Let’s finish up with Goldilocks, that unrepentant trespasser, porridge thief and handy metaphor for everything “just right.”
When last we left our fair-haired bear bait, she was pointing to Significance as one of the key indicators of the perfect project for your consulting firm. (See this article.) Goldi’s Five-by-Five zone consists of your prospect’s top five priorities and his boss’s top five priorities.
Consulting opportunities in the Five-by-Five zone are within the reach of your contact’s pay grade, and generally important enough to warrant seeking help.
However, Goldilocks wistfully notes another factor you should consider, because: 1) she should have left the bear’s house before the cops showed up, and 2) Significance alone can lead you astray.
Plenty of “top priorities” never cross the finish line and plenty of consulting proposals on high-priority challenges never convert into signed projects.
The real winners—the projects that hold the most promise for your consulting firm—emerge when you (and Goldi) also keep an eye on the…
The Time Horizon looks at your prospect’s Five-by-Five zone and probes, “Yeah, I get those are your priorities… but can you give me the time scale?”
You may think that the smaller the scale the better (“It’s my top priority this minute!”), since that implies high urgency.
Time Horizon is different from urgency, though.
Urgency helps you close projects; Time Horizon helps you identify the right projects to close.
To be clear, more urgency is virtually always better. For instance, extreme urgency allowed a consulting firm I talked to early this week to sign a project within hours of their first contact with a prospect. (Yes, the prospect reached out in the morning and agreed to the scope and fees in the afternoon!)
However, a Time Horizon that’s too short can indicate a priority that’s fleeting, low value, or already handled.
For instance, consider your consulting prospect’s priority for the moment (“I’m starving. Lunch, anyone?”), for the day (“I must complete this audit by [5:00]”) and even for the month (“I’m meeting with the Big Cheese in three weeks”). All reside in the Five-by-Five zone, but none indicate enticing consulting opportunities.
On the flip side, you don’t want your consulting firm to chase huge, long-term priorities that occupy the corporate equivalent of a bucket list. (“My number one priority is to leave a legacy when I retire… in 30 years.”)
The perfect Time Horizon for a consulting project generally falls in a narrow band:
From quarterly goals to three-year plans.
You’re looking for Five-by-Five priorities associated with the next three to 36 months.
Multiple, linked milestones inside the ideal Time Horizon are even better. For instance, consulting heaven is when your prospect says, “I need help identifying an acquisition target that I can present to my Board this quarter. That’s the only way I’ll be able to make an acquisition this year, and that’s the linchpin in my three-year plan.”
Use Significance and Time Horizon together to triangulate on your perfect, consulting project opportunities.
Now that you know what those Goldilocks projects look like, you’ll find them easier to spot.
You can also proactively uncover excellent consulting opportunities with a question like, “What are your top priorities and your boss’s top priorities over the next quarter, year and couple of years?”
What have you found to be the ideal Time Horizon for your consulting practice’s projects?
Text and images are © 2022 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.