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How to Create Need for Your Consulting Firm’s Offering

As a consulting firm leader, you’ve probably wondered more than once how you can increase the Need for the services you offer potential clients.

So, how do you?

It’s a trick question.

Your consulting firm doesn’t create or increase needs; you discover or reveal them.

If not enough potential clients suffer from the problem you solve, then choose a different problem to solve!

More likely, though, your universe of sufferers is sufficient, but you’re not talking to enough of them (“Untouched Sufferers”), or they aren’t aware of their suffering (“Clueless Sufferers”), or they’re not motivated to ease their pain (“Silent Sufferers”).

Untouched Sufferers

Targeting prospects who are already aware of their Need and urgently Want to address it, is what I call Fishing Where the Fish Are. That’s a much more profitable (and fun) approach than trying to manufacture need where none exists.

The trick is, of course, to find those hungry fish. You accomplish that through networking, outreach and other visibility-building tactics.

Without a doubt, the most effective, reliable path to finding prospects who Need and Want what your consulting firm offers is simply to talk with more prospects. Create and nurture relationships.

Set yourself a goal of establishing 60 new, A1 relationships over the next year. That’s only five a month.

Action Step: Your first step is to introduce yourself to new prospects; a task you can kick off today!

Clueless Sufferers

You know people who assume they know what’s right while disdaining guidance from those who are wiser and better informed. Other than your teenage kids, I mean.

Is there anything more frustrating than watching a prospective consulting client race down the wrong track when, if they only hired you, you could set them straight?

Unfortunately, awakening your consulting firm’s prospects to their sorry state of affairs requires effort and persistence that rarely pays out.

However, if you’re determined to sound the alarm, then invest in butt-kicking, diagnostics. Create a method for your prospects to learn they’re in trouble, below par, or heading for disaster.

Make your diagnostic self-administered so that you’re not cast as the bearer of bad news.

Also, be prepared for denial. Like teenagers, consulting clients are prone to ignore evidence they have a problem and need help.

Action Step: Step one in creating a great diagnostic is identifying the difference between your clients’ success and failure. If you don’t know that already, embark on a couple of weeks of research among your clients and prospects.

Silent Sufferers

Finally we come to that group of your consulting prospects who know they need your help, but aren’t interested enough or don’t see it as a high enough priority to hire your consulting firm.

They’re just like you when you admit you’re addicted to chocolate but don’t want to kick the habit. Or maybe that was me.

Either way, Silent Sufferers’ emotional attachment to the problem your consulting firm solves isn’t sufficiently motivating.

In these cases you need to tap into your prospect’s deep-seated desires, aspirations and fears in order to fan their flames of Want.

You can paint mouth-watering images of successful outcomes, and relate frightening tales of clients who failed to act. However, these tactics yield mixed results, because consulting generally isn’t an impulse purchase.

Action Step: Uncover your prospects’ highest priorities, their most inspiring dreams and their most worrisome concerns. How? Ask questions, pay attention, be interested, empathize, don’t sell.

From there you can bridge the gap between your project and higher Want if it’s in the best interest of your client.

Touching more prospects via outreach, employing a diagnostic, or connecting to prospects’ core desires. Which of these approaches do you think could work for your consulting firm?

  1. Jonathan Verney
    May 29, 2019 at 8:14 am Reply

    David, thanks for the great reminder to fish where the fish are. It’s easy to forget. I also liked your advice about uncovering prospects’ “most inspiring dreams,” because emotion plays a huge role in b2b decisions–much bigger than most people think.

    • David A. Fields
      May 29, 2019 at 8:28 am Reply

      Quite right, Jonathan. While hiring a consulting firm is not an impulse decision, it is steeped in emotion. Hope and anxiety about the consultant mix with whatever emotions led the client to call the consultant in the first place.

      Thanks for underscoring that point, Jonathan.

  2. Terry Pappy
    May 29, 2019 at 8:34 am Reply

    Isn’t it funny how the simplest solution to finding new clients and prospecting is to pick up the phone, connect on LinkedIn or send an email? Outreach, be a human, inquire, and discover. I keep telling myself that there are so many people out there who are in that top quadrant who don’t even know I exist! It is up to me to make that happen. Thanks, David, for the reminder.

    • David A. Fields
      May 29, 2019 at 8:43 am Reply

      Your attitude is inspiring, Terry. As long as we are solving the right problem (Pervasive, Urgent, Expensive) then there is plenty of gold in them thar hills! We just have to go out and collect it.

      I really appreciate the go-getter comment, Terry.

  3. David Burnie
    May 29, 2019 at 9:37 am Reply

    Great article as always David. I liked the idea of setting a target for increasing your A1s by a set amount per month (e.g., 5 as you suggest). Clear and tangible targets are always helpful to drive performance. OK – I’m off to call my next prospect.

    • David A. Fields
      May 29, 2019 at 9:46 am Reply

      Isn’t amazing how a concrete goal is so much easier to achieve than one that’s fuzzy? In fact, most of us manage better and perform better with some structure, which is why templates and tools are so helpful–even when they’re simplistic.

      Good luck with your prospect calls this morning, and thanks for carving out time to give your excellent feedback, David.

  4. Raymond Staess
    May 29, 2019 at 9:38 am Reply

    “… fan their flames of Want” – I really like that one 🙂
    Thanks for the great advice you are giving, David.

    Prospects become prospects by publicly showing their lack of something that I can fix. Following my selling impulse I would say “Excuse me, you don’t know me, but you are obviously having problem X, which I can solve, if you are willing to pay me. Shall we get started?”. Bluntness like that would scare them away. Instead, asking questions and listening is certainly good. But then, how to come up with that dormant topic? Imagine I am on linkedin or on a fair.

    • David A. Fields
      May 29, 2019 at 9:57 am Reply

      Raymond, when a prospect publicly demonstrates he has the problem you solve, the first question is whether he’s aware of the problem or not. If he’s not, then your approach has to be delicate. No one enjoys learning he was walking around in public with toilet paper stuck to his shoe. That said, as long as you broach the topic sympathetically, there’s no reason you can’t raise it.

      Either way, once you both know your prospect has a problem, then you ask whether he’s open to an exploratory conversation (usually the answer is Yes), then move into the Context Discussion.

      It’s pretty straightforward, and just takes the right language and a bit of practice. You raised a terrific example. Nice job!

  5. Chris Youmans
    May 29, 2019 at 12:43 pm Reply

    Excellent information and direction, David. In my targeted industry there are so many Silent Sufferers. You’ve helped me to better target these prospects going forward. Thanks!

    • David A. Fields
      May 29, 2019 at 12:56 pm Reply

      The good news, of course, is there’s a big pool of prospects for you to fish in.

      It’s key you ask yourself, “Why do so many sufferers choose not to address the issue?” Some problems are perpetually viewed as low priority or discretionary, and those will-o-the-wisps lure unwary consultants into deadly swamps where leads are plentiful but closed projects are rare.

      I’m glad you shared you reaction, Chris.

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