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4 Mind Shifts that Outwit Your Toughest Competition for Consulting Projects

Without a doubt, the biggest hurdle most consulting firms face when they’re trying to win a project is inertia. And also without a doubt, when you do overcome that inertia, your stiffest competition comes from internal staff.

Why? Because our consulting prospects are like us: do-it-yourselfers.

Pay a plumber to fix that leak? Nah, the hardware store stocks everything you need.

Hire an attorney to write the will? Not when has spiffy forms online.

Check into a hospital for an operation? Please… just shoot back to the hardware store for a box cutter!

Our consulting prospects sing a similar tune: “Why hire a consultant to improve our compensation plans? We’re smart enough to figure that out ourselves. Besides, we could hire two full-time employees for the fees you’re suggesting.”

Even if your prospect’s “lean-and-mean” staffing philosophy stretches their personnel past reasonable limits, internal personnel still appear bargain priced compared to an outside guru.

How do you overcome the do-it-yourself barrier? By changing your prospect’s perspective. Below are four mind shifts you can employ to make your consulting firm the obvious choice.

4 Mind Shifts that Outwit the Competition
(from DIY)


Shift their Path to Success

Internal resources or inexpensive help can easily tackle a series of simple tasks. If that’s the perceived path to success, you’re in trouble.

However, an astute, premium-priced consulting firm like yours is needed when the path involves sophisticated ideas and processes.

Does this imply you should portray your approach as complex and wrap it in abstruse language? No, but you better bring more to the party than the ability to execute generic plans.

Reorient your prospect’s perspective on what’s needed by breaking out models, conceptual frameworks and approaches that work far better than any they would employ in-house. You must create a clear, concept-level difference between you and internal staff.

Shift their Objective

Lift your prospect’s gaze from the weeds, where any resource is good enough, to the clouds, where outstanding (and expensive) know-how is required.

When a client is focused on a “deliverable,” such as a report or training session, they’ll look for the least expensive, easiest source of that deliverable. However, a client seeking an outcome is wary of cheap, easy fixes.

For instance, a training session on procurement is a deliverable and perhaps Sally from the Purchasing department can lead it. Reducing material costs across all divisions, on the other hand, is an outcome and to achieve that end the client will pony up big dollars to a consulting firm with strong credentials.

Shift their Comparator

Prospects overweight cost when deciding whether to hire a consulting firm, because cost is concrete and easy to measure.

Unfortunately, prospects mistakenly evaluate the cost of consulting against compensation paid to employees. Surprise, surprise, the price-tag on a great consultant looks sky high next to an employee’s salary.

You know what doesn’t work? Arguing about the fully loaded cost of an employee, including hiring, training, benefits, etc.

You’ll enjoy happier results with statements like this one: “If your objective is to save money in the short term, then hiring employees is the way to go. However, if your objective is to bring the most expertise possible to bear on the problem at hand, then we’re the answer.”

Shifting the comparator to value or expertise positions you in a far more flattering light.

Shift their Scarce Resource

We all dole out our scarce resources jealously. Money, time, chocolate.

Clients are no exception, and they also face significant pressure to preserve funds by applying internal resources wherever possible.

How do you alter this viewpoint? By highlighting a scarce resource more precious than money.

Time, expertise, experience, proven processes, momentum, and management support illustrate just a few examples of limited or fleeting resources.

For example, biotech companies will open their coffers to any consulting firm that can advance the launch of their products by a few weeks.

When your prospect views you as the route to a resource more precious than money, competition from internal staff evaporates.

What have you changed to shift prospects’ do-it-yourself thinking and win vs. internal staff?

  1. Irv Urken
    March 21, 2018 at 10:56 am Reply

    thanks for the hardware store reference!!

    • David A. Fields
      March 21, 2018 at 2:47 pm Reply

      Many of my life lessons were learned at Urken’s Hardware store.

  2. Dea Harrington
    March 22, 2018 at 12:01 am Reply

    Thank you!

    • David A. Fields
      March 22, 2018 at 10:22 am Reply

      You betcha, Dea. I hope at least one of those mind shifts proves useful for you in winning new business.

  3. Joseph Edigin
    March 26, 2018 at 12:43 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing this interesting piece on shifting minds and outwitting our strongest competition; consultant vs. internally available and chip resources. I will apply your technique this week for a client presentation.

    • David A. Fields
      March 27, 2018 at 10:14 am Reply

      Outstanding, Joseph. Definitely keep me (and other readers) up to date on how they worked for you on your client presentation. We all want to hear about what happens!

  4. Matt Gibson
    March 26, 2018 at 11:28 pm Reply

    The response you give to shift the comparator from a full-time employee cost is excellent. I’ll need to keep that at the ready.

    • David A. Fields
      March 27, 2018 at 10:17 am Reply

      Matt, we always have to start with prospects where they are, not where we want them to be. And, where they are is thinking about costs and employee salaries compared to our fees. We know that’s like comparing comparing apples to marshmallows, and we just need to gently educate them and redirect their thinking.

      Let me know how the shift works for you.

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