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How to Avoid Many Objections that Trip Up Your Consulting Firm

Where did Molly go wrong? Read the following, true story of Molly Milkcakes* and see if you can spot her mistake.

Molly, a consultant with Local Universal Consulting (a.k.a. LUC), was at a hot prospect’s office trying to close a project.

She eloquently outlined the benefits of LUC’s offering and, while the decision makers nodded along, she ran through the alternative approaches. Then Molly deftly offered the following arguments in her quest to seal the deal:

Objection response #1: “You don’t need to worry about this project extending past the end of your fiscal year, which I know is on the horizon. Our entire approach is based on rapid sprints that eliminate the risk of missing important deadlines like the one you have coming up.”

Objection response #2: “The time required of you will also be minimal. I’m aware of how consulting projects like these can be a time-drain, and we’ve designed our client interface to minimize that burden. I’d guess your entire time commitment during this engagement is less than two days.”

Objection response #3: “We can also work with you on the payment terms to make the fees more manageable. I recognize that all three alternatives we’ve suggested are substantial investments, and we can be flexible on terms, as needed, to make this work for you.”

Molly’s responses to objections over duration, time requirements, and fees were cogent and well-articulated. In fact, she had previously prepared responses to the most common objections.

(By the way, I highly recommend you follow Molly’s example and prepare your responses to the most common objections you hear.)

So, why did Molly lose the consulting deal? Where did she go astray?

Molly’s responses to objections would have been terrific if they had been needed.

They weren’t. She responded to “phantom objections.”

Her consulting prospect had never brought up any of the challenges she addressed. Molly had made assumptions based on her conversations with previous prospects, and she projected her own fears and concerns about the consulting engagement she was proposing.

Phantom objections are the easiest to avoid. Ironically, they’re also the most prevalent.

Facing off against phantom objections is a surprisingly common, unforced error for consultants. In your eagerness to address any concerns, it’s easy to presume and project doubts into your prospect’s vague statements.

Fortunately, you can take two steps to avoid phantom objections.

  1. Don’t answer concerns that haven’t been raised by your consulting prospect!
  2. Listen. Rather than assuming you know what your consulting prospect’s objections are, ask them, listen, and ask for clarification.

Is there a time to preemptively address objections? Yes.

Your consulting firm’s marketing materials can anticipate and address common concerns.

On the other hand, during live conversations, listen carefully to your consulting prospect. Ask for clarification and address the concrete challenges you hear, not the phantom objections you imagine.

Have you ever seen a phantom objection trip up a consultant?

  1. frank farone
    January 29, 2020 at 6:52 am Reply

    as always, great nuggets of wisdom. timing is perfect since we are in process of updating marketing collateral and website, love the idea of pre-emptively answering objections in marketing materials! Focusing on right side up approach too!

    • David A. Fields
      January 29, 2020 at 7:51 am Reply

      Hooray for good timing, Frank. Right-Side Up marketing materials are much more effective, and also much more difficult to create. It’s stunning how quickly we can slip back into a “speeds and feeds” mode and forget that marketing is not about why we’re better, but about why the prospect is better off with us than without us.

      I appreciate the feedback (and look forward to seeing your new collateral), Frank.

  2. Jenn
    January 31, 2020 at 7:43 pm Reply

    Great points. In my industry consultants often address the phantom objection related to where they are located — assuming, incorrectly, that the client cares about where the team resides. This used to matter but rarely is as much of a priority as the consultant believes…

    • David A. Fields
      February 2, 2020 at 4:52 pm Reply

      Great example, Jenn. It’s easy for consultants (and anyone else) to let old stories color their perception of today. Thank you for sharing that real-world case study of phantom objectives.

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