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Two Proven Investments to Improve Sales of Your Consulting Services

If you want your consulting firm to attract and close more engagements than you’re currently winning, you’ll need to make a change – to invest in growth. But where? The answer will probably surprise you.

Below is a broad (and admittedly incomplete) range of people and services you could invest in to accelerate your consulting firm’s Business Development results:

Branding agency

Messaging expert

Marketing agency

“Professional” salesperson, rainmaker or BD specialist

BDR/appointment setter

Entry-level consultants

Senior-level consultant with a “book of business”

Social media marketer

SEO expert, service or agency

Sales trainer

Pastry chef

Market research service

PR agency

Consulting BD “coach”

BD “engine builder”

Strategy consultant

Content writer

That’s a big list with a lot of options!

Where do you think you should start if your goal is to sell more consulting services?

The 3 BD Requirements

To invest your time and resources wisely, let’s look at the process of winning consulting business. You know the Six Steps to Unlimited Clients. (If you don’t know them, do yourself a huge favor by reading this book.)

For the purposes of this investment decision, let’s simplify the six steps into three BD requirements:

Impact – Solving the Right Problem for the Right People with the Right Solution (at the Right Time)

Visibility – Being considered a credible, reliable resource for a valuable solution by more, high-potential prospects.

Rainmaking – Effectively handling all the “human-to-human” bits of winning business, from connecting, through becoming the obvious choice, to proposing, negotiating and closing deals.

(Wondering where Right-Side Up Thinking fits? It’s a mindset that supports the entire process.)

Which one of those requirements is the weakest link for your firm, and which, if you invest in it, will create the greatest increase in sales over the long run?

The Visibility Fallacy

Many (perhaps most) firms confidently point to visibility as their weakest link. Leaders of these firms claim, “When we get an opportunity, we almost always win. So we just need to be in front of more opportunities–that’s a Visibility problem.”

Sound familiar?

Even firms that believe their visibility is strong also view visibility as the fastest path to new clients, and that’s where they invest their money.

Hence, tons of cash flows to website builders, SEO optimizers, branding agencies, social media agencies, content writers, appointment setters, etc.

That’s the wrong investment. (Sorry.)

Visibility is the least common problem facing most consulting firms.

Yes, visibility does matter. It just matters less than the other two BD requirements.

Spending on visibility is like your teenage son buying expensive speakers and big amplifiers in an effort to attract more neighborhood youth to his dance party. Unfortunately, if his speakers are pointed into the bathroom and he’s playing Viennese waltzes, his audio equipment investment will sorely disappoint him.

The Right Resources to Hire

Your #1 priority should be improving your consulting firm’s Impact.

We’ve worked with hundreds of consultancies, and the most successful consulting firms invariably boast outstanding Impact.

Therefore, spend resources on market research to determine what your clients actually want, what they’re currently paying for, and where they are dissatisfied with the solutions they’re currently buying.

Your #2 priority should be establishing effective, sustainable Rainmaking at your firm.

You need a Business Development approach at your firm that will continue to succeed as your firm grows and more consultants take on BD responsibility.

That includes, tools, systems and, most importantly, ongoing coaching for everyone who has or will have BD responsibilities.

Therefore, your best investment after market research is into developing a world class BD Engine.

What About Visibility?

If you spend wisely on market research and BD Engine development, your visibility-building efforts will yield better, more efficient results; i.e., more consulting clients with less effort and a lower spend.

Visibility is established by strong rainmakers working within an excellent system. As a matter of course, your rainmakers will be networking and engaging in visibility-building activities such as speaking, writing, and collaborating.

This is a good week to redirect your spends from wasteful marketing activities into optimizing your Impact and improving your BD Engine.

Has investing in understanding your market ever helped your consulting firm?

  1. Gaurav
    April 10, 2024 at 6:13 am Reply

    Spot on David -impact and rainmaking and then making both sustainer rather seesawing between them.

    • David A. Fields
      April 10, 2024 at 7:23 am Reply

      Good point, Gaurav. Fortunately, although the work on Impact is never done, once you have a solid handle on what the market wants, changes can be slow moving and your investment can be modest.

      On the other hand, rainmaking that rests on a solid BD Engine requires much longer to establish and a higher investment to maintain for a growing firm. We’ve seen pretty consistently that the initial effort to create a sustainable, high-functioning BD engine takes 2-3 years.

      Thank you for weighing in on the topic, Gaurav!

  2. Christopher Filipiak
    April 10, 2024 at 8:27 am Reply

    This is a really powerful and clarifying article. Thanks David!

    • David A. Fields
      April 10, 2024 at 10:12 am Reply

      You’re very kind, Christopher. I appreciate your feedback!

  3. BJ Jhaveri
    April 10, 2024 at 11:43 am Reply

    Thanks David for these excellent insights. I’ll do some more introspection and research on ‘Impact’ coupled with steps for creating a BD Engine. Thanks again!

    • David A. Fields
      April 10, 2024 at 11:54 am Reply

      Good on you for taking those steps, BJ! Research rather than introspection is the key to effective Impact. Remember, consulting isn’t about you, it’s about THEM — your clients and prospects. You can only find out what they want by talking to them.

      Thanks for joining the conversation, BJ!

  4. Zac
    April 10, 2024 at 8:00 pm Reply

    David, please specify the coaching and investment you recommend to develop a world-class BD engine. Thanks!

    • David A. Fields
      April 11, 2024 at 9:49 am Reply

      Fair question, Zac. It depends on where your consulting practice is on the journey.

      For a $5M-$25M/year boutique firm, for instance, every year they should be entering their new “class” of consultants that are on the edge of receiving BD responsibilities into a 2-3 year program to equip them with the skills and confidence to succeed. That’s an investment we have seen deliver crazy-good returns.

      Larger firms need a different approach. Smaller boutiques are still more reliant on one or two people and benefit from establishing the basics of a BD Engine, including a solid Fishing Line, compelling Core Models, and consistent, best-practice implementation of BD fundamentals like the Context Discussion.

      Solo consultants benefit in a huge way from 1-on-1 coaching to help them create a reliable BD Engine. In my ideal world, a solo consultant reads The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients and works through the exercises, then they attend a Solo Practice Accelerator to take their thinking and practices to the next level, then they join one of our 1-on-1 programs for 2-4 years while they accrue bundles of cash and/or transition to larger firm programs.

      I usually eschew shameless promotion of our programs in these articles and the comments, but your question sorta demanded I mention what we offer. Thanks for the opportunity to explain further, Zac!

  5. Adam Cooper
    April 16, 2024 at 9:37 am Reply

    Hi David, would you draw a distinction between ‘Business Development’ and ‘Sales’? Your article seems to have those two collapsed. In contrast, at my firm, Marketing drives leads into the top of our sales funnel, and then ‘Sales’ (myself and two partners) takes the leads through our sales process.

    • David A. Fields
      April 16, 2024 at 3:04 pm Reply

      Good question, Adam. Business Development encompasses everything from lead generation (which includes marketing) through pursuit and closing of the deal (which is thought of as Sales). In other words, broadly speaking, Marketing + Sales = Business Development. There’s more to it than that, but those are the two sides of the BD Engine we focus on most.

      Thanks for asking, Adam!

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