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The Perfect, Consulting Firm Sales System

What would the perfect, consulting firm sales system include?

Systems are the greatest. They help you master vital tasks and perform them more efficiently and effectively.

That’s why there are extensive personal systems and business systems, such as comprehensive methods for project management, turnkey packages for managing HR administration and, most importantly, a system for learning to cook chocolate desserts that includes recipes, ingredients and the equipment. (In the latest versions, you don’t even have to add your own light bulb to the Easy-Bake oven!)

My team and I identified a range of important components in a business development (a.k.a. BD or sales) system for consulting firms.

Some of the parts are listed below. Admittedly, my view of the list is biased because we’ve developed/installed these systems in many consulting firms.

However, consulting is all about discovery, and I’d love to learn from you. Hence, I left some elements out of the list and kept an open space for you to fill in anything else you think should be in a perfect, consulting firm sales system.

The 10 Components of a Perfect, Consulting Firm Sales System

CRM

A simple, action-oriented CRM to help you create, nurture and leverage relationships

Thought Leadership

A planning template for setting your consulting firm up as an obvious expert, including major initiatives and specific actions

Visibility-Building

A planning template for getting your consulting firm Known by prospects, including major initiatives and specific, actions

Task Management

A mechanism for making sure you’re taking the right steps at the right time

Time Management

A time management/maximization tool for BD that reflects the fact that current client demands (i.e., delivery) can eat up your available hours

Tools

A handy repository of tools, templates, worksheets and scripts for key activities (e.g., account planning) and prospect touchpoints (e.g., proposals, negotiations)

Analytics

Easily accessed meters, dials and reports that indicate bottlenecks/weak spots in your consulting firm’s BD implementation

Mindset Support

Assistance in shifting away from thinking that hinders your BD effectiveness and in adopting/ingraining helpful mindsets

Administration

A mechanism to drive accountability and minimize the administrative burden of BD on consultants


What should the 10th part be to make this a perfect system to help you/your firm succeed at business development? (Or, if you like the list as-is, which of the elements above are most important for you?)


14 Comments
  1. John Ennis
    August 18, 2021 at 5:55 am Reply

    Since we started working with David, we have implemented such a system and it has completely transformed our business for the better.

    To anyone reading this I say, hire David’s team. You will at least 10X your investment and probably well more.

    • David A. Fields
      August 18, 2021 at 7:00 am Reply

      John, you are very kind to post such a glowing endorsement. Success in consulting is built on partnerships. You partner with your clients to help them resolve their challenges and achieve their aspirations. If you’re wise, you also partner with others who can work with you to strengthen your firm. In all cases, it’s the collaborative, joint effort that creates magic.

      You exemplify partnering, John–with your clients, with your staff and with my firm, and it’s extraordinarily fun to watch your consulting practice succeed.

  2. Christopher Filipiak
    August 18, 2021 at 9:27 am Reply

    Hi David – your thought leadership on BD for consulting firms is always on point!

    No doubt, figuring out your sales system can be a challenge for your firm. And, you’ve laid out several critical systems for making sales. Love your list of 9 – especially #8.

    Here are a few additional systems for consideration: Sales workflow – A clear step-by-step process that you take your leads, prospects, and clients through to smoothly help them get to a yes or no and determine if there is a fit to work together. This is the “Rug” that ties the room together.

    A system to Create Conversations. Visibility, marketing, advertising, etc., are all great, but any activity you do needs to end up with having conversations with decision-makers. If you don’t have a plan and system to create conversations, you won’t make sales.

    Powerful Conversations – Conversations are critical to winning engagements. You have to be talking with people in a way that creates clarity and is influential. And, you must have a game plan, questions, and stories for those conversations. Otherwise, you won’t make sales.

    How did you not mention chocolate (Or love)?

    • David A. Fields
      August 18, 2021 at 10:09 am Reply

      Great additions to the list, Chris. While it’s possible there’s overlap (for instance, the CRM and the sales workflow), all your comments on what it takes to win business are spot-on. Consulting is, as you point out, a conversation-driven business.

      (And chocolate was part of the setup, but not part of the system. Inexplicably, there are people who don’t like chocolate. We still accept them as clients.) Thanks for chiming in, Chris.

  3. Christopher Filipiak
    August 18, 2021 at 9:34 am Reply

    I did think of one other critical system – People 🙂

    You need a person to do the work!

    Sales Workflow, Create Conversations, Have Conversations, and People – Boom!

    • David A. Fields
      August 18, 2021 at 10:11 am Reply

      Good point, Chris. One component of a high-functioning business development system is the people. Great job spotting that element that we left out for the article!

  4. Peter Bancroft
    August 18, 2021 at 10:11 am Reply

    As a potential 10th, is there a gap here for something like a “voice”, culture, or a POV on the market? I think of Consulting firms of being made of people, their tools, but also a distinct personality, style and brand which perhaps especially for small firms is important (we’ve all worked with the tech kids, the accountants, the buzzword bingo MBA grads, the guys with tape measures in their shirt pockets, the hipster yoga strategists…). Presumably getting this right, distinctive and complementary is especially important in the operation of the sales engine.

    • David A. Fields
      August 18, 2021 at 11:08 am Reply

      Interesting idea, Peter. Ostensibly, your voice shines through in your Thought Leadership and in your visibility-building efforts. However, the creation and nurturing of your consulting firm’s voice is an important activity, and you’ve made a good case for calling it out explicitly as part of the system.

      I’m glad you shared your thinking, Peter. Very helpful!

  5. Mark Capaldini
    August 18, 2021 at 10:33 am Reply

    This list omits the single most powerful element in my experience — client referrals.

    • David A. Fields
      August 18, 2021 at 11:09 am Reply

      Good catch, Mark. Somewhere in the system must be the activities and approaches you use to encourage referrals. (Also, your scripts and activities to request introductions.) Thanks for adding to the discussion!

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