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What Your Consulting Firm Should Do RIGHT NOW

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.

  1. Ian Loew
    January 2, 2020 at 2:21 pm Reply

    Staying top of mind with face to face meetings, preferably not business but just chatting it up like dinner, I find is usually best. Also shooting off at a minimum quarterly emails highlighting success stories helps too.

    • David A. Fields
      January 2, 2020 at 3:19 pm Reply

      Those are interesting and useful techniques for business development, Ian; however, I’ll admit it’s not clear to me what they have to do with creating immediate value in a proposal or project. Thanks for chiming in on the conversation.

  2. Gopal
    January 3, 2020 at 10:38 pm Reply

    David, thank you for putting this so important perspective, so succinctly.
    Reminds me of how doctors approach their work – combination of painkillers + actual medicine.
    Wishing you a Happy 2020

    • David A. Fields
      January 5, 2020 at 5:34 pm Reply

      “Actual medicine” as opposed to pain killers struck my funny bone, Gopal. Good one! Also a great analogy, because you’re right: doctors know they have to address the immediate symptoms first–particularly if there’s acute pain–before they can look into the underlying disease.

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion, Gopal.

  3. David Panitch
    January 6, 2020 at 3:56 pm Reply

    Admittedly, I haven’t been reading your thoughtful articles in too long a period of time! The concept of urgency and immediacy has often caused my prospects pause in traveling down the road of selecting and implementing a new ERP system. BUT I could help them with some process improvement initiatives leveraging their current software that would provide them with Valuable, Immediate Progress. Thank you for stimulating new thoughts for 2020.

    • David A. Fields
      January 7, 2020 at 1:47 pm Reply

      The idea you’re suggesting sounds very attractive, David. What happens if you combine the VIP of leveraging their current software with the eventual, long-term benefits of a new ERP system? Either way, kudos to you for coming up with a new offering with immediate impact.

      Thanks for posting your idea, and let me know how it plays out in the market.

  4. Alex Brenchat
    January 7, 2020 at 12:40 pm Reply

    Thanks David and all for this conversation. We (consultants) are always looking for large volume sales projects from new prospects however those are more difficult to win. I found a fruitful approach to identify a challenge the prospect may have that can be solved with a small budget in a short timeframe. I found this strategy very helpful to get immediate sales from a prospect to build the initial trust needed with the client for future long-term projects.

    • David A. Fields
      January 7, 2020 at 1:51 pm Reply

      A small project can often be a great way to get started with a new client. It’s important to remember to make the scope bite-sized rather than discounting to make the fee bite-sized. I’ve referred to this elsewhere as the Prospect’s Initial Experience (or PIE, as outlined in this article).

      I appreciate you adding your perspective, Alex.

  5. Stephen Murphy
    January 8, 2020 at 8:30 am Reply

    This is a superb observation. What you are doing is what every consultant is should do, i.e. putting yourself in the shoes of your client. Apart from the financial consideration, he’s taking a big chance on you, risking his reputation and maybe even his position. Immediate results, even partial, are tangible proof to him that he’s made the right decision. It provides a superior experience for him and ensures he stays engaged. I love the thinking and intend to adjust our framework to include ‘early results’ within. Thanks David.

    • David A. Fields
      January 8, 2020 at 2:39 pm Reply

      Exactly right, Stephen, and well said. Hiring a consultant is a risky, anxiety-filled decision. VIP helps alleviate some of that anxiety. (By the way, congratulating the client on a smart decision immediately after he signs with you also helps.) Thanks for joining the conversation, Stephen.

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