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How to Make Consulting Prospects Attend to Your Brilliant Ideas

College made my eyebrows hurt. More on that in a moment.

If you view thought leadership as an important ingredient in your consulting firm’s growth, keep this in mind: your ideas don’t matter if they’re tedious.

I snoozed many college hours away, slumped back in an easy chair with some heavy, open textbook balanced on my face–textbooks knocked me into somnolence through the sheer power of extreme boringness. I absorbed none of those texts’ concepts while sleeping, but they did, nonetheless, leave an impression. Usually on my chin and supraorbital ridge. Hence, the hurting eyebrows.

Your ideas are only useful if they’re implemented. They’re only implemented if clients find them compelling, and only interesting ideas are compelling. Hence:

Your ideas are only useful if they’re interesting.

Many bright, clever consultants intent on thought leadership, publish books, whitepapers, articles, and so forth that are almost diabolical in their dullness. Prospective clients aren’t impressed, because prospective clients stopped reading after one paragraph.

You snooze you lose? No, they snooze, you lose.

Don’t be Soporific Sally. You’ve gotta keep prospects engaged. Add some sizzle to your skizzles.

How to Make Your Ideas Interesting
(So Prospects Will Pay Attention)

Start Right-Side Up

It’s about them, not you. Tie your idea directly to a problem (or aspiration) your prospects have, then start with their problem, not your idea.

Get Real

Couch your concepts in concrete terms. Replace tedious language like, “One’s largest capital investment is in constant peril” with hard-hitting reality: “Your house could burn down!”

Dress Up

Think of your idea as a mannequin. Your metaphors, stories, colorful language, and humor drape clothes on the display, and catch your prospects’ notice. Without the flashy outfit, all you’ve got is a dummy.

Uncover Your Bases

If you’re detail oriented, you feel compelled to explain every exception, variation, gyration and incarnation of your thesis. Like, “I before E except after C and words like neighbor and weigh and sleigh and kaleidoscope and caffeine and…” Your main point is “I before E,” so leave it at that. Mostly-right plus easy-to-remember wins clients.


Watching the play is inherently less exciting than participating in the play. Find ways to engage your prospects in your ideas. You can employ corny tricks like fill in the           , opt for more sophisticated devices like diagnostics, checklists, and surveys, or jump into the brave new world of interactive content. In fact, I think I’ll practice some engagement right now:

What else do you do to make your ideas interesting to prospective consulting clients? Please add your good ideas in the comments section.


  1. Stuart Reid
    July 19, 2017 at 6:26 am Reply

    Easy! Create a graphic/visual metaphor to illustrate the main point I’m trying to get across. I’ve seen some great stick man cartoons in a book I read recently…

    • David A. Fields
      July 19, 2017 at 8:56 am Reply


  2. Anatoli Naoumov
    July 19, 2017 at 9:51 am Reply

    Let client talk and when they are done describing current situation, expand their points into past (identify causes that can be addressed) or into future (identify consequences relevant to prospect). Do it in a way that sounds like as if prospect has come with them.
    For example: From what you have explained about difficulties with shipping large widgets, door height seems to delay lucrative orders, did I get it right?

    • David A. Fields
      July 19, 2017 at 10:41 am Reply

      Great point, Anatoli. Prospects are more likely to attend to an idea and think it’s brilliant if they think it’s their idea! Nice addition.

  3. Agnieszka R
    July 19, 2017 at 10:27 am Reply

    I would add “Try before you buy”- Inviting prospects to try out your ideas, e.g. in a free trial session – or a webinar

    • David A. Fields
      July 19, 2017 at 10:44 am Reply

      The sampling approach can definitely be an effective method for creating a comfort level with you, your processes and your offerings. Any time you can make it easier for prospects to interact with your idea, you’re increasing the likelihood they’ll pay attention. Thanks for adding that line of thought, Agnieszka.

  4. Peter Ashworth
    July 19, 2017 at 11:33 am Reply

    Great insight David. So well put together. I like to put my ideas to clients like this.
    1. Storytelling – consider the audience, craft the story, consider the timing of delivery, keep it relevant, reveal piece by piece in a structured delivery….
    2. Then build your narrative completely on the clients perspective – problem, solution, result.
    3. Infuse with energy.

  5. David A. Fields
    July 20, 2017 at 8:38 am Reply

    Outstanding! Ultimately, we’re always telling a story. Whether or not we know the tale we’re weaving makes a big difference. After that, the construction and delivery either send the prospects into a coma or pull them to the edge of their seat.

    Great addition to the list, Peter.

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