Life’s great as a consulting firm leader when you’re busy with project work and new engagements are flooding in. Alas, as the brains and face of your consulting practice, projects seem to demand the lion’s share of your time.
Then, sales slow and you’re hustling to find more projects. When you hit a winning streak, you’re back to bustling through work…
…and on it goes. Hustle and bustle. Feast and famine. Grins and grimaces. The bane of an independent consulting firm’s existence.
Except it doesn’t have to be.
Your consulting firm can win engagements and deliver value at the same time. Heck, you can sell, deliver, and still have time to hang out with your family, watch old Victor Borge videos, play badminton and spend an hour arguing about sauternes with your friends. If you know how. (How to create time, not how to argue.)
Below are five tactics to set you on your way.
How to Simultaneously Sell and Deliver at Your Consulting Firm
Treat New Business as a Client
You wouldn’t blow off a client that promised 30% or more of your consulting firm’s revenue would you? When your consulting firm is operating on all cylinders, at least 30% of your annual revenue draws from new clients.
“NewBiz Co” demands the same diligence, dedication, nurturing and attention as any other client.
Rainmakers at your consulting firm should attend to sales (a.k.a. business development) at least one full day per week.
Outsource, Delegate and Automate
You’ll find your life is richer in many ways if you release your iron grip on administrative tasks, analytical work and parts of your consulting projects.
Offload to your subordinates (if you have them), freelancers, subcontractors and your clients.
When you assign tasks to clients, they value your work more highly and create time for you to win more clients. How awesome is that?
Fall in Love with Systems
Systems and processes are your route to freedom. The vast majority of tasks your consulting firm performs during a typical day are routine.
Presentations, proposals, deliverables, outputs, emails, and outreach conversations can all be templated to save time and improve quality. Systems also make it easier to outsource/delegate.
Plus, it’s much easier to knock out a few business development calls when your CRM tells you exactly who to call, and you have a pre-written script for reference.
Decouple Value and Effort
If your consulting firm charges based on effort, every non-billable hour feels like a tax on your wallet. Consequently, your desire to maximize your current billings crowds out the need to develop business.
Even consulting firms that have escaped time-based fees often equate effort with value. As a result they overwork projects, which is not appreciated by clients. (Remember, if your client doesn’t value it, it doesn’t have value.)
Focus on creating value for clients rather than on devoting time to projects, and time will open up for your marketing and sales efforts.
Build Capacity Into Project Designs and Contract Structures
You don’t have to be 100% devoted to a project to deliver outstanding results quickly.
Identify common choke-points in your consulting firm’s typical projects, then you can create strategies to bake in free time while ensuring your projects tick along smoothly.
In addition, you can create “hidden” capacity for your consulting firm through clever proposals.
For example, you could offer a discount in exchange for an option to take a “vacation” during the project. Alternatively, you could offer rapid turnaround at a significant premium, then use a portion of that premium to hire subcontractors.
The five ideas above are just a starting point, of course. What else do you do to create the ability to sell and work projects at your consulting firm?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
Excellent ideas David
I appreciate your feedback and support, Juan.
great topic and valuable tips. Thank you! A lot of time I spent on #2, especially automate. Many things can be automated, but in consulting business technology can’t be of much assistance as in manufacturing for example. One such potential improvement is using a voice recorder and transcription software for digitalizing interviews. Based on those digitalized scripts an advanced AI could be used to make additional analyses, pattern searches, etc.
Two things I’d like to share/add:
#1: Building a knowledge base of lessons learned and material produced while working with clients in the past (historian), could significantly reduce the time we need to produce certain deliverables. I’m not having in mind exactly copy/paste.
#2: Selling while having a workshop or interview with clients, embedding some thoughts, ideas, and comments into the discussion(s), that trigger client’s mind to ask for help on a particular issue, which is not part of the current order. It’s similar to ads in Youtube or TV, except we can make it more subtle, but still efficient.
From my experiences, the #2 works quite well and it doesn’t feel, smell, sound, or look like a sales pitch or selling at all. It’s a “pure” consulting still if properly embedded.
Excellent ideas, Tomaž. There’s probably more opportunity to automate and use AI in consulting than most consulting firm’s realize.
Your second point is right on track. There are a multitude of opportunities to create follow-on work with clients, starting with planting seeds in the original proposal, and running through every interview, presentation and deliverable in the current engagement.
I’m glad you highlighted those points, Tomaž!
Hi, David. Thanks for the reminder (umph- that was my palm smacking my forehead). One way I have learned to save time is using voice recorded messages for internal team online conversations. I can talk much faster than I can type, and my team can hear my tone of voice and thought process. They can also see a transcript of the recording or listen it to at different speeds. (So it works regardless of whether you are a visual or auditory person.)
I constantly have people reminding/asking me if tasks can be delegated, which is good from an accountability perspective.
But above all – I love your idea (not in this article) of walking the dog backwards. A dedicated time with a team member for me to focus on outreach (emails, LinkedIn, text messages) is *extremely* valuable. In fact, I know my outreach would not be done if not for this time. And I dedicate my Thursdays each week to have scheduled outreach/networking calls.
Thank you again for the great reminders.
Carol, the voice-recorder idea is a great one. I use a similar approach with my team, recording myself on Zoom (so they can hear tone and see me if they want to and so that I can screenshare documents) rather than trying to write out all my thoughts.
And Kudos to you for your commitment to delegating discipline (a.k.a. Walking the Dog Backwards). You’re an impressive example that many other consultants will do well to emulate, Carol.
Thank you for the article David and the comments shared. Any feedback on which digital transcription service or software is easiest and most cost effective to use? My clients request the capture of ideas during large group collaborations and typing them up is a real time drain. Any suggestions appreciated .
Interesting question, Mary. We use Otter.ai, and most of our clients seem to also. There are some other transcriptionist apps like Descript which have promise.
I’m not sure any software will work well with an audio file of a large group. That may require a human transcriptionist. We have a person who summarizes recorded conversations (which is quite different from a transcription), and that’s a very useful work product.