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Step 0: The Prerequisite for Your Consulting Firm to Win More Business

Your hard work on business development and some good luck resulted in big opportunities for your seed optimization consulting firm: potential engagements with Worldwide Walnuts, Paramus Pecan Co, and all at the same time. But, somehow none of those opportunities blossom into closed projects. Why?

You may have a “Step 0” problem.

If you’ve read The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients, you’re familiar with the six steps to unlimited clients, starting with Step 1: Mindset and running through Step 6: Propose, Negotiate and Close. (If you haven’t read that book, go here, read this. Don’t pass Go or collect $200 first.)

It turns out that there’s a step before Mindset:

Step 0: Delivery Confidence.

If you aren’t confident that your consulting firm can deliver on a project, you will intentionally or unconsciously sabotage your business development efforts.

Your consulting firm’s Delivery Confidence wanes when you or your team members worry that you lack sufficient capacity or that your capabilities fall short.

A Step 0 deficiency is serious. Instead of winning the easy, project and possibly cracking open the Paramaus or Worldwide engagements, you end up losing all three opportunities. That’s not good.

Your capacity concerns can be addressed with straightforward tactics, including hiring, delegating, streamlining and renegotiating. (You’ll find 11 capacity-increasing strategies in this article.)

You build greater confidence in your capability with an equally clear-cut approach: subcontract skill sets your consulting firm currently lacks. The rent vs. build decision is easy in this case: rent. (You can wait to expand your firm’s prowess internally until your clients demonstrate clearly and consistently that there is sufficient demand and sufficient margin for the new skills.)

The tried-and-true approaches to build Delivery Confidence aren’t complex. They’re also not quick.

Therefore, your more important Step 0 question may be this:

When should your consulting firm increase capacity and capability?

The answer is now.

If your consulting firm is busy and your pipeline is healthy, you need to pile on extra Delivery Confidence so that you can unswervingly pursue all your new business opportunities.

If your consulting firm is not busy, thank your lucky stars you have some time to build your Delivery Confidence. Capacity and capability don’t appear overnight.

Mid-year, in particular, is an excellent time to set plans in motion that will boost your Delivery Confidence.

In contrast, waiting until the end of the year prevents your consulting firm from capitalizing on the end-of-year surge in business development opportunities. Waiting also dampens your progress since revenue growth lags Delivery Confidence

Have you ever hesitated to win a project because you worried about your capacity or capability to deliver? Either way, what have you done to increase your Delivery Confidence?

  1. Sonja Robinson
    August 4, 2021 at 5:58 am Reply

    It is most probably a combination of past, present and future; the past, your childhood, your environment etc stimulates confidence early on. I was missing out there so I had to go to the second step, present; my Coaching path helped me discover myself and the value I can bring to my clients. Friends, family and current clients boost my confidence level every now and then. Most certainly “simply growing up & maturing” accompanied by a good portion of self-awareness, critical thinking, self -reflection and action help to increase self confidence.
    Future; I build on what is there now by continously working with my strengths, asking clients and friends for feedback, asking for help to improve skills….
    The journey never stops and just like with your bank account, if someone puts some savings in there for a you to kick start, saving more becomes easier …..

    Curious to read your responses.

    • David A. Fields
      August 4, 2021 at 7:09 am Reply

      You’ve taken the discussion in an interesting direction, Sonja. For small consulting firms–particularly solo shops, there can definitely be a link between self-confidence and Delivery Confidence. Belief in your capability to live up to your clients’ expectations ties directly to your self-confidence. That, in turn, will affect your efforts to win clients.

      While there are numerous approaches to building self-confidence (a few of which you’ll find if you put”self-confidence” in the search bar at the top of my site), even a solo consultant can improve Delivery Confidence by renting skills where you feel your capabilities are insufficient. Identifying a capable subcontractor whom you could bring onto a project may give you the security you need to close more projects.

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Sonja!

  2. Gary W
    August 4, 2021 at 7:22 am Reply

    While I agree with the sentiment of the article, the elephant in the room is the cost of capacity. New people or equipment could raise our costs and make us more anxious for the business, undermining our confidence. IMHO, managing cash flow is vital. There are ways to manage it while building capacity but it needs to be at the forefront.

    • David A. Fields
      August 4, 2021 at 8:49 am Reply

      You’ve raised an important point for clarification, Gary. Employing full-time people (not much equipment needed in most consulting) can create cash flow risk. On the other hand, “renting” capabilities and capacity by using subcontractors involves virtually no cash flow risk. You only hire the additional resources when your consulting firm already has the project in hand.

      Most small firms wait too long to identify contract resources and, as a result, can feel squeezed by a lack of capacity. Even a solo consultant who has plenty of capacity right now would be well-served to identify potential subcontractors who could pitch in on a project or two.

      Thanks for posting your reaction, Gary!

  3. raoul rdidisheim
    August 4, 2021 at 8:05 am Reply

    As I meet/network with people, I spend as much time seeking new clients as I do meeting people whose skill set I could potentially use in the future. I keep a “talent” spreadsheet on who they are, their skills, what they have done and how I met them.

    • David A. Fields
      August 4, 2021 at 8:53 am Reply

      Outstanding practice, Raoul. Many consulting firms create a section of their CRM specifically dedicated to potential subcontractors and/or partners. Your focus on finding ways to collaborate with the people you meet–regardless of whether it’s a consultant/client relationship–is admirable. I’m glad you posted your example.

  4. Terry Chevalier
    August 4, 2021 at 9:02 am Reply

    Wow! You hit the nail on the head this AM. I’ve been doing a great job getting BD opportunities lined up as I try to start my own practice but have felt some sort of resistance and haven’t landed anything. This is it — I can tell I’ve been sabotaging my own efforts! Been working on expanding my resource base this week and its definitely felt like the right thing. Thanks for the article (and looking forward to the Solo Accelerator this fall)!

    • David A. Fields
      August 4, 2021 at 11:08 am Reply

      Hooray for the right information at the right time! You’re not alone in being stymied by a hidden, lack of Delivery Confidence, Terry. Doubts about capability often linger beneath the surface where the BD propeller driving your boat can hit them and get all mangled. (Not that I ever destroyed a prop on my father’s boat, of course.)

      I’m glad today’s article helped and doubly glad you shared that Terry. Triply glad you’re joining us at the Solo Practice Accelerator!

  5. Kevin Redinger
    August 4, 2021 at 11:24 am Reply

    Thank you for this timely post which helped me realize Delivery Confidence is exactly the issue I need to address as I’m struggling with follow-up on an opportunity with a new potential client. Time to push off the self-limiting thinking on capabilities, share my plan to meet our joint objectives and let the client determine if I’m a good fit for their current need.

    • David A. Fields
      August 4, 2021 at 12:38 pm Reply

      Exactly right, Kevin. Now is definitely the time to move forward with that new business opportunity. In addition to “pushing off” the self-limiting thinking, take steps to find additional capabilities outside your firm that you can tap into. That will give you more confidence when you’re discussing with the client whether or not you’re a fit.

      Great case study, Kevin. I appreciate you sharing your situation.

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