The first step in becoming a successful, independent consultant may surprise you.
Before I tell you what it is, let’s start with a couple of quizzes. It doesn’t matter whether you get these “right” or “wrong”… it’s just for fun (and reveals how different people think). You’ll see the results after you submit your answer.
Let’s start with the answer to Quiz #2. Your most valuable consulting asset is actually… (drumroll please)… a tie between “Your proven, business development approach” and “Your client base.” In the world of consulting M&A, firms that have a strong client base and/or proven revenue development are valued more highly than firms with unique offerings or “breakthrough” IP. Why?
Because you can stand anywhere, throw a plum and hit a consultant who has a “unique” offering or a breakthrough idea. Hitting a consultant whose contact list is dripping with decision makers or who has built a replicable, reliable revenue stream takes good aim and a peck of plums.
When the boutique firm I was part of in the late 1990s was purchased by a big ad agency it wasn’t because of our amazing technical prowess; it was because we had access to decision makers they couldn’t reach.
The most successful consulting firms in the world pretty much all do the same thing. They’re not selling uniquely great offerings. They’re uniquely great at selling mundane offerings.
Now, let’s look at Quiz #1. Your client base and your business development approach have the same starting point: Your target. So…
That’s right. Before you determine your offering or your IP or build your skill set, first identify who will be buying your consulting services.
Now, what’s the most important attribute in determining your target? That they’re decision makers? That they need what you offer? Nope.A decision maker you can’t reach is an avatar, not a prospect. In contrast, virtually every business executive you can reach has the authority to buy something. Once you start selling to them, then you can build on your success by expanding your reach and/or your offerings.
Your ideal target is at the intersection of People You Can Reach, People Who Spend Money on an Offering You Can (Learn to) Provide, and Your Passions/Interests. Of those three, your passion and interests are the least important. You’re a curious, knowledge-hungry consultant and I’m sure you can develop a passion for the nuances of virtually any subject.
In an upcoming blog post I’ll dig a bit deeper into developing a target that will make you a wealthy consultant, and cover some of the common fears, myths and misconceptions.
What’s your biggest concern about defining a narrow target for your consulting practice?
Text and images are © 2019 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.