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Why Certain Consulting Firms Win Larger Projects (And How Yours Can Too)

Would you rather be like Connie or Vin?

Constance Fidanse and Vincent Dohor are real people we work with (the names have been changed, obviously) and both have been running their small consulting firms for around five years.

Interestingly, Connie and Vin target the same industries with very similar services. However, Connie’s average project size, total consulting firm revenue and personal take-home income are almost ten times Vin’s.

And she’s not working any harder.

So, wouldn’t you rather be like Connie than Vin?

You can be.

The Big Contrast Between Connie and Vin

Winning larger, richer, more lucrative consulting projects results from a number of factors and is an approach we call “Same Rain, Bigger Drops.”

In this case, though, the difference between Connie and Vin is simple and quite striking:

Who they’re peering at.

Meaning, who, on the client side, they view as their peers—people that they approach confidently as equals.

Connie views herself and her consulting firm as the consulting equivalent of a Michelin-star chef. Vin sees himself more as the the cook at the local BBQ joint that has good ribs.

Connie believes her peers are C-Suite denizens in billion-dollar companies, whereas Vin identifies with mid-level managers in small businesses and feels out of his depth when he’s talking to senior executives.

As a result, Connie connects, cultivates, nurtures, and wins projects with individuals who control large budgets and who view Connie’s consulting firm as a high-value partner.

While Vin’s consulting firm delivers excellent work, they have a much harder time winning consulting projects, they’re often treated as a commodity supplier and their fees are modest. (“Modest” is a euphemism for too low.)

7 Steps to Peer at a Higher Level

You can elevate your consulting firm’s contacts and connections by committing to act on the steps below.

This isn’t a challenge your consulting firm will resolve overnight—you won’t wake up tomorrow with Connie’s golden Rolodex and platinum opportunities. On the other hand, in 90 days or less your consulting firm can experience a meaningful change in the level, size, status and perception of your projects.

Step 1: Define Your Consulting Firm’s New Peers

Who do you want to be your peer? Why? Take the 3-5 minutes to write down your answers. You have to be clear and concrete in your definition in order to make progress.

Step 2: Publicly Commit to Your New Target

Share your intention with at least one friend, mentor or contact outside your consulting firm and family whom you respect and wouldn’t want to disappoint.

Step 3: Identify Your Confidence Gap

Write down the experience, capabilities, insights and/or knowledge you think you need to have to confidently feel like you can converse with your new target at a peer level.

(While you’re at it, take your target off the pedestal—they’re just ordinary people who have reached a higher level of success than your current peers.)

Step 4: Create Your Confidence Plan

Now that you know the gaps you need to fill, create a 90-day plan to fill at least one or two of those gaps. You can research, read, study and develop insights yourself. You can also borrow experience and expertise from others!

Step 5: Identify Your Next Three Peers

Select three specific individuals in your targeted peer group that are within reach. “Within reach” includes people you already know and those your consulting firm could be introduced to by someone with whom you currently have a strong relationship.

Step 6: Map Out Your Cultivation Path

Detail your plan to meet (if necessary) and nurture a peer-level relationship with the three specific individuals you’re targeting over the next 90 days.

Step 7: Execute, Learn and Repeat

Work your plans for creating confidence and cultivating higher, peer-level relationships. At the end of 90 days review your progress. What went well? How can you raise your peer sights even higher?

Repeat the process every 90 days.

Have you ever changed who your consulting firm peers at?

  1. Rachel
    June 1, 2022 at 6:01 am Reply

    New here. Love the action step type blog and this is exactly what I needed at this time, because coincedentally it is what I am working on. So the tips are most def helpful!

    • David A. Fields
      June 1, 2022 at 8:54 am Reply

      Welcome, Rachel, and three cheers for today’s article being on point for your current situation. If you’re working on raising the level of your peers, keep me apprised of your progress.

      Thanks for joining the conversation, Rachel!

  2. Gabrielle Fontaine
    June 1, 2022 at 8:29 am Reply

    Great insights (and stick drawing humor, as always), David. Funny how this works. What has seemed to work for me throughout the years (done subconsciously) with the higher level peers (or anyone I want to connect to really) is…
    1. Be curious about them, what they do, what it’s like to be in their shoes
    2. Ask questions in line with that curiosity
    3. Offer to help support what they are passionate about (if I share that passion)
    Like attracts like (and it’s an easy way for introverts to make connections because the focus is on the other person). What I’ve found is if they feel like you understand them (and their challenges) and actually care, you get pulled into their inner circle really fast. So your comment in Step 3 about them being ordinary people is spot on.
    Thanks for the more structured approach to this, David!

    • David A. Fields
      June 1, 2022 at 8:52 am Reply

      You’ve provided an excellent, Right-Side Up example, Gabrielle. All your steps show you’re interested in THEM– the high-level contact. As a result, you’re drawn into your contact’s circle as a peer.

      People often don’t realize that insecurity is upside-down. When you feel like you’re not at a peer level with someone, that’s you thinking about yourself and how you fit in, not you focusing on your contact.

      Thank you for the excellent example, process, and opportunity to highlight that point, Gabrielle.

    • Michael Toebe
      June 1, 2022 at 1:23 pm Reply

      Thank you for what you wrote, Gabrielle and also mentioning the comfort zone for introverts with your approach. Very insightful and helpful.

      • Gabrielle Fontaine
        June 1, 2022 at 3:00 pm Reply

        Glad you found it helpful, Michael. 🙂

        Yes, David, that’s why my favorite chapter in your book is about right-side-up communication. It makes a HUGE difference! Thank you for all your excellent help and support for consultants.

        • David A. Fields
          June 1, 2022 at 3:59 pm

          You betcha, Gabrielle. Right-Side Up Thinking and communication is central to success for most consultants. It takes practice and persistence, though, and your example will help others stay on track.

      • David A. Fields
        June 1, 2022 at 4:01 pm Reply

        Michael, quite a lot of us in consulting are introverts. That’s one reason the “hard core” approach to selling that’s taught by so many sales professionals doesn’t fit well in consulting. On the other hand, it’s also a reason many of us need rituals or other mechanisms to push us out of our comfort zones and into a consistent outreach habit. I appreciate your joining the conversation, Michael!

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