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Competing for Projects: Consulting Firm Dos and Don’ts

There are better (and worse) ways for your consulting firm to react when you find yourself facing competition for an important project.

Sometimes your prospective clients make inexplicable decisions. For example, promoting Jimmy “Straight Line” Jameson to head of innovation, holding inter-departmental competitions on team unity day, and considering consulting firms other than yours for projects in your area of expertise.

In all likelihood you’ve eagerly led a prospective client through pre-proposal discovery* only to be surprised with the news that your prospect is discussing your project with multiple consulting firms.

Consulting Firm Dos and Dont’s
When Competing For Projects

Do: Focus on the client

Don’t: Worry about the competition

Fixating on competition won’t help your consulting firm win projects. Your competition isn’t important. Alas, your consulting firm isn’t so important either. Your prospect is important.

Devote your consulting firm’s energy to understanding your prospect’s needs and wants, and to nurturing a strong, trusting relationship with them.

Faced with a bake-off, many consulting firms will ask for additional time to demonstrate their whiz-bang approach.

You, however, will ask for time to interview each stakeholder in depth… and you’ll win the engagement.

Do: Respond Rapidly

Don’t: Strive for Perfection

When your consulting firm is offered a sole-source opportunity, you can slow down and spend extra time developing the absolutely perfect response to your client’s inquiries.

However, when you know you’re being evaluated against other consulting firms, squash the temptation to invest time into the “better than everyone else” communication to your prospect.

Rapid-response wins consulting projects. A solid, well-crafted answer delivered quickly will generally win more consulting clients than a superior answer delivered late.

Do: Excel

Don’t: Differentiate

As soon as consulting firms sniff competition in the mix, they start asking, “How can I differentiate myself from other consultants?” That’s a natural, understandable response. It’s also the wrong one.

Clients don’t want a different consultant, they want an excellent, credible, reliable solution.

Your consulting firm practically oozes excellence, credibility and reliability when you respond to inquiries with clear answers that directly reference your depth of expertise.

When prospects ask you how your consulting firms differs from competitors, respond, “Frankly, we’re not focused on whether or not we’re different from other firms. We’re focused on how to help you achieve your goal.” It’s hard to beat that!

Do: Reframe

Don’t: Be Attached

Reframing your prospect’s thinking is a surefire path to becoming the obvious choice for their consulting project.

Competition has nothing to do with it, though.

You reframe because altering your prospect’s perspective demonstrates your consulting firm’s deep knowledge while boosting the value of the project. Knocking other consulting firms out of the race is a delightful, side benefit.

However, remember consulting is about your client, not your consulting firm.* That means you may need to give up your reframe if your prospect doesn’t agree with your consulting firm’s point of view.

Astonishingly, another consulting firm’s perspective may be better than yours. Since you’re flexible, that’s no big deal. Remain equanimous no matter the outcome.

The four Dos and Don’ts above are just a starting point.

What else is on your Do/Don’t list when you’re facing competition for a consulting project?

  1. William J. Ryan
    October 18, 2023 at 7:46 am Reply

    It’s all about the connection, the relationship I have discovered. I was brought into a conversation recently as one of those “other” groups and it was because the client and I had a trusted connection. This came out when I went back to them and said I wasn’t the right person for the work being asked and their response was to not worry, they appreciated the candor and then they called me back to help them review and choose the consulting team to bring in! Invest in the people side, the project will come after.

    • David A. Fields
      October 18, 2023 at 8:21 am Reply

      Great case study, Bill, and your point is very well made. As you eloquently point out, when you attend to relationships, the projects will follow.

      Thank you for treating us to a great example, Bill.

  2. Larry
    October 18, 2023 at 8:11 am Reply

    What a great piece of thought leadership!! I wish it came out last month. Love this approach and I learned something!!

    • David A. Fields
      October 18, 2023 at 8:23 am Reply

      Apologies for missing your timing by a month, Larry! I appreciate the feedback and hope the information helps in the months ahead.

  3. Zac
    October 18, 2023 at 4:10 pm Reply

    I agree that being flexible is important. I’d add DON’T start dropping your fees/price.

    • David A. Fields
      October 18, 2023 at 4:30 pm Reply

      Excellent addition to the list, Zac. “Don’t: Lower Fees” should absolutely be on the list. Thank you for adding it.

  4. Tyler Mogavero
    October 27, 2023 at 4:58 pm Reply

    After reading my first article and the points made will consider a reaction going forward. Looking forward to the content!

    • David A. Fields
      October 29, 2023 at 11:16 am Reply

      Glad to have you joining in the conversations, Tyler!

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