When a prospect invites you to present your consulting firm’s capabilities, you know you’ll walk into an uber high-potential meeting. Your prospect is already aware of her need and wants to solve it. The only question is whether your capabilities impress her. Right?
Not exactly. And that’s why so many consulting firms’ capabilities presentations fail more often than they should.
Let’s look deeper.
Liz Rumskizzles, CFO at Glacial Group requests a capabilities presentation from your consulting firm.
Time to work your magic.
Your capabilities deck is up-to-date, snazzy and hard hitting. You outline your consulting firm’s values and culture, then emphasize that your consultants are your firm’s greatest asset.
You note the extraordinary pedigree of your consultants and the (vast) range of problems they’ve solved for clients.
Most importantly, you show off your differentiated consulting service offerings, supported by pithy testimonials.
But, after the initial “Thank you” email, Liz has gone AWOL. Become unresponsive. What happened?
Many consultants mistakenly think a capabilities presentation is supposed to be about their consulting firm. It’s not.
Your capabilities presentation should be about your prospect, not your consulting firm!
Your prospect’s interests are:
“What problems can you solve for me, and why should I believe your claims?”
Let’s rewind the story to the moment you realized it’s time to work your magic.
Magic, as you know, is the wondrous process of pulling a fluffy, white rabbit out of an empty, black, top hat. (Spoiler.)
Think of the magician’s hat as everything that you’re absolutely going to show your consulting prospect. It’s designed to fit your particular head, and it’s not changeable. Once you’re in front of your consulting prospect, top-hat in hand, nothing’s going to transform it into a dusty, leather Stetson.
The white rabbit, on the other hand, is one of many, pre-prepared capability and credibility pieces you could make appear, depending on what your prospect wants to see.
A good magician has also stashed a blue rabbit, a red rabbit, a magic wand, and a zebra ironically named Bunny, any of which he could draw from the hat.
With this metaphor firmly in place, we can envision a few possibilities for your consulting firm’s capabilities presentation:
The “All Hat, No Rabbit” Presentation
This format assumes you know exactly what your consulting prospect wants to talk about, and that your offerings and people fit the bill. You’re often wrong on both counts.
Consulting firms that go in with a totally pre-built, capabilities presentation are generally too enamored with their own hat.
The results are often disappointing.
The “Hat, With Rabbits!” Presentation
In this presentation format, you lead with the findings from your research into the consulting prospect’s situation. It’s a partially constructed hat, since you invite your prospect to contribute her insights, observations and corrections to your findings.
Then, having gauged your prospect’s interest during the findings review, you magically produce a red rabbit, blue rabbit, oak tree or bagel with lox, all of which you had pre-prepared and kept hidden in your shoe.
You present only the information and credibility pieces (i.e., case studies, client lists, service lines) that will wow your consulting prospect. Everything else stays packed away. Except the bagel—that’s your lunch.
This format will reliably nail your capabilities presentation.
The “Rabbits from Thin Air” Presentation
For this routine you arrive hatless, with nothing pre-prepared.
This approach can—and does—work in many situations. Like all prestidigitation, you must be particularly practiced at your craft to perform this well.
After deftly inquiring about the prospect’s situation and carefully listening to her answers, you jump to the whiteboard and sketch a compelling rabbit, pumpkin, or cheese drums.
Even if you’re a wizard, though, walking into your consulting prospect’s office with only a blank sheet of paper and your smarts can make you look unprepared and uninterested. Those are two red flags for a prospective consulting client.
As a general rule, your consulting firm will fare best in a capabilities presentation when you walk in with a modest hat (i.e., a short presentation), the ability and desire to listen carefully, and a colony of rabbits (a.ka. credentials pieces) ready to reveal.
What’s worked like magic in your capabilities presentations?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.