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The Little Act that Can Transform Your Consulting Firm

Your consulting firm can take bold actions to win clients and generate value. Today, though, my question is whether you could accomplish more for your consulting firm by focusing on small, mundane acts.

Most people harbor an outsized obsession with “the big play.” The highlight reel shot that wins the game, the all-in bet that hits the jackpot, the tear-jerking performance that warrants an Academy Award.

You remember your own moments of triumph and they figure prominently in the tales of your life, your adventures, and your consulting firm’s successes.

The truth, of course, is games are never won or lost on a single play. Highlight reels—including your personal montage of accomplishments—overemphasize grand gestures.

Think smaller, and more boring.

You can create huge wins for your consulting practice with small, prosaic actions that typically go uncelebrated. Not just small. Tiny. Lilliputian.

In fact, I call these Micro Deposits.

Micro Deposits are seemingly insignificant contributions to a relationship that nurture the bond, build trust, and set the stage for collaboration. Ultimately, these mini deeds set you up for big wins such as signed projects, successful negotiations, and premium fees.

Examples of Micro Deposits:

  • Ask, “How are you?” and show genuine intereste in the response.
  • Offer something small. “Can I grab you a glass of water?”
  • Tell a tasteful joke.
  • Comment positively on something relevant. “Your new logo rocks.”
  • Offer a compliment—even a general one. “You look very dapper today.”
  • Reference something personal from a previous conversation. “Did your daughter ever take a bath?”

Micro Deposits continue to add value after you’ve signed a consulting project. For instance, daily, ongoing Micro Deposits into your client relationships will enable you to surmount difficult obstacles or missteps during a project.

That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news: Micro Deposits don’t occur by happenstance. You need to practice.

Fortunately, you can exercise your Micro Deposit muscle throughout the day. Set a goal for yourself to contribute one different Micro Deposit to every single person you interact with today. Try again tomorrow. Then the next day.

(By the way, practicing your Micro Deposits habit at home will help your personal relationships flourish.)

What Micro Deposits do you (or could you) offer to your consulting firm’s clients?


16 Comments
  1. Ian Brodie
    July 10, 2019 at 7:20 am Reply

    Couldn’t agree more.

    For those of us to whom this doesn’t come naturally, or who are from cultures that are less effusive, it can be hard work early on.

    I remember working in Paris in 2004 where my Italian client partner Gianluigi forcibly walked me around the office a couple of mornings making me shake hands with people and say “good morning” – because the traditional British morning grunt of acknowledgement just isn’t seen as that friendly in Europe apparently.

    Those little small acts really did make a difference.

    • David A. Fields
      July 10, 2019 at 7:37 am Reply

      Great case study, Ian, and I very much appreciate you sharing your experience. I 100% agree that Micro Deposits do not come naturally for some people.

      Heck, for some of us consultants who are more left-brained, analytically minded and introverted, no relationship deposits come naturally. Fortunately, as you pointed out, it’s a skill that can be learned.

    • Andrew Ward
      July 10, 2019 at 11:52 am Reply

      This aligns very closely with what I remember of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” – and makes a lot of sense to me.

      Interestingly, I also had the same experience as Ian on a business trip to France – shaking hands with the entire office every day seems to be a thing!

      I remember reading somewhere about the idea of warm climate cultures and cold climate cultures – where cold climate cultures were focused on productivity, and warm climate cultures were focused on relationships. The culture of the client can influence whether a few minutes of personal chat at the start of a conference call will be viewed as positive bonding or annoying time-wasting. 🙂

      • David A. Fields
        July 10, 2019 at 12:12 pm Reply

        Great point, Andrew. There are definitely cultural differences that come into play, and keeping an eye on those becomes increasingly important as the size of your relationship deposit grows. Inviting someone out for dinner and drinks, for instance, is a huge plus in some cultures and a relationship killer in others.

        Fortunately, Micro Deposits seem to operate well across all cultures. I’ve never run into any person from any country or culture who objected to an extra “Thank you.” That includes some Asian cultures where I’ve encountered almost a competition for who can exhibit more deference. But I could be wrong on this and will welcome feedback from folks who are travel through the worlds’ cultures more than me.

        Thanks for the second observation on France, too!

    • David Graves
      July 16, 2019 at 7:09 am Reply

      I have spent most of my career abroad, traveling to more than 50 countries on business. I agree relationship is important, and showing genuine interest is appreciated. However I disagree with offering flattering comments. They don’t build relationship and can actually reduce credibility. What builds relationship and credibility is remembering prior conversations and offering support, such as sending a link to a relevant article, giving a book, making an introduction, or asking follow up questions.

      • David A. Fields
        July 16, 2019 at 7:38 am Reply

        With all that travel, you’ve probably built a lot of relationships with pilots and flight attendants!

        Seriously, you’re right, David, that insincere flattery may not contribute much to a relationship… though, research shows even gratuitous kindness can grease the skids on a deal. More importantly, rarely does an honest, flattering remark go astray.

        The examples you’ve given for creating a relationship deposit with a contact or prospect are definitely among the effective strategies. Thank you for calling them out!

  2. Kerry Nesbit
    July 10, 2019 at 10:53 am Reply

    Hey, David. This is a lovely idea, but I would recommend being mindful of how a remark might be received and interpreted—particularly in the workplace—before making it. In particular, depending on the relationship of the people involved, commenting on someone’s appearance could come across as an inappropriate flirtation or even creepy sexual harassment. Fortunately, I seem to be a natural micro-depositor. If I think something nice about another person, I tend to share it as the thought occurs to me. I’ve just learned from experience to share judiciously and make sure my remark won’t be misinterpreted. In that spirit, I have found The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to be one of the most helpful books I’ve read as I’m trying to relaunch a 30-year-old creative services firm as a specialized consultancy. And let me know if you find out whether the daughter took the bath. The suspense is killing me!

    • David A. Fields
      July 10, 2019 at 12:05 pm Reply

      Kerry, you’ve brought up an interesting topic and one I considered while including the “You look very dapper today” example.

      My sense and the feedback I received when I queried a range of people about this was that a simple compliment is generally well received and poses little risk. There are, of course, situations (and tones) that are inappropriate, and you’re right to raise that as a warning flag.

      That’s also why I prefer language such as, “You look dapper” or “That suit is a snazzy color” rather than “You look nice.” Nice is far too open to interpretation and is often used during intentional flirtations.

      Thanks for raising the topic, Kerry.

  3. Dr Linne Bourget
    July 10, 2019 at 2:24 pm Reply

    In my experience this is something women do more, and I have to remember to do so as my clients are almost all male executives who do this less. I work with sci/tech/healthcare/engineering execs. and enjoy their intellectual culture.

    As a behavioral scientist/positive leadership & change expert I focus on modeling the interpersonal relationship skills they need. This works well as I enjoy the intellectual and emotional aspects of working together…never a dull moment!
    Thanks for all your insights, much appreciated!
    Dr. Linne Bourget, M.A., M.B.A., Ph.D., trailblazer positive appreciative change leadership, and closet science and math addict…LOL.

    • David A. Fields
      July 10, 2019 at 5:47 pm Reply

      You’re smart to model good behavior, especially for the linear, technical clients who have weaker soft skills. Many of that group will have no idea that you’re building a relationship with them while you’re forging the bond. Then, almost by magic, they always call you as their trusted advisor. Imagine that!

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Linne, which is hugely helpful. Also, have fun with your closet science 😉

  4. Tony Lew, CoSolo - Peer Accountability and Coaching Community for Independent Consultants
    July 11, 2019 at 2:22 am Reply

    This is such a timely tip as I just moved into a new co-working space and would love to get on the positive side with my neighbors!

    • David A. Fields
      July 11, 2019 at 7:01 am Reply

      Cool, Tony. Let’s hear it for good timing!

      (Maybe you can leave a copy of the article on your new neighbor’s desk… a Micro Deposit that could spark deposits in return.)

      I appreciate you sharing the impact of this idea on you. That’s a big deposit to me and to other readers.

      • Tony
        July 12, 2019 at 12:24 pm Reply

        I want to top that and instead leave a copy of your book on their desk.

        But your book is out of stock! What is best way to get like 25 copies of your irresistible guide?

        • David A. Fields
          July 15, 2019 at 11:29 am

          Great idea, Tony! It turns out the book wasn’t out of stock (Amazon.com has plenty); just some of the bulk suppliers ran out because a number of larger firms had purchased big blocks. Thanks for the support, Tony!

  5. Ismail Abdur-Rahman
    August 6, 2019 at 3:11 pm Reply

    David, I love this concept. While I do try to make the effort to cultivate professional relationships organically, making a conscious effort to create micro-deposits would likely yield even better results for me. I’ll be attending a few meetings this week, and I’ll try to cultivate some micro-deposits and see what kind of results they yield.

    • David A. Fields
      August 7, 2019 at 7:36 am Reply

      Cool beans, Ismail. Let me know how your meetings go this week and how it felt to make Micro Deposits.

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