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How to Create the Perfect Consulting Offering

Last week, a solo-consultant I work with told me he did everything “wrong” in a client meeting but walked away with a $75,000 project. No one walked out of the meeting with a black eye, so obviously his characterization of the meeting was exaggerated, but the fact remains that he won business despite some missteps. How? He had a great offering that his client wanted.

I’ve had a run-in or two with killer products. Just like Billboard announces the top songs every week, the scorekeeper in the consumer products market is Advertising Age magazine. Before I started consulting I was fortunate enough to be featured as one of Advertising Age magazine’s “Top 100 marketers.” Groovy award, but winning it was about 10% skill and 90% fabulous product. Stores are stuffed with goods that sell millions of dollars every year with little or no marketing because they’re great items. Think a cure for cancer would need much marketing or advertising? Exactly.

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The same holds true in consulting. If there’s one thing I’ve seen consistently in my work with hundreds of consultants it’s that a killer offering will generate substantial income even if your marketing is nothing to write home about. (Yes, you do need to be decent at the entire client acquisition process.) Without any marketing chops even a great offering will sell about as well as a baby mop** or dogbrella**.

Before I describe the elements of a perfect consulting offering, let’s talk about the two-ton sandbag holding your business down. Because, until you cut yourself free of this anchor you’re likely to see nominal gains, at best. The weight hindering your growth and the biggest obstacle to finding a killer offering is, quite simply: Your current definition of what you do.

As long as you’re afraid to let go of what you are and what you offer now, you’ll never be able to embrace a new, better definition of yourself and your value. I see consultants cling to definitions like, “I’m a strategy consultant” or “I have 20 years of marketing experience” or “I’m an expert in project management.” Internally focused statements like these are the consulting equivalent to Kodak’s commitment to film. How’s that been working lately? It’s useful and necessary to know what you’re good at and your passions, but to find a killer product, you can’t start there.

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I often say that revving up your consulting revenue requires the compelling communication of the right solution to the right people about the right problem at the right time. Construct your perfect consulting offering by focusing on the first three. The checklist below breaks out these three components more and will guide you to a product that could increase your revenue by an order of magnitude.

The problem/aspiration:

  • Is urgent, pervasive, and costly to leave unaddressed
  • Is easy to diagnose
  • Is easy to understand

 The people:

  • Have the need and the money and the authority to buy the solution
  • Are aware of the need or can easily be made aware
  • Are reachable by you

The communication/solution:

  • Articulates an obvious, concrete benefit
  • Is easily said by you
  • Is so concise and understandable that it’s easily repeated by others

Finally… You:

  • Are not tied to your past – the offering is about client needs, not your ability
  • Are willing, able and passionate about delivering

Developing your killer offering may take some time and definitely requires feedback from prospects. You can take the first step right now, though: in the comments box below type in an urgent, pervasive, costly problem you solve. If you can’t think of one, type in your target and other readers and I will give you some ideas.


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69 Comments
  1. D. Scott Brown
    August 5, 2015 at 9:46 am Reply

    Hi David,

    I just found your blog this morning. I like what I am seeing. May I please ask if this thread is still open? I am known as the “Today’s Busy Woman Empowerment Coach”. I would like to reach out more to companies not just individuals in the professional, business and corporate arenas. Most of my current clients are professional women, business women and female business owners… all of whom are trying to do it all so they can have it all… but they are not having the quality of life they thought they would have by now. She is feeling more exhausted, unfulfilled and overwhelmed. She is putting so much pressure on herself to be successful and it’s weighing heavily on her but she feels she has no other alternative but to go thru this alone.

    My current language is ” Empowering Today’s Busy Woman to Convert Her Emptiness into Sizzle, Be Truly Heard, Valued & Validated and Feel Overjoyed not Overwhelmed!”

    David, from what I already see in your responses to the others who have posted here, I know you have some keen insights to share. I would appreciate any and all feedback. I’ve already begun reading some of your other blog posts. Thank you so much in advance! 🙂

    • David A. Fields
      August 6, 2015 at 7:05 am Reply

      Welcome to the community, Scott! Your language in general is solid. Two thoughts to consider: 1) Are you burying the lead? 2) Are you communicating concisely? (Those two are related.) You redirect working women who are feeling unfulfilled. That’s a concise definition that starts the conversation. In terms of taking your offering to the corporate world, I’d be surprised if large companies would pay for this service; however, women business owners might write it off as an expense. Does that help?

  2. Lani
    August 5, 2015 at 10:54 am Reply

    Which is better (our what would make this land)?

    You know how people say they’re in prefect health except…they can’t sleep or they have heartburn or stomach problems now and then, have pms or chronic pain, or experience forgetfulness or fuzzy thinking? I get to the root of those problems holistically.

    Or

    You know how people say “I’m in prefect health except…i can’t sleep, or, I have heartburn or stomach problems now and then, have pms or chronic pain, or I’m a little forgetfulness and my thinking is fuzzy sometimes and I can focus”? Sound like anyone you know? I get to the root of those problems holistically.

    • David A. Fields
      August 6, 2015 at 8:30 am Reply

      Lani, the difference is subtle enough to not be meaningful and both are too long. People can’t remember or process so many choices. When you toss out a laundry list of symptoms, you’re hoping one of them will trigger a response; however, the reality is it confuses the listener, is impossible to remember, and potentially makes you look unfocused.

      Sticking with your format, you might say something along the lines of, “You know how people say they’re in perfect health but then they bring up a couple of health complaints? That’s who I work with. I make healthy people even healthier.” Or, “Even healthy people suffer from everyday maladies. But they don’t have to. I help healthy people become even healthier.”

  3. Roy
    September 20, 2015 at 12:47 am Reply

    Hi David, Great post!
    Here’s my killer offer: “Financial services executives hire me to streamline (and automate) costly and time intensive business processes” or “I streamline (and automate) costly and time intensive business processes for financial services companies.”

    • David A. Fields
      September 20, 2015 at 9:04 pm Reply

      Roy, that’s a great start. “Financial services companies” is a well-defined target, though I wonder whether you could narrow it even further. “Costly, time intensive business processes” may be a good problem description, or may not be. Your target will let you know. To me, it seems very vague; however, the executives your targeting may immediately think, “Got it! I know exactly what you do.”

      Imagine, though, that you targeted one process that is commonly problematic. If you said, “Investment banks hire me when their due-diligence process consistently takes too long” then investment bankers who experienced that problem would choose you 100% of the time over a consultant who promises to streamline “time intensive processes” for “financial services companies.” I’m not saying that’s the right target or the right offering; merely that specific beats general 99% of the time.

  4. Ken Steiger
    February 10, 2016 at 11:45 am Reply

    If this thread is still monitored:

    I’m in the business of helping companies identify and close performance gaps in how their managers and employees work together. These are the things that hurt morale and the work climate, and make it more difficult to deal with change and tough market conditions.

    Sometimes this comes from crisis, like a bad economy, changes in the company, or changes with your clients.

    Sometimes it comes from complacency—past success makes people in the company feel invulnerable to what’s going on outside of their “cocoon.”

    In all cases, ultimately, this adds stress and conflict, and lowers productivity and profits when not addressed.

    • David A. Fields
      February 10, 2016 at 12:37 pm Reply

      Ken, that’s a great business. The questions I have for you are: Can you simplify the message? Right now you have a lot of pieces, and the “sometimes…” statements shift your story into the hypothetical. Can you be more specific? “Companies” doesn’t exclude anyone; “performance gaps” is also very broad; “adds stress and conflict, lowers productivity and profits” is true of every problem.

      If you narrow your target and the problem, you may find more confidence in your solution and more uptake from clients. Feel free to post a revision if you decide to create one!

  5. Shahla
    February 10, 2016 at 7:59 pm Reply

    Hey David,
    This is such a useful post and really pushes one to get deep down in the niche.
    My area is creativity and innovation. And there are two aspects of it that I work on:
    1- The use of innovation as a method/tool/approach in HR and Learning & Development/ corporate universities.
    2- Training the skill (of innovative and creative thinking and problem solving) to managers and entrepreneurs who handle teams.

    How does that rank in terms of urgency, communication and pain solving?

    • David A. Fields
      February 10, 2016 at 11:02 pm Reply

      Shahla, thanks for your feedback and for sharing your area of focus. I would challenge you to try Right Side Up thinking, which means setting aside what you do (as aptly described in your two points) and identifying the issue your clients are facing. This is much, much harder than it appears.

      Just looking at your description, I don’t know what problem you solve or, therefore, the urgency or costliness of that problem. There are some good exercises that will help you shift to Right Side Up thinking. (If you email me, I’ll send you the Problemeter exercise.)

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