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.
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 firm. We’re focused on how to help you achieve your goal.” It’s hard to beat that!
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?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.