Meet Sheila. She’s a sales wizard. Fearless, charismatic, bright, resilient, persistent. Should you hire her to improve (or take over) your consulting firm’s business development efforts?
Sheila doesn’t have a terrific network in the industry you’re targeting and she’s never worked with a consulting firm; however, she’s proven she can open doors and get meetings.
Most importantly, Sheila loves selling.
You, on the other hand, love solving clients’ problems. That’s why you became a consultant and why you lead a consulting firm.
You distinctly don’t love selling and, if you’re like many consulting firm leaders, you feel like that’s a major factor holding your firm back. There’s not enough professional-quality rainmaking happening at your consulting firm.
So, wouldn’t it make sense to hire Sheila? Isn’t she the missing puzzle piece?
If your consulting firm’s annual revenue is below $25 million (and certainly if it’s below $2.5 million), you’re probably winning most of your engagements thanks to a combination of strong, personal relationships and intellectual agility.*
You (and your partners, if you have any) know your consulting firm’s capabilities inside-out because you’ve trudged through the weeds of delivery. In fact, you may still lead delivery.
Therefore, you’re able to listen, adapt your consulting firm’s offering, and build trust with potential consulting clients.
That’s not replicable, though.
And if it’s not replicable, a salesperson can’t help you.
In contrast, when your consulting firm’s targeting, messaging and offering are all correct, it feels like your consulting services practically sell themselves.
That’s Impact. You have high Impact when your consulting firm is focusing on the Right Solution to the Right Problem for the Right People at the Right Time. (i.e, the Four Rights of Impact.)
A professional salesperson magnifies Impact.
If your Impact is spotty, the gaps and weak points will become even more apparent. Sheila the salesperson will underperform, eat all the expiring cannolis that were supposed to be mailed to new clients, and either leave or be fired.
Hiring a salesperson won’t fix your sales problem.
Therefore, if you’re struggling with sales, resist the siren song of lead generation companies or a professional business developer.
Instead, commit your energy, time and money to the hard work of solidifying your consulting firm’s Impact.
Increase Your Impact
Right People. Narrow your consulting firm’s target and develop a clear and reliable set of criteria that qualifies high-potential prospects.
Right Problem. Develop messaging that always resonates without adaptation or tailoring, because it promises a solution to problem that is widely viewed by your target market as pervasive and urgent.
Right Solution. Formulate an offering description that successfully conveys your consulting firm’s services as a reliable, credible solution to your clients’ problem.
Right Time. If possible, isolate timing signals that indicate when a prospect is likely to most want and need your consulting firm’s offerings.
Oh, and track your performance. Consulting firms that do not accurately track their performance at each stage of the pipeline, tend to overestimate their success at the late stages of business development.
When you have replicable, consistent business development success based on the Four Rights, then is it time to hire Sheila?
Probably not. You still need a reliable, productive business development system. But we can save systems for another day.
Have you tried hiring a salesperson or business developer or lead generation firm?
If so, how did it work out for you? Good or bad, your experience will be a helpful lesson for me and other consulting firm leaders.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.