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One, Powerful Model that Explains Why Your Consulting Firm Wins Projects

From your clients’ perspective, engaging your consulting firm is an emotional decision.

The notion that “people act on emotion then justify with logic” has become clichéd. We accept it as an immutable law of human nature, like “children scream shrilly to be heard in a crowd” and “teenagers take selfies.”

But what emotions are your buyers acting on? What really drives your prospects to hire your consulting firm?

The Consulting Wheel of Want™

The Wheel of Want describes the ten emotional desires that undergird most decisions to hire your consulting firm.

Imagine the ten wants arranged like spokes on a wheel, and plot the level of your consulting prospect’s desire on each spoke. Low desire is toward the hub and high desire is out toward the rim of the wheel.

The greater the range of emotions that are compelling your client to engage your consulting firm, and the stronger those motives are, the bigger and rounder your Wheel of Want becomes.

Bigger, rounder Wheels of Want roll easily toward large projects. Small, uneven Wheels of Want take more energy to grind forward. They bump along or get stuck on the road from inquiry to closed deal.

The ten spokes on the Wheel of Want are:


The desired outcome associated with achievement, accomplishment, breakthrough and success. Triumph can also cover motives such as pride, greed and revenge.


The wish for safety, control and defense against potential threats.


The result of removing pains and threats.


A template describing how to move from where you are to where you want to be.


Includes the bolstering of courage and self-worth, as well as the yearning for confidence that current actions are justified, forward progress is possible, and future steps will succeed.


The unquenchable thirst for independence is often expressed as dissatisfaction with restraints, restrictions, and oversight.


The uplifting fascination with learning and personal growth; includes curiosity.


The desire for social contact, community, and human bonding.


The urge to right wrongs (think superheroes… or traffic cops).


Unbridled happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, and even contentment.

Stay acutely attuned to the ten emotional drivers during your discovery process with consulting prospects.

Combine direct questioning, subtle probing and careful observation to gauge the size and shape of your potential client’s Wheel of Want.

Ensure your prospect has powerful feelings fueling his desire to contract your consulting firm. That will prevent you from spinning your wheels and getting nowhere.

What has your experience been with consulting prospects acting (or not acting) on emotion?

  1. Al Rhoney
    March 6, 2019 at 8:16 am Reply

    I’ve always said that “wants” drive a clients’ decision – not “needs”, but you’ve said it better than I ever did with you article this morning.

    • David A. Fields
      March 6, 2019 at 9:32 am Reply

      You’re right on with what you’ve always said, Al. It’s important to take the additional step to understand what those wants are. By doing that we’re able to develop a bond and an approach that allow us to delight our clients.

      Thanks for underscoring that point, Al.

  2. Christian Milaster
    March 6, 2019 at 8:26 am Reply

    Thank you David, the descriptions of the 10 flavors of want are very helpful.

    I was, however, surprised by your conclusion. I expected the bumpy-wheel client to be the one to sign big checks, because one Want sticks out and makes their progress so painful and ineffective. As our engagement addresses that one Want, their wheel of wants goes to a state of equilibrium.

    Now, I could follow an analogy that bigger wheels are better, but that’s not the point you were making.

    Finally, if I were to follow your premise, beside the point of paying attention to those 10 Wants, what’s the conclusion of discovering a client that has one Want sticking out like a sore thumb? That I should brace myself for a longer sales process, because it’s one-dimensional?

    Thanks, as always, for your insights!

    With kind regards,

    • David A. Fields
      March 6, 2019 at 9:37 am Reply

      You bring up an interesting point, Christian. A single, “out to the rim” want can pole vault you into a closed project. On the other hand, it’s a more fragile situation–if that single desire dissipates or is overshadowed, then the urgency to sign the project also lessens.

      The single want, bumpy-wheel client doesn’t feel that his singular motivation is sticking out. Rather, he just doesn’t feel the depth and breadth of motivation that the round-wheel client feels.

      The metaphor is imperfect, of course. Three strong wants would make an awkward wheel, but is still plenty to push a client to close a project.

      I appreciate you challenging the model and bringing a deeper depth of discussion, Christian.

  3. Bob Hatcher
    March 6, 2019 at 3:36 pm Reply

    I love the wheel, but I think you missed one overriding factor: risk. Every proposal you submit or discuss with a prospect is a “request” for them to change. Most people don’t like change and are risk-averse and prefer to stick with the status quo even if they have any of your ten “wants”. So, your job is to make them think not going forward with your project is riskier than going with you.

    • David A. Fields
      March 6, 2019 at 3:57 pm Reply

      Bob, you’re absolutely right that Risk is a big factor in winning projects. In fact, that’s why one key section of the Context Discussion is Risks and Concerns.

      There are other factors too: Know, Like, Trust, Need, Want and Value all need to be in place to win a project. A shortfall in any one of those Six Pillars of Consulting Success will cost you a project.

      To get back to your point though, highlighting the desires and showing how fulfilling them outweighs the risks, is definitely an important step in winning a consulting engagement. I’m glad you raised that point.

  4. Cheryl
    March 6, 2019 at 3:59 pm Reply

    This is great David. I often say that our clients buy based on Hope. Behind that Hope could be any one (or many) of the spokes. They are Hoping for a better situation and because we often work with companies that have never used a consultant before, they don’t fully understand how we can help them (despite many conversations, a solid proposal, etc.). They just know they can’t stay in the same situation and are looking for help.

    • David A. Fields
      March 6, 2019 at 4:07 pm Reply

      Hope is a good way to characterize it. And you’re correct, all of the spokes of the Wheel of Want fit into an overall umbrella of hoping the future will be better than the current state.

      Part of our process must be to paint the vivid, compelling portrait of tomorrow that we can help deliver. You’re right on the mark, Cheryl. Nice add!

  5. Mark Capaldini
    March 6, 2019 at 6:31 pm Reply

    What about Legacy, as in leaving a company in good shape for the next generation of family leadership, for employees who are buying, or the philanthropic activity following a successful sale? Ultimately it’s “how will I be remembered.”

    • David A. Fields
      March 6, 2019 at 7:25 pm Reply

      That’s a good thought, Mark. Leaving a legacy is a powerful motivator. And, while it might be mingled in with some of the 10 wants already explored in the article, the connection to a future could stand on its own right. Excellent addition to the ideal, Mark!

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