Some rejections are devastating. Like, “No, I don’t want to marry you,” or, “Sorry, your voice isn’t good enough to play the silent tree in this year’s Nutcracker.”
Here’s another punch in the gut: “We decided not to award the consulting project to your consulting firm.”
But, could there be a silver lining or, at least, a project down the road after you lose a consulting project?
Let’s say a prospect decides not to hire you for their consulting project. After you console yourself with a giant bag of M&Ms, consider the likely results of your prospect’s choice, and the implications for you.
|You can learn something. The fact is, you’re not the only smart macaroon at the consulting dessert bar.
When a prospect achieves an outstanding result without you, find out how they succeeded. Perhaps they (or another firm) found an approach you can incorporate to improve your offering.
|You can save the day and win a project. Although the client may be gun-shy after their preferred course of action failed, they need you more than ever.
Offer to step in and potentially propose a success-based fee structure. That’s a golden opportunity for you to win a high-margin, love-you-forever consulting project.
|Clients who achieve uninspired results harbor little urgency or desire to invest more into solving their problem. They have consulting fatigue. (For now.)
Offer advice on how to turn their mediocre results into strong performance. Your immediate reward will be minimal; however, you’ll emerge as the top contender for their next project.
In all cases, your action depends on follow-up. Follow-up is easiest if you set expectations with the prospect up front, when you lost the project. It sounds like this:
You: No worries on awarding the chocolate chips efficiency project to McBozo Consulting. Would it be okay with you if I follow up to find out how the project is going?
You: Terrific. When do you think a good time might be. Maybe after three months?
Prospect: Yes, by then we should have our revised chips line fully in place.
You: Great. Let’s set up a time in May…
Three months later, at the agreed-to time:
Hi Jimbo. Back in February we set today on the calendar to follow up. I know you started the chips project about twelve weeks ago with McBozo Consulting, and I thought I’d check in to see how it’s going.
Have there been any big learnings out of the project so far? I learn from my clients all the time, so I’d love to hear any big “Aha”s that have surfaced.
When we were chatting about the project, I recall you mentioning that reorienting the liquor funnels was one of the major challenges. Has that turned out to be the case? And I know there were high hopes that reorienting the liquor funnels would deliver 25% throughput gains. Most companies don’t achieve those numbers and I’m really curious to find out how you’re doing so far.
To be successful with this approach, keep three points in mind:
- You’re not trying to sell.
- Take genuine interest in your client’s progress
- Diffuse your prospect’s propensity to become defensive. He won’t want to admit that his decision was wrong. The more you focus on sincerely learning from him, the more likely your prospect is to share openly.
Have you ever had an initial rejection turn into a project later on? Do tell!
Text and images are © 2020 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.