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4 Decision Makers Your Consulting Firm Should Pursue

You may have a (reasonably) solid plan in place to win consulting business from two groups of decision makers: your current clients who could engage your consulting firm for more projects, and totally new clients who could hire your consulting firm for the first time.

Securing follow-on work with current clients is relatively easy, whereas lassoing totally new clients can be downright challenging.

There are, however, two groups of decision-makers in addition to current clients and totally new clients. Adding those two groups to your business development approach will increase your odds of winning consulting projects, boosting revenue and creating a more stable consulting practice.

You’re in good company if you lump individuals and organizations together. For instance, Madeline Dorr, the CEO, of Appalachian Misadventures may be a single entry in your contact database. You may also have contact entries for Mattie’s sister, Corrine (“Corrie”), who runs the Paranom-Asia division and their brother Maurice (“Mor”), who runs a team out of Calembour, France. **

Generally, you think of the Dorr siblings together, as part of one organization: Appalachain Misadventures. If Appalachian is currently a client, you strive to win additional projects, and if they’re not yet a client you target them with your marketing activities.

There are a couple of other options, though.

By considering people (a.k.a. contacts) separately from their employers, though, you’ll reveal two additional classes of decision-makers.

Each of the four groups of decision-makers is explored below with the associated strategy, goal, tactics and the percentage of your Business Development (BD) efforts that group of decision makers should receive.

Current Decision-Makers at Current Clients

Strategy: Go Deep

Goal: Capture every available dollar your contact could spend on consulting.

Tactics: Deliver outstanding work that warrants repeat business. Keep an eye out for additional opportunities and phases. Strengthen your relationship with your contact. Potentially include your contact in your marketing efforts.

BD Focus: 10-40%. If your clients don’t have multiple buying points and you’ve only scratched the surface of possible projects, then concentrate more effort on Going Deep.

New Decision-Makers at Current Clients

Strategy: Go Wide

Goal: Create relationships then win business with every decision-maker in your client’s organization, across groups, divisions, functions, geographies, etc.

Tactics: Include a broad, client audience in your projects’ kickoffs, information gathering, and report outs. Ask for internal introductions. Client-specific lunch ‘n learns, webinars and thought leadership publications.

BD Focus: 0-30%. If your clients have multiple buying points, then prioritize this strategy over Going Deep. Your consulting firm’s position will be much more stable when you can retain key clients despite your initial decision-maker’s departure or your clients’ organizational shakeups.

Current Decision-Makers at Prospective Clients

Strategy: Go After

Goal: Follow your contacts when they move to new organizations and leverage the relationships you’ve built to win business from entirely new companies.

Tactics: Actively help your contacts advance their careers. Emotionally support executives who are between jobs. Stay on top of new hires and suggest a “First 100 Days” offering.

BD Focus: 5-10%. This group may seem entirely opportunistic; however, if you treat Go After as an explicit strategy that you’ll devote time to, you’ll find a surprising number of opportunities to put it into practice.

New Decision-Makers at Prospective Clients

Strategy: Go Fish

Goal: Win a steady stream of new clients with contacts and organizations that have not worked with you previously.

Tactics: The Five Marketing Musts, described in depth in this book, and in numerous prior articles.

BD Focus: 60-100%. Even if you have a full portfolio of current clients with whom you can Go Deep and Go Wide, dedicate at least 60% of your new business efforts to a Go Fish strategy. Fishing for entirely new clients is much more difficult and time consuming than pursuing current clients, and is vitally important to your consulting firm’s long term health.

Which of the four “Go” strategies has been most successful for you and your consulting firm?

  1. Bill Zipp
    February 20, 2020 at 12:59 pm Reply

    In the sales universe in which I work, leadership turnover happens constantly. I’ve been able to build my business by pursing current decision makers at new companies. I reach out, congratulate them on the new gig, and let them know that they’ll never see this new company with the fresh eyes they have right now. Then I offer a opportunity to talk through these 10 questions. It’s not a perfect system (Nothing is, right?), but it generates lots of meaningful conversations, and, as David says, it’s “thinking right-side up.”

    1. What are 1 or 2 things you would fix immediately if you could? What’s stopping you from fixing these things?
    2. What are your first immediate impressions of your core leadership team?
    3. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about the organization in your first 30 days? How will this impact the way you lead?
    4. What’s an early win you can achieve to establish your leadership credibility? How soon can you achieve it?
    5. What’s going to be so much harder to achieve than you initially thought? Why?
    6. What new skills do you need to master to succeed at this job?
    7. Who would you like to bring from outside the organization to help you with its transformation? Why?
    8. Who would you like to elevate from inside the organization to help you with its transformation? Why?
    9. At the end of 2020, how will you know that you’ve been successful in your first year on the job?
    10. How will you keep yourself fresh, creative, and effective at this job and not burn out at it?

    Then, of course, how can I help you with any of these challenges?

    • David A. Fields
      February 24, 2020 at 5:46 pm Reply

      Thank you for the very thorough addition to the “Go After” strategy, Bill. Very impressive! Many consultants treat this strategy as completely opportunistic; however, as you’ve very concretely pointed out, following your contacts into their new organizations can be a deliberate and profitable strategy.
      On behalf of all readers, I appreciate you contributing your wisdom so generously.

  2. Ken Acer
    February 23, 2020 at 10:10 am Reply

    Thanks Bill (Zipp). Wow, what a great list of ten questions. As a question of tactics, do you send the list in your introductory message, or do you hold it back and use it as a conversation guide once you have secured an interview?

    • David A. Fields
      February 24, 2020 at 5:47 pm Reply

      Good question, Ken. If Bill doesn’t answer, I’ll give you mine!

  3. Hamed Niavand
    March 4, 2020 at 3:37 pm Reply

    It’s a tough decision to make
    Sometimes you have to have the strategy for what comes around goes around
    This is mostly what we are practicing right now due to uncertainties

    • David A. Fields
      March 4, 2020 at 4:04 pm Reply

      There are always uncertainties, Hamed. That’s the nature of our business. You can account for them, though, by having a plan for at least one or two of the types of buyers above. Often if your business is rocky and your pipeline is thing, you have no choice but to pursue a Go Fish strategy.
      Thanks for adding your perspective.

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