmaking in consulting means operating in the top right box; that being “good” at business development means you’re supposed to be constantly assertive—relentlessly pushing for and chasing consulting.
Consultants who are new to consulting often jump right to the Assertive level. Their purpose for creating conversations is to win business. Not good.
If you only reach out to your contacts when you think there’s an opportunity to win consulting business, then you’ll quickly damage your relationships and run out of people to call!
Closing consulting engagements is not about being a sales zealot. Your consulting firm wins business when you’re alert to opportunities and explore them with prospects, not when you prioritize winning business over relationships.
Common Mindset Problem #2: Unrealistic Self-Diagnosis
Another common error we see, particularly among very small consulting firms and solo shops, is believing you’re “good” at business development when, in fact, you’re actually just opportunistic.
The refrain we hear sounds something like, “I’m great at closing consulting projects when clients know they need what we offer.”
Your marketing, thought leadership, and outstanding consulting work will (eventually) lead to more incoming opportunities.
Don’t mistake your ability to close incoming opportunities, though, with a high-functioning, business development engine.
Business development works best when, week in and week out, you build relationships while staying alert for opportunities, and when you pursue those opportunities while remaining steadfastly Right-Side Up.
To create a steady, lucrative consulting firm, engage actively and consistently in:
- Creating conversations
- Connecting the dots for your contacts by staying alert to opportunities then asking, “Is it worth having a discussion about whether we could help with that?”
Have you seen either of the mindset errors above at play in your own consulting firm or elsewhere?
Text and images are © 2022 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.