Raymond, a 38 year-old operations efficiency consultant on the West Coast wanted to snag some strategy projects. Weary of solving operations issues for 15 years, he agonized over the wording of his new, strategic offering then revamped his website and cards to reflect the revised thrust of his consultancy. When he brought me in to help, I asked him the same question I’m posing now for you: what’s the single most important attribute of your target prospects?
I’ve called the consultant Raymond in homage to the main character in Phil Robinson’s classic Hollywood fantasy, Field of Dreams. The film portrays newbie farmer Ray Kinsella building a baseball diamond to attract the spirits of deceased players from a bygone era.
Our hero plows every penny into the ball field as neighbors deride his crazy scheme. However, Ray defies all naysayers and the final scene reveals miles of cars lined up to watch famous phantoms play ball. And as the credits roll we know Ray has been vindicated, financial ruin has been averted, and a lot of Iowans are headed for years of psychotherapy.
Raymond, the consultant, is metaphorically near the end of the Field of Dreams. He’s built his ball field and I’m asking what quality is critical in that line of cars he envisions? What do you think?
Savvy, experienced consultants typically suggest one of the following characteristics of prospects is most important:
- They’re the decision makers
- They have the means and ability to pay for what you’re offering
- They see the value in your offering
- They trust you
- They offer chocolate to their consultants
Unquestionably, the best prospective clients exhibit all of those important qualities. But we’re still missing the grand slam. You’ve been reading patiently, so I’ll share the single most important characteristic of your target.
You can reach them!
Yes, I know that’s neither sexy nor sophisticated. In fact, it’s utterly plebeian. Flat out practical. Nevertheless, it’s true. The consulting version of the Robinson’s flick would have been Field of Bankruptcy, because no matter how great a solution you build in your cornfield, if you can’t reach your prospect you’re going to lose the farm.
Raymond spent a solid year promoting his strategy business… and didn’t win a single client. Why? He didn’t know a soul in that space. His clients – mid-level operations managers, were not interested in corporate strategy and were too far away from the strategy makers to serve as a conduit.
If you want business right now, you better be able to reach your prospects right now. If you can afford to build your business over time, then you need a clear, realistic plan to build your network of prospective clients.
Every other characteristic on the list can be established once you solidify your reach. For instance, virtually every executive who returns your call has some level of decision-making authority or can introduce you to a decision maker. They have the drive, desire and means to pay for outside help for something. The secret to success is not whether anyone will buy what you’re offering, but whether you’re offering what the people you can reach will buy!
If I had written Field of Dreams, Ray would have surveyed every neighbor and connection he had in Iowa to find out what they truly needed. Then he would have opened up his John Deere dealership. Wouldn’t have been much of a movie, but he’d have retired a multi-millionaire.
What are YOU doing to reach more prospects?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
A terrific lead-in to a prior (excellent) post promoting the Rule of Replenishment.
Totally agree, David. the consistent theme is: build relationships. As long as we continue to create and nurture relationships (and pay attention to the needs of those we’re connected to), winning business is a straightforward process.
This is a fantastic article. This explains why I have experienced some of the challenges with my recent reinvention and re-positioning. There was no conduit to help me reach the decision maker. You are great David!
Thanks for the comment, Marlene. I’m glad the post was enlightening for you. A quick question to consider during your reinvention and repositioning efforts: are they being driven by you or by a better understanding of your prospects’ needs?
Great analogy David and really useful way of knowing the “who and why” of our target audience. Another way of saying “They see the value” is to ask whether they are interested in growing or changing. When I first started I realized that many people do not and if there is not a glimmer of interest it’s best to walk away. Either they will let you and save both parties a lot of time and energy, or it will kindle their spark of interest.
Also I love how you say “the value” because it suggests quantification rather than nebulous yearnings.
Great point that not everyone wants to grow or change. Struggling to introduce change at a recalcitrant client is definitely one of the more frustrating situations in consulting. That said, a prospect who doesn’t want or need to “grow” probably has other needs which an alert consultant can address. For instance, a desire for more stability or more time away from the office. Thanks for your comments!
Solid point that I need to put into practice more often.
By the way, did you remember what Shoeless Joe’s batting average was in the world series in which he was accused of throwing?
Thanks for chiming in, Tom. We can ALL spend more time understanding the needs of the prospects within our reach. I didn’t know the batting average of Shoeless Joe; however the source of all knowledge (Wikipedia) says he batted an impressive .375!
Great recap! Just to confirm my understanding, I love chocolate and probably would work for it, should that be my first qualifier question? 🙂
Absolutely! I once had a consulting contract with a “bonus” clause that awarded beer to the client if their town’s pro hockey team won the Stanley cup and chocolate to me if my local team won. Neither of us received the bonus, but that’s definitely my type of client.