Consulting firms ranging from solo practitioners to $20m+ boutiques regularly secure engagements on Catalant, Umbrex, BTG and similar talent platforms. Those platforms can be an excellent source of projects for your consulting firm too… if you know how to win on them.
Otherwise they can be a distraction and source of frustration.
Fortunately, we recently conducted two sets of surveys in conjunction with Catalant—one among consultants and another among clients—to understand (among other things) how consulting firms can use the platform most successfully.
We learned a lot. We saw differences between consulting firms that win projects compared to consulting firms that don’t. We also learned directly from clients who post a project on a talent platform how and why they choose certain consultants/consulting firms.
This article highlights just two of the many tips we gleaned from our research.
For a consulting firm that is used to the “normal” way of winning business, talent networks or platforms can seem backwards. Instead of your consulting firm fishing for clients, you’re the fish. You’re one of, say, five fish swimming around a tank under the scrutiny of a prospective client, and you want to get hooked. Hooked means money for your consulting firm.
But let’s back up a step. There were actually a lot of fish vying for this
worm client. Probably at least a dozen or maybe even a couple dozen or more. A big school o’ sardines. Why are there only five fish in the tank?
Because clients almost immediately winnow down the school to five or fewer contenders.
The first two tips to winning business on Catalant-type platforms ensure your consulting firm is one of the few fish in the tank.
Tip 1. Swim Fast
If you can’t apply quickly, don’t bother applying at all. Most consulting firms that could be considered—and might even be best for the project—never receive serious consideration because they were late to the party.
Olympic-level swimmers enhance their natural skills with excellent techniques, equipment and training to get off the blocks ahead of their competition. Your consulting firm can do the same.
If you’re serious about winning business on platforms, then create tools, systems and processes that make you aware of relevant projects and enable you to apply quickly. To make the consideration tank, you want to respond within minutes or hours, not days (or a week!) after a project has been posted.
Tip 2. Screen Yourself
On platforms, only apply for a project when your consulting firm deserves to win.
Carefully consider the reflection looking back at you from your fishbowl. What characteristics do you notice about your consulting firm?
Are you the hungriest for business?
Do all your clients love you?
Are you the most intelligent?
A thought leader?
More innovative than other consultancies?
None of that matters. Clients don’t care if you’re hungry. Every consulting firm’s clients love them. Intelligence and thought leadership aren’t on your clients’ criteria list, nor is an innovative approach—even if your field is innovation.
The fish looking back at you should be a dead-on match for the experience the prospect has said they are looking for, particularly related to the industry and the specific problem specified in the job specifications.
For instance, if the client is looking for a QSR strategist and you have general retail expertise, that’s not close enough. Luxury dining might not be close enough. General strategy? Forget about it.
You have to have experience solving your prospect’s particular problem in their particular industry.
As mentioned above, those two tips will only get you in the tank. Also, some platforms are so tired of the wrong fish flopping around and making a mess, that they’re restricting who can apply or eliminating open applications entirely.
Nevertheless, if your consulting firm wants to derive some of your revenue from talent platforms, the tips above are the place to start.
What about your firm? How are you ensuring you apply quickly and only when you’re qualified?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.