Happy New Year!
It’s the first week of the year and one thing you’re probably wondering is what you and your consulting firm should do first. Right now.
Your consulting prospects are asking the same question. What should they do now? What should their priority be?
Unfortunately, their list could be topped with challenges that your consulting firm doesn’t solve—penetrating the blacklight market, designing an office layout that houses 200 employees in a 50-employee space, or inventing new uses for leftover holiday yams.
Where does that leave you?
Without a consulting engagement.
Your consulting prospects’ investment decision doesn’t only occur this week. It happens every week. Every day. And many consulting prospects prioritize their resources and attention based on the WIN question:
What’s Important Now?
In fact, there’s an entire management philosophy built around that question.
I’m a fan of the WIN approach, especially for consultants and consulting firms that are feeling overwhelmed or are struggling to prioritize.
But let’s go back to your consulting firm’s prospects. If the problem your consulting firm solves is important to them, and they recognize the tremendous value your consulting work could create for them, then why are they still not awarding you a consulting engagement?
Because in answering What’s Important Now? you’re focused on Important and your consulting prospect is obsessed with Now.
People—consultants and clients alike—rank urgency above importance. Immediacy trumps long-term impact.
Hence, your consulting project that could deliver extraordinary wins in 12 months or a couple of years constantly loses to pressing demands.
Prospects will respond to dozens of fire drills without ever investing in your long-term, conflagration-prevention consulting.
If time pressure is constantly over-weighted, how can you win consulting projects that feature long-term benefits?
By ensuring every consulting project and every one of your proposals contains a VIP:
Valuable, Immediate Progress
What’s the VIP for your consulting project? For your consulting offering?
If your consulting work delivers soft, long term benefits, the VIP may not be obvious. Even if you’re addressing something as tangible and concrete as top-line revenue by offering sales training, the impact of your training may not show up for many months.
Many months is not immediate. You need VIP that creates impact now.
Let’s say you’re working on a culture issue or a leadership question or organization design. How do you create immediate value or solve an urgent issue as part of your work?
Fortunately, the value your consulting firm delivers in the short term needn’t be huge. Just measurable. You’re goal is to create a justification for elevating your consulting proposal to the top of the priority list.
Three Questions to Identify Your VIP
How can your consulting project demonstrate a measurable change for your client within the next 30 days?
How can you tie your work to a burning fire—something that may not be overly important, but is urgent to the client?
What small thorns can you remove for your client in the short term, on your way to delivering the larger win later?
How have you been able to create immediate wins in your consulting projects? Please share below, so that other consultants can learn from your experience.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
Hi, thanks for the sharing. One example: I’ve been able to convince clients of long-term benefits of digital branding by demonstrating immediate wins of generating customer leads through digital marketing.
Great example, Khengwah. Your ability to create those immediate wins as a proof of concept is, no doubt, a huge plus in your ability to secure long-term engagements. I’m glad you contributed your work as a case study.
This article is spot on.
Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is often a long-term approach to performance improvement, but most companies want results now. For the last 20 years, I’ve used a one-day, Agile approach to getting results and implementing the skills. I want participants to create improvements right in the classroom. Things they can implement right away, not months in the future. This seems to work for my clients although I’m bucking the headwinds of traditional LSS. Recently, I’ve seen conference presentations by Christus Health, Novartis and Crayola using a similar approach to get results now.
How can an Agile approach accelerate your client’s immediate and long-term success?
Another excellent example, Jay. Agile, in particular, is an excellent thinking approach that can be applied broadly in consulting. (I first learned about what I call the “C to B to A” approach many years before Agile, and it’s been a cornerstone of much of my consulting work.)
By the way, there’s a bit more on the idea you’ve surfaced in this article.
I’m glad you highlighted the role of an iterative approach in the quest to create Valuable Immediate Progress, Jay.
David, thanks for sharing this. You’re right on target. I’ve been guilty of citing only long-term, systemic improvements when I’ve spelled out the value proposition in my proposals – which, by the way, got rejected. To generate some valuable immediate progress, I’ve focused the early part of the engagement on changing the attitudes and behaviors of the principals in the organization. When they begin to see the immediate change in their team because of their change in approach, they’re much more on board with the systemic changes that we need to implement.
Mike, I appreciate your sharing the good and the bad results, both of which are terrific illustrations of the need for Valuable Immediate Progress in consulting proposals (and projects). Is there any possibility of baking in more concrete wins than attitude changes? Just curious. Thanks for joining the conversation.
That’s been an ongoing struggle. Most of my project are large-scale, corporate transformation with lots of moving parts (long-term, big operational changes, tech-enabled). It’s hard to find a small chunk to carve out and make happen quickly. I’m working hard to add some trialability to my offerings, but I haven’t found a good methodology yet, but I am cautiously optimistic about something I just kicked off.
Good for you for keeping an eye on immediate value. My guess is that when you figure out how to add that component to your enterprise-level consulting engagements, it will unleash a wave of success for your firm. Definitely keep me and other readers posted!
Great article David. I know of consults who provide VIP through email marketing, and it has won them huge long term projects by focusing on the immediate benefits they can provide to the prospects painful situation. I think it’s similar to weekly emails you send to us (you don’t say this advice will help you 12 months later). How can we utilize email marketing to provide VIP and win big projects?
Good point, Kwasi! Visibility-building efforts such as writing and speaking can be opportunities to create immediate value, and they definitely produce lucrative, long-term engagements.
For many consultants, the question is still how to provide VIP within the framework of a project. Building on your suggestion: consulting firms could consider how to blur the lines between marketing (email, podcasts, etc. etc.) that provide immediate value and project work. Excellent suggestion, Kwasi.
Great point. Something I need to be more aware of as I work with my clients.
The more you apply thoughtful, inquisitive time against this concept, the more you’re able to identify and offer immediate impact. A thimbleful of creativity can reveal a keg of value. Thanks for chiming in, Tom!