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5 One-Line Scripts that Will Win Your Consulting Firm More Projects

If you travel any major highway (a.k.a. motorway) you have passed numerous tractor-trailers hauling freight from one destination to another.

Tractor-trailers provide a helpful metaphor that you can employ to improve your consulting firm’s business development process.

The tractor is where the power resides, and the trailer holds the valuable goods. (Cookies in the cab for you; cookies in the back for others.)

Hang onto that image for a moment, while we revisit the Context Discussion.*

A finely crafted and executed Context Discussion cements your consulting firm’s position as the Obvious Choice for your prospects. Through that outstanding discovery process, your consulting firm understands your prospect better than any other consulting firm and, possibly better than your prospect understands herself.

The process itself builds trust, and also enables you to craft a perfectly-tailored proposal.

Over the course of your Context Discussions with prospective clients, your most powerful workhorse is a single word:


Why is the engine of deep discovery.

Why is your tractor.

During the Context Discussion you attach trailers to Why that carry valuable learning between your prospective client and your consulting firm.

When you’re face to face with a prospect, it’s easy to forget how to navigate your way through an effective Context Discussion. So, just imagine a tractor-trailer.

As you motor through the conversation, ask Why along with a series of trailers. That simple construction carries 70%+ of the discovery you need to win the consulting project.

Below, I’ve listed a handful of the most important trailers to attach to your Why tractor. I’m sure you use other Why questions too, and I look forward to seeing your additions to the list.

5 Essential Tractor-Trailers to Carry Your Context Discussions

Why Now?

Your consulting firm’s #1 competitor is inertia.  Lingering, unsigned proposals, clog up your new business pipeline, frustrate you and divert attention from more promising prospects.

You can deliver an exceptional project approach, yet if your prospective client feels no urgency about tackling her issue, she won’t agree to move forward with your engagement.

“Why now” is singularly effective in uncovering urgency, or lack thereof.

Why now? Why didn’t you do this project six months ago, and why not wait another six or 12 months so you can focus on other priorities now?

Why Go Outside?

Your consulting firm’s #2 competitor is internal staff. Employees are a sunk cost. Hence, your prospect is sorely tempted to let her Director of Janitorial Services develop the strategic plan rather than outsource the job to your expensive consulting firm.

Surface your client’s justifications for turning to an outside resource very early in the process, while you’re there to agree and reinforce her decision.

Why go outside? You have plenty of smart people in your company; why not rely on them to address your challenge?

Why Us?

Can you really ask a prospective client why they should choose your consulting firm? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to demonstrate to them?

Absolutely yes, and yes.

Give your prospect the opportunity to sell herself on your consulting firm. That’s the ideal scenario.

At worst, she’ll tell you who your external competitors are and her criteria for selecting a consulting firm. You will have exactly the information you need to wow her.

Why us? I think we’re the perfect resource to help you with this challenge, but I’m curious why you decided to turn to us.

Why Bother?

Hiring a consulting firm is a risky, expensive, emotional decision. To pull the trigger on the engagement, your client needs a compelling rationale and a strong feeling that hiring your consulting firm will improve her life.

The rationale—particularly if it’s boiled down to hard, financial benefits helps frame the fees you can assign to the project.

Your prospect’s emotional win from the project bolster her sense of urgency and help you close the engagement.

Why bother? What’s the meaningful impact this project will have on your, your company, your employees and/or your customers?

Why Not?

Objections and roadblocks that you surface early are far easier to overcome than hidden obstacles. Uncovering the barriers to a signed proposal is surprisingly easy. All you have to do is ask.

Why Not do this project? What could hold you back or get in the way of moving forward?

What other Why questions do you ask during your Discovery conversations with prospects?

  1. Elaine Eisenbeisz
    April 27, 2022 at 9:40 am Reply

    Hi David,
    Thanks for yet another useful article! I always ask, “Why?” when someone asks for a lower rate or discount. I’ve gotten some pretty interesting answers over the years too, few of them good enough to lower a fee though. 🙂

    • David A. Fields
      April 27, 2022 at 1:26 pm Reply

      Very funny, Elaine! Also, an outstanding point: “Why” is powerful beyond the Discovery stage. When you’re in negotiations with a prospect, you also need to understand (and find common ground with) their point of view. “Why” is your gateway to understanding and resolving clients’ objections.

      Thanks for surfacing that important, additional application of Why, Elaine!

  2. Jonathan Becker
    April 27, 2022 at 9:42 am Reply

    Very good, David. I also like, “What would it take for you to feel like this investment was definitely worth it?”

    • David A. Fields
      April 27, 2022 at 1:28 pm Reply

      That’s a great question, Jonathan. There are a number of exceptional “What” questions that help flesh out the Context Discussion, and you’ve raised an important one. Thanks for contributing that question, Jonathan.

    • Michael
      July 13, 2022 at 2:48 am Reply

      I really like that question, Jonathan. I think it shows the prospective client that you care about learning their specific metrics for success and satisfaction.

      • David A. Fields
        July 13, 2022 at 8:33 am Reply

        Agree, Michael. Perhaps I should write a follow-up article on “What” questions!

  3. Tom Mitchell
    April 27, 2022 at 10:39 am Reply

    Very interesting article, David. One idea I would like to share – and something I would like to try out, if it makes sense is asking “5 Whys” around why the client would like to do the project in the first place. This is similar to 5 Whys we ask when trying to uncover a root cause of an issue. If we ask 5 Whys around why a client wants to do a project in the first place, I think it would help them be sure they are solving the right problem / opportunity and also provide additional valuable context around their thought process and what they are really trying to accomplish.

    I would bet that asking the 5 Whys could potentially change what a client is asking us to do in the first place. Adding the additional Why questions you have highlighted after doing this initial 5 Whys type of process might be very powerful.

    • David A. Fields
      April 27, 2022 at 2:02 pm Reply

      Tom, the 5 Whys can be an excellent discovery technique and, in fact, they’re particular well employed in two particular parts of the Context Discussion: Desired Outcomes and Value.

      Desired Outcomes tends to start with a “What” or “How” question; however, the follow-up can absolutely be a series of Whys. As you suggest, the additional probing will often reveal that the outcome the client is trying to achieve is mismatched with project they were originally envisioning.

      I very much appreciate you opening this line of discussion, Tom.

  4. Steven Feinberg
    April 27, 2022 at 12:50 pm Reply

    First, your truck imagery is actually some of your finest art work to date! I really like the truck.
    Second, based upon the article title, i thought your post was going to be about messaging for prospects rather than the context conversation.
    Third, excellent recommendations to remind me the power of asking the Why in context conversations

    Much appreciated

    • David A. Fields
      April 27, 2022 at 2:12 pm Reply

      Steven, in full transparency, my colleague Jaren took pity on my attempts to draw a truck and helped me out with that one. (It’s hilarious that one part of any illustration that I didn’t draw totally stands out!)

      The Context Discussion is part of your messaging for prospects. In fact in many ways it’s your most important messaging for prospects. The questions you ask and how you ask them demonstrates your depth of knowledge and expertise better than any marketing copy.

      You’re a smart cookie, Steven, and I appreciate your feedback and comments.

  5. Steven Feinberg
    April 27, 2022 at 5:07 pm Reply

    smart cookie … can you make a stick figure of a smart cookie…

    • David A. Fields
      April 27, 2022 at 5:21 pm Reply

      Keep your eye out for the upcoming post on Venn Diagrams for a smart cookie illustration.

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