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
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?
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.
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?
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?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.