You’d love to boast of 100% close rates—every one of your consulting firm’s prospects signs a contract for a lucrative consulting project. Alas, you and I both know that some great consulting opportunities have slipped away.
Think about a recent project that didn’t come through for your consulting firm. Let’s call it Project X. Did you do something wrong?
Then again, maybe not.
Understanding your consulting firm’s prospective clients is a bit like contemplating the walls of Bryce Canyon in the glare of your car’s headlights. Ribbons of rock appear.
Some geologic layers flash an iridescent response to your light; other strata remain stubbornly dark and unresponsive. It has nothing to do with your light and everything to do with the conditions present when each layer of rock face was created.
Similarly, your prospects’ reactions to your business development process reflect their differing pasts. The approach that resonates deeply with one executive may sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to another consulting prospect.
Occasionally you can—and should—stave off your introspective angst by realizing it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with your prospects’ history and environment.
On the other hand, if your process for winning clients shows consistent weaknesses, investing in a better business development approach is worthwhile.
But what cost you the Project X consulting engagement? Was it your selling process and capabilities, or was it something in your prospect’s makeup?
Below are two sets of post-loss diagnostic questions that will direct you to either improve your business development capability or to walk away from Project X without another thought.
These questions are a starting point for discussion, and I believe you can add a couple more, powerful diagnostics to the list.
Is It You or Is It Them? Diagnostic Questions
Are You Falling Short?
- Were you dealing with the decision maker?
- Did you say something along the way that caused your consulting prospect to stop hearing you?
- Did you conduct a full Context Discussion, walking through all six parts?
- Did you compellingly articulate the value of hiring your consulting firm versus other alternatives (e.g., other firms, internal staff, or doing nothing)?
- Did you manage objections well, and if fee objections arose, did you manage those well?
Is it About Them, Not You?
- Was your consulting prospect experiencing a real, urgent challenge, or was it a passing nuisance?
- Did your consulting prospect profess any inherent bias against consultants in general?
- Did the consulting project fall victim to internal politics and/or competing forces?
- Did your prospect use a sophisticated buying process, or a rigidly simplistic approach such as an RFP?
- Were your prospect’s expectations about the cost of consulting realistic?
What else should consultants ask themselves to determine whether their process, or the prospect, was the source of a consulting project that failed to close?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.