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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.


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.


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.

  1. Sophie
    August 10, 2016 at 11:29 am Reply

    This is such a great string, thank you. If you are still monitoring it, would you please give me some feedback on this?

    I help clients develop new programs/projects to address new challenges in women’s and reproductive health. Many of these solutions involve written products. I research and develop website content, reports, toolkits, articles, blogs and more.

    • David A. Fields
      August 10, 2016 at 12:31 pm Reply

      Sophie, you’re off to a solid start and I think a few tweaks will make your offering more powerful.

      The excellent part of your statement is the narrow focus: women’s reproductive health. (Yes, I took the “and” out, which may change the meaning, but is more precise and understandable.)

      To improve your statement ask yourself first what the problem is you’re solving. That’s not apparent yet. In other words, why do your clients need you? The second half of your statement is very focused on the “stuff” you do, and may be stronger if it was focused on the results you deliver. Clients are more interested in how they’ll be better off than in what you do.

      My recommendation would be to marry your precise target definition to a specific problem and see where that takes you.

  2. Susan Pierson-Brown
    February 17, 2017 at 4:28 pm Reply

    Hi David – This is an incredibly useful post! If you are still offering ideas, I’d welcome your thoughts on my offering language:

    I partner with executives, philanthropists, academics and their teams so they can inspire their audiences and move them to action.

    Too short? I worry the problem may be too implied (that if others aren’t aware of and on board with your mission, it won’t advance), and/or I’m leaving out my expertise (strategic communications).

    Thank you in advance for any feedback!

    • David A. Fields
      February 20, 2017 at 6:22 pm Reply

      Susan, you’re off to a good start. Consider rephrasing or narrowing your target audience. “Executives, philanthropists, academics and their teams” covers everyone and is confusing. Every time there’s an “and” (or, in your case, a comma) in your Fishing Line you don’t gain prospects, you lose them. The promise itself may feel generic to the listener. On the surface it sounds like you help public speakers, but it’s not completely obvious. Try to get crystal clear on what symptom a prospect experiences that you address. That will help you fashion a butt-kicking Fishing Line.

      Hope that helps!

  3. Jo Cleary
    March 15, 2017 at 9:44 pm Reply

    Hi David
    I find your resources so powerful and useful. Thank you for your generosity and wisdom.

    What I do?
    Clarifying the meals strategy in Aged Care to co-create a Wow! dining experience
    with a meal that isnt murdered and at optimal price.

    I am getting interest from providers who want to speak to me, but I think I am putting too much focus on the HOW and not enough on the benefits in my proposals. They want to do something but dont make a decision.
    I based my last proposal on your perfect template, and have just downloaded your new one. Thanks a heap!

    Your Problemeter exercise sounds great – love to find out more about that.

    Thanks David in the meantime.

    • David A. Fields
      March 15, 2017 at 10:23 pm Reply

      Your offering is great. The target is narrow and crystal clear. “A Wow! dining experience with a meal that isn’t murdered” implies the problem using language that is memorable and reveals your personality. There’s a bit of clunkiness in the phrasing, but that’s not a big deal. Very nicely done.

      The Problemeter is great. It’s actually explained in depth in my new book: The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients. (Since you’re in Australia, you’ll probably have to use a different link unless you buy the Kindle version.) That said, right now I think you have a good handle on the problem you solve, and as long as that resonates with prospects, you can shift your focus to building visibility, connecting, becoming the obvious choice and closing projects.

      I hope your latest proposal gets accepted, Jo! Let me know either way.

  4. Debbie G
    August 1, 2017 at 12:13 pm Reply

    What are some additional questions one can ask to find out if the problem the prospect or consultant shares is pervasive, urgent, or expensive?

    • David A. Fields
      August 1, 2017 at 2:09 pm Reply

      Debbie, to find out whether it’s pervasive, you need to ask multiple people. If they spent money on the problem then, by definition, that problem was urgent and expensive enough to warrant hiring a consultant.

  5. Debbie G
    August 1, 2017 at 12:15 pm Reply

    Do you need separate questions to uncover problems vs aspirations when doing the Problemeter exercise from the book?

    • David A. Fields
      August 1, 2017 at 2:07 pm Reply

      Debbie, it’s all part of the same stream of questions, which amount to: what have you spend money on in the past?

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