You’re undoubtedly familiar with the classic triangle of trade-offs: “There’s Faster, Better, and Cheaper. Choose any two out of the three.”
For consulting firms, one point on the triangle of trade-offs can drive enormous business gains. Which one? You may be surprised at which point on the triangle maximizes your consulting firm’s revenue.
Most consultants crow proudly about their exemplary work. The combination of their unique, breakthrough processes, genius IQs, and millennia of experience guarantees unparalleled results for their clients. The answer to, “What makes you better?” hovers, ever ready, on the tips of most consultants’ tongues, eager to grab the megaphone when a prospect is nearby.
Unfortunately, Better occupies the least important point on the triangle of trade-offs.
Clients typically aren’t looking for the “best” consultant. Yes, there are cases when slight differences in performance are magnified in the final result. However, more clients view your superiority claim as:
- Irrelevant – Many clients perceive their project value as binary. You either solve the problem or you don’t. More solved carries little benefit.
- Indeterminate – Unless your project directly affects the client’s revenue or costs, the value of your project is a bit fuzzy, and the incremental value of your exceptional wonderfulness is even fuzzier.
- Suspect – Clients heavily discount the gap between you and competitors. When they factor in the likelihood of anyone succeeding, your performance advantage shrinks further.
Faster. In particular, one manifestation of Faster: responsiveness.
Responsiveness rules in consulting.
Sure, promising a superior solution is terrific, and offering a fee advantage vs. other firms may sway some prospects. However, responding promptly, from the very first moment of inquiry through closing the project (and beyond), outshines the other two. Why?
Because Better might happen in the future, and Cheaper could serve the organization. In contrast, Faster, in the form of responsiveness, personally benefits your prospect now!
For example, I’ve been working with a firm whose revenue per consultant is high. Sky-high. As in, six-to-eight times the national average for consulting firms. (For the record, that means they’re closing in on $2 million per consultant.) The CEO’s phone buzzes throughout the day with inquiries from prospective clients. They call, in large part, because the firm is known for extraordinary responsiveness.
This firm wins on other fronts too, by being easy-to-do-business-with (they always say, “yes”) and leveraging an unusual pricing strategy. However, their core advantage is responsiveness.
Responsiveness Best Practices
I could write out my own list of responsiveness best practices, but where’s the fun in that?
Let’s work together as a community to build a responsiveness protocol for your firm. Post your thoughts in the comments section and I’ll add them to this post.
The first best practice is from Anatoli, who guarantees he will return calls within two hours.
Anatoli also (is going to) have a link on his card to an online calendar, which makes it easy to book an appointment with him.
Cheryl is presenting more mid-project, interim reports, which allows her to quickly pivot if the project isn’t headed where the client wants.
Paul is incorporating adaptive feedback mechanisms, which is pretty cool.
Based on the initial comments, there appears to be some confusion about what responsiveness means. Without detailing all my thoughts on the topic (yet), I’d suggest thinking about responsiveness far more broadly than dealing with prospects’ phone calls. How do you respond to perceived changes in scope? To changes in circumstances? To project delays? To market events? To personnel changes? (I think you get the idea.)
What do you do (or would you like to do) to make your firm super responsive to prospects and clients?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.