We are a nation of do-it-yourselfers. Pay a plumber to fix that leak? Nah, a quick trip to Lowes and we’re good. Hire an attorney to write the will? No thanks—these online forms look pretty solid. Check into a hospital for an operation? Please… we’ll just head back to Lowes for a box cutter!
Consultants encounter this phenomenon every day in prospects’ offices: “Why hire a consultant to improve our compensation plans? We’re smart enough to figure that out ourselves. Besides, we could hire two full-time employees for the fees you’re suggesting.”
Without a doubt, our stiffest competition is always inside the client. Internal staff is available and, ostensibly, bargain priced compared to an outside guru. So, how do you overcome the do-it-yourself barrier? By changing the prospect’s perspective. Below are four mind shifts you can employ to make your expensive consulting gig the obvious choice.
Shift the Path to Success
The more your prospects believe the path to success is a series of straightforward tasks, the more they will see their goals as attainable through internal resources or inexpensive help. Conversely, when their ideal route to nirvana travels through sophisticated ideas and processes, they’ll pay a premium to an outside expert.
Does this mean you should portray your approach as complex and wrap it in abstruse language? No, but you better bring more to the party than the ability to execute generic plans. Reorient your prospect’s perspective on what’s needed by breaking out models, conceptual frameworks and approaches that work far better than any they would employ in-house. You must create a clear difference between you and internal staff.
Shift the Objective
Lift your prospect’s gaze from the weeds, where any resource is good enough, to the clouds, where outstanding (and expensive) know-how is required. When a client is focused on a “deliverable,” such as a report or training session, they’ll look for the least expensive, easiest source of that deliverable. However, a client seeking an outcome is wary of cheap, easy fixes.
For instance, a training session on procurement is a deliverable and perhaps Sally from the Purchasing department can lead it. Reducing material costs across all divisions, on the other hand, is an outcome and to achieve that end the client will pony up big dollars to a guru with strong credentials.
Shift the Comparator
Prospects need some way of deciding between you and internal resources and, since cost is concrete and easy to assess, that’s the default comparator. The reference price that prospects have handy is the cost of an employee and, surprise, surprise, the price-tag on a great consultant looks sky high next to an employee’s salary.
Arguing about the fully loaded cost of an employee, including hiring, training, benefits, etc., rarely works. Much more effective is a statement such as, “If your objective is to save money in the short term, then hiring employees is the way to go. However, if your objective is to bring the most expertise possible to bear on the problem at hand, then we’re the answer.” Shifting the comparator to value or expertise positions you in a far more flattering light.
Shift the Scarce Resource
We all dole out our scarce resources jealously. Money, time, chocolate. Hiring external experts depletes clients’ limited budgets. Therefore, they face significant pressure to apply internal resources wherever possible to preserve funds.
How do you alter this viewpoint? By highlighting a scarce resource more precious than money. Time, expertise, experience, proven processes, momentum, and management support are all good examples of resources that are either fleeting or limited. Pharmaceutical companies will open the coffers to any company that can advance the launch of a product by a few weeks. Once your prospect views you as the route to a resource more precious than money, competition from internal staff will evaporate.
What have you changed to break prospects’ do-it-yourself mentality and cost-resistance? Share an experience you’ve had in the comments section. I’ll read it as soon as I get back from Lowes.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.