Barnstable Balderdally, EVP at Ghoti Corporation (a.k.a. FishCo) asks whether you can help with his plasma node leadership challenge. Two options:
- “Yes I can!” you confidently pronounce. Although plasma node leadership isn’t your consulting firm’s focus, you feel great about the lucrative project you’re about to capture.
- “No, I’m afraid that’s not in my wheelhouse,” you respectfully reply. Although you’ve declined a tempting opportunity, you’re invigorated by your disciplined adherence to your consulting firm’s strategy.
Which is the right answer when a prospect invites you to work on a project outside your firm’s core? Let’s discuss that.
The easy answer is Yes. That’s a layup. Barney wants you, you want business, you exchange “I dos” and life is good.
The courageous answer is No. Saying No is much more difficult than agreeing to move forward. However, that courage does reward you with a few benefits:
- Creates Room for Good Projects. Spurning off-strategy projects, low margin projects, and/or projects with undesirable clients reserves capacity for on-strategy, high-margin consulting projects with fabulous clients.
- Drives You to Win Good Business. You’ve made room for the type of consulting work you want and, huh, now there’s a hole in your revenue that you have to fill!
- Enhances Your Ability to Win Good Business. Clarity and specificity sells. Rejecting Barney’s plasma node leadership project makes it easy for Barney and every other prospect to be crystal clear on where your consulting firm adds value. More work in your core also strengthens your credibility, which increases your right to win. (See this article.)
- Increases Referrals. The clarity and specificity that boosts sales also makes it easy for Barney to remember you and refer you to others.Should you ever say “Yes I can” to off-strategy projects? Of course. It’s unrealistic and silly to adopt a blindly rigid stance.
Guidelines for Saying “Yes I Can” vs. “No”
Say Yes to core projects (obviously). The tough call is when you could take on Barney’s project, but it doesn’t fit your consulting firm’s core. In these cases…
Say Yes if Barney is a current client. Expanding within current clients is good consulting business and broadens your capabilities. Plus, existing clients will typically approach you with consulting projects that extend naturally from your core.
Usually say No if Barney is a new client. An unfamiliar prospect offering you an off-strategy consulting project is a trap. Accepting these initiatives dilutes your focus and, therefore, the deleterious long-term effect on revenue exceeds any short term influx of cash.
Say Yes if Barney is a new client only if you’re running on empty. If you literally have no clients and no consulting revenue coming in, that could be the market signaling you to shift direction. Saying “Yes I can” could be the first step in establishing a more profitable, successful consulting firm that focuses on, say, plasma node leadership.
As your core consulting businesses surpasses $1-2 million in revenue, consider expanding your core to include closely related offerings.
When your core offering reaches a stable $4-7 million in consulting revenue, consider adding another core offering to your firm.
Do you usually say “Yes I can” or “No thank you” to prospects who offer you off-strategy consulting projects?
Text and images are © 2022 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.