Mentally transport yourself back in time 50 years to Princeton, New Jersey; a sleepy, college town that’s fertile ground for consulting firms. It’s easy to imagine yourself and a few colleagues walking off a satisfying, business lunch along the town’s shopping district.
You’re soaking in the crisp, spring sunshine, when the bucolic sound of birds chirping is pierced by the voice of a young child:
“Jeff!… Hey, Jeff! … Jeff!”
Involuntarily you and your companions look around. You briefly join the search for this Jeff, then turn you gaze toward the source of the continued, loud calls. That’s when you see…
Yep, that’s five year-old David, hanging out the window of a 1960s, wood-paneled, blue station wagon.
I’m shouting “Hi Jeff!” and “Jeff?” the entire length of Nassau Street (the main drag in Princeton), until my mother finally turns and inquires, “David, who are you calling to?”
“No one,” I respond, shocked as only a five year-old (or teenager) could be that my actions need explanation. “I want to see whether anyone out there is named Jeff.”
My short-lived experiment in gisilindigation** didn’t yield any concrete results; however, looking back I can’t help but be pleased with the consulting methodology.
When it comes to completing assignments, your consulting firm relies heavily on direct investigation. You interview customers, conduct assessments among employees, and pull data directly from offending systems.
Somehow, though, when wending through the business development process with a prospect many consultants abandon straightforward discovery.
They become shy. They’re not sure who the decision-maker really is, what the budget is, or what criteria the prospect is using to select a consultant. Yet, rather than asking the potential client, consultants responsible for winning projects keep their questions inside.
Consultants often stay locked into their emotional car seats, sitting silently with the windows rolled up, wondering whether there’s a Jeff outside.
It’s time to embrace your inner five year old. Better yet, since I’m not sure what you were like in your formative years, it’s time to embrace my inner five year old. Take that direct investigation approach you’re so comfortable with during your projects, and whip it out during the rainmaking process too.
Generally, the best way to acquire information critical to winning a consulting project is just to ask for it.
You’ll find yourself asking childishly effective questions like:
- “What’s your budget for this?”
- “What’s the decision-making process for bringing a consultant in?
- “How will you decide among the consultants you’re considering for this project?”
- “Why are you bringing in a consultant at all?”
- “What concerns do you have about hiring us?”
Really, it’s that easy. Just ask. You may be surprised to find that your prospects are glad you inquired.
Then, when your Mom turns around and asks what you’re doing, you can retort in your shocked voice, “I’m winning business, of course!”
What childishly direct questions do you find helpful while you’re in the process of winning new consulting business?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.