There’s a particular type of consulting engagement that’s extremely valuable to your clients and to your consulting firm, yet it can be nigh on impossible to sell. You can correct that mismatch.
Diagnostics are an interesting class of consulting projects.
In a diagnostic project, your consulting firm provides your client knowledge of what is required to achieve their desired state, but you don’t perform any of the indicated work. Your job is to simply to point out what’s wrong and what’s needed. Similar to when a radiologist examines your x-rays, or your mother-in-law inspects your house.
In all likelihood your consulting firm embeds diagnosis as the first step in most of your projects. You include some level of assessment and understanding of your clients’ situation.
However, the benefits of a standalone diagnostic offering are multifold for your consulting firm.
- They’re typically less expensive than your standard, full consulting engagements; therefore, they are excellent foot-in-the-door projects.
- Your consulting firm gains the information you need to deliver outstanding results from the next phase of work, which may be a large, follow-on engagement. Again, that makes them an excellent place to start.
- Diagnostic projects grant your consulting firm intimate knowledge of your client, which allows you to become a trusted advisor and a go-to resource.
Despite these advantages, it’s typically quite difficult to sell a diagnostic as a solitary consulting project.*
Most executives (a.k.a. prospective clients) believe diagnosis is inherently their job. They prove their leadership prowess by demonstrating they understand what is happening in their company (or division or department) and how their organization should respond.
In addition, a diagnostic project drains your clients’ coffers without providing any relief of their symptoms. Your consulting firm’s diagnosis only provides knowledge about what the client will have to spend more money on to solve their problem or achieve their aspiration.
It’s like being told your firm’s culture is toxic, or your house has termites, or chocolate bars aren’t actually the healthiest breakfast. Even though the information is helpful, your happiness plunges.
Why Diagnostics Do/Don’t Sell
Five factors determine the sellability of a diagnostic effort, all based on your clients’ perception:
- Specialized knowledge is required for proper diagnosis
- Diagnostic data are difficult to gather
- Diagnostic data are difficult to interpret
- Benchmark data are not widely available
- The cost of poor/incorrect knowledge is high
For instance, consider a common cold. Anyone (pre-Covid) could assess their sneezing, lack of fever and close proximity to a snotty-nosed kid then conclude they have a totally non-threatening rhinovirus. Kerchoo! As a result, there’s not much demand for a common cold diagnostic.
Diagnosing sickle-cell anemia, on the other hand requires information on the shape of your red blood cells, which is not something you can easily check, despite your possessing a sharp pin and your mother-in-law’s very strong reading glasses. Even if you borrowed her microscope, would you know which cells to examine and what they should look like? Since sickle-cell anemia can be fatal, that’s a diagnostic purchased by every newborn baby’s parents.*
Developing Your Sellable Diagnostic
You can apply the same thinking to your consulting firm’s offerings.
- In your area of expertise, what data are difficult for your clients to gather or are difficult for them to interpret?
- Where can you develop benchmark data that clients want and are not easily accessed elsewhere?
- What conundrums are your clients facing that promise dire consequences if they choose incorrectly?
For instance, are candid employee opinions or objective customer data difficult for your clients to gather? Do variations in your clients’ success stem from processes only an expert can interpret?
When your consulting firm develops a compelling, easy-to-sell diagnostic project, you’ll have created a new revenue stream that delivers many loyal, long-term customers.
What are one or two symptoms your clients experience that they might pay to diagnose?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.