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New Clients in the Blink of an Eye for Your Consulting Firm

Numerous books, articles, podcasts and videos have highlighted an interesting, if somewhat disconcerting phenomenon: people make (most) decisions quickly—sometimes in an instant—without any deep, thoughtful reasoning.

Then they develop rationales that they honestly believe are the reasoning behind their decisions.

Decisions as important as buying a house, as trivial as chopping down a tree, or as questionable as chopping down your neighbor’s treehouse… all made in three flaps of a hummingbird’s wings.

This absolutely, 100% affects your consulting firm. In many cases, your prospects are deciding to hire your consulting firm or to not hire you much, much, much faster than you (or they) realize.

Your prospects may determine whether to hire your consulting firm within the first few seconds or minutes of your first interaction with them. Then, during the subsequent minutes, hours (and sometimes days, weeks or months) your prospects develop rationalizations and justifications that support their decision.

Therefore:

1. Create favorable conditions for a prospect to quickly decide that you’re the right consulting firm to hire.

2. Provide reasons they can use to justify their decisions, and fodder for their rationalizations.

Part 1: Create Favorable Conditions

Immediately:

  • Smile – Your smile instantly communicates that you’re likeable, affable, easy to connect with, and will make your prospect’s life happier.
  • Be confident – Confidence implies expertise, experience, and a high likelihood of success.
  • Listen – Listening shows you’re interested in your prospect’s most important subject: herself.
  • Speak eloquently – People infer intelligence from vocabulary and speech patterns, and that assessment occurs from the very first words you utter to your prospect.

Early on:

  • Reflect and expand – Reflecting back what you’ve heard from your prospect demonstrates you learn quickly; expanding on what they said demonstrates your intelligence and mental alacrity.
  • Agree about 80% – Prospects generally believe they are right about almost everything and they may be wrong about something. Confirm both ideas by agreeing with most of what they say, at least in principle, then reframing an important idea.
  • Communicate big ideas concisely – Your consulting firm’s big ideas and new thinking have to show up and be embraced extremely early. That requires tight, precise communication. Employ well-crafted models and metaphors.
  • Send cocoa dusted espresso beans – Optional, because it’s okay to eat them yourself.

Part 2: Provide Fodder for Justifications

  • Examples and case studies – Your past work proves that you’ve been there, done that.
  • A thorough, robust-looking process – People trust systems that look detailed, thoughtful and tested.
  • Proof of deep experience – Your grey hair, years of experience, panoply of client logos reassure your client.
  • Sophisticated models – Your impressive frameworks support the decision that your consulting firm is bringing highly-developed thinking to bear.
  • Continued responsiveness – Clients want to know you’ll be easy to do business with, and your responsiveness throughout the process is their best indicator.

Isn’t it interesting that cost plays no role in the quick go/no-go decision about your consulting firm?

Clients will frequently conclude they want to work with your consulting firm before fees are ever discussed.

When faced with fees that are far out of line with what they expected, your prospects must choose whether to reverse their instant decision to work with your consulting firm or to adjust their view of what a “fair” fee is. You have probably observed this internal debate play across your consulting prospects faces in real time.

If you’ve created extremely favorable conditions and provided excellent fodder, you can watch your consulting firm’s prospects abandon their original fee thinking or convince themselves that their initial budget was wrong.

How else do you create favorable conditions or rationales to help clients decide to hire your consulting firm?


11 Comments
  1. Dan Monaghan
    May 19, 2021 at 6:13 am Reply

    Really great insights, Dave. Something I always do as well is to quickly scan someone’s office as soon as I enter to notice sports memorabilia, college logos or any photos on walls, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I have struck up really great conversations based on these observations that have led to instant bonds and lucrative engagements.

    • David A. Fields
      May 19, 2021 at 7:04 am Reply

      What a terrific idea, Dan. Your ability to quickly connect with your prospect based on a topic that’s personal and important to them (else, why would they display it in their office) definitely ups the likelihood they’ll make an instant decision to hire you.

      You’ve offered a great suggestion that’s only a bit more challenging in the videocall world. Thanks for leading off the discussion on this one, Dan!

    • Rick Denton
      May 19, 2021 at 9:35 am Reply

      Hi Dan…love this approach! I, too, always try and start with relationship building first. In a video world, I’ll try and find something in their background (real or virtual) that could be a conversation starter. At this point, most folks have actively “curated” their background so it’s likely to be something they want you to notice. (I’ll actively avoid any conversation around the laundry hanging on the side of the dresser. )
      Also, I do a lil “LinkedIn stalking” before my first contact with someone to try and find that same piece of connection with the person.

      • David A. Fields
        May 19, 2021 at 9:43 am Reply

        Two great pieces of advice, Rick! Curated backgrounds made me laugh… I still see some wonderfully, non-curated backgrounds and foregrounds. (“Oh, hello to your cat that walked in front of the camera.”)

  2. Kenny Jahng
    May 19, 2021 at 8:49 am Reply

    I have developed a framework for how to engage audiences called the A.R.T. Of Engagement. And I believe when your audience is interacting with you from afar (social, email, etc) the order is important in that you have to establish your AUTHORITY first —> then demonstrate your RELEVANCE —> and finally make them raving fans by building TRUST.

    But when in person, and for personal relationships, you want to go the other direction: TRUST —> RELEVANCE —-> AUTHORITY. You don’t flex your degrees and IP and talk about your processes first. You start by building trust relationally first.

    What I love is that your process basically echo’s my premise for the Trust —> Relevance —> Authority chain of activities.

    • David A. Fields
      May 19, 2021 at 9:20 am Reply

      That’s an interesting and catchy framework, Kenny. I’m pondering the first sequence and wonder whether Relevance may actually matter before authority. My sense is people are looking for relevant content, and then they look to see whether the source of the content is relevant. (The problem with that, of course, is it becomes the R.A.T. of Engagement, which is much less appealing.)

      You’re absolutely right that in person–and especially in consulting, Trust is the lead dog.

      Thank you for sharing your framework, Kenny. Like me, many readers will find it useful.

  3. Andy Hudson
    May 19, 2021 at 9:06 am Reply

    Very interesting point, David. Thinking back, the logos, process, models, and polish, have always been important. But in my head, I had assigned the importance/role to the wrong thing, propping up and justifying our fees.

    This really helps me get clear on the exact purpose logos, polish, process, and models play during and following an initial conversation.

    (Do you feel this realization requires a shift in our thinking/approach pre-initial conversation?)

    • David A. Fields
      May 19, 2021 at 9:41 am Reply

      For some consultants, a shift in thinking and approach is definitely warranted, because they head into conversations wanting to either sell something or to prove something. Those self-serving motives are usually transparent to the client and received poorly, which then leads to an instant-decision not to work with the consultant.

      Your pre-conversation approach should be a reminder to yourself to stay Right-Side Up; to focus on the client and remember the difference between consulting and pitching. (Pitching is: “Give me your money, and you’ll benefit.” Consulting is, “Let’s create benefit for you, and along the way, I’ll make some moola.”)

      Thanks for the insightful question, Andy!

  4. Lacey
    May 20, 2021 at 6:41 pm Reply

    Good stuff, as always, David. 🙌

    Listening will always be key, followed by speaking eloquently. Our interpretations of our prospects’ needs sell themselves. I’ve missed binging your content.

    • David A. Fields
      May 21, 2021 at 7:52 am Reply

      You’re absolutely right, Lacey. Successful consulting, including business development, requires listening. Non-optional. And, if we misinterpret our client’s Needs and Wants, that usually means we didn’t ask enough questions and listen closely enough.

      I appreciate you highlighting that point, Lacey, and joining the conversation.

  5. Ken Fitzpatrick
    June 7, 2021 at 5:41 pm Reply

    Great article and insights.

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