There’s an impressively effective method for winning new consulting projects that is only possible when you’re working at the enterprise level—i.e., you’ve transcended your immediate decision maker and are talking with her peers across the organization. I call it Triangulation.
To triangulate you’ll have to hone your ability to recognize and encourage Want and you’ll need to tap into the desires for Inclusion and Social Proof. Remember, Need provides the rationale to do a project, but Want – that sense of urgency and desire – is what compels a client to actually move forward and spend money with you. (And yes, I know the illustration above shows a prism, not triangulation. Trust me, a bit of free association will help you succeed with this technique.)
I’ve broken down Triangulation into three steps.
STEP 1: Invest in One-on-One Conversations Across the Organization to Uncover Individual Wants
The better you know the individuals throughout your client’s organization, the better you’ll know their to-do lists and their unique, personal drivers. You’ll know who is hot on product development and eager to climb the corporate ladder, whose goal is to bang out efficiency projects and spend more time at home, and who mysteriously collects a paycheck for gazing out the window at passing butterflies. How do you learn this? By investing in open, one-on-one discussions with people.
After a while you’ll find out that Max is extremely concerned with how he’s perceived by peers, so your proposals to him will include public scorecarding. In contrast when you submit a proposal to Bernadette, whom you’ve learned is motivated by fear of failure, you’ll introduce mechanisms to minimize project risk. Irene would give her right arm for an insect on a pin… we’ll just skip her.
STEP 2: Recognize the Common Desires for Inclusion and Social Proof
In Step 1 you uncovered individual, internally focused Wants. But people have outward-focused, social Wants too. Your buyer has a strong desire for Inclusion— she wants to be part of a group or team. She also seeks Social Proof or group reassurance—confirmation from others that her choices are right. Not every decision maker you encounter will harbor these desires, but most will and your job is to recognize who does.
STEP 3: Expose Wants that are Shared by Multiple Individuals
When you become adept at the art of uncovering Wants, and you’re conversing with decision makers across your client, Triangulation kicks in.
You’ll be chatting with Ray in Operations and he mentions optimizing distribution, but it’s not his top priority. At lunch, Ellen from Marketing raises distribution as something she wants to get to at some point. Then you’re having drinks with Carla the CEO and she says, “You know what, one of these days we should work with you to improve our distribution process.”
Boom, you’re off! When you reveal to Carla (or Ray or Ellen) that others in the organization share her wish to optimize distribution, she receives strong Inclusion and Social Proof signals. That increases her Want and your distribution project shoots to the top of her priority list.
Triangulating Wants will become your favorite part of working at the enterprise level. It sometimes feels like you’re manufacturing big projects out of wisps of possibility, and that’s how you build a booming consulting practice.
Have you ever Triangulated a project into being? Tell us about your success in the comments section below.
This article is Part 6 of a seven-part series in which I show you how to win more follow-on and pull-through business by mastering the Six Pillars of Consulting Success at the “enterprise” level.
Part 5 – Will Clients Need You Over and Over Again? Yes, If…
Part 7 – Don’t Just Win Projects. Create them. Here’s How ….
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.
Highly intuitive, and well explained. Making this guidance explicit will help me do it more intentionally. And I love how it clearly is a way genuinely to help the client — you’re creating projects that meet their “collective unconscious” needs (it’s not something you’re inventing and trying to make them want).
Thomas, thank you for pointing out that this technique benefits clients! Everything I recommend is best for clients and consultants–I firmly believe that consultants should only utilize approaches that add value to both sides of the table. Keep me updated on how you do with Triangulation at your clients.
Although I have worked more with high-growth small businesses and less at the enterprise level, I love the fact that I had to look up “lepidopterist.”
And had the fun of laughing when the first part of the definition was “a person who specializes in the study of Lepidoptera.”
But knowing it made your final illustration even funnier.
Thanks, Jaime. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and had fun reading it. Just imagine how much fun it was to write! Since you’re working with smaller companies, think about the Enterprise level within communities. Many small businesses belong to communities such as BNI. If multiple companies in the community have the same Want, there may be a way to do a combined project that benefits all of them at a reduced cost for each. They’ll feel included, validated and like they are getting a great value from you!
So many of my projects involve deliverables that are confidential and/or proprietary, that the only place I can use them to my marketing advantage is via internal cross-selling. That said, not all clients are comfortable with consultants approaching other organizations or reaching out to more senior level decision makers. I think it’s important to have one’s direct client onboard with such efforts. One other related issue I’d like to hear about what to do when others are threatened by the quality and sophistication of my deliverables relative to the norm. Thanks in advance for any perspectives.
Richard, your absolutely right that your current client shouldn’t feel like you’re going around or above them. That’s why it’s ideal to establish relationships around the company as part of your current project. I always include interviews with a extremely wide range of executives at the start of a project. (See this article: Immediately After: The 6 Steps to Take When You Win a Consulting Project).
The interviews allow you to establish relationships throughout the company, and once those are in place you can follow up with all those people at will–after all, it’s not going around your buyer to maintain contact with people you already know!
During one of the projects that David was working on for my company (I’ve since left that company), I witnessed firsthand the fruits of what David talks about in this article. At the start of the project, I was very concerned with how my associates would react toward the hiring of a consultant – – something very new to our firm. However, after the initial phase during which David met individually and collectively with all of our management team and others involved in the project, I was amazed and relieved with how positively everyone viewed the project. It clearly was the result of the approach laid out in this article. Each person felt they had been heard and understood, and that their concerns were addressed throughout the project.
Wow, Sandy! I don’t think I’ve every had a client post on my consultant-oriented blog before. Your feedback is much appreciated. You have also highlighted a core principal in my practice which extends far beyond winning projects: listening.
Right-side up thinking, putting the client first and listening to understand are all fundamental to becoming a successful consultant. They are also harder skills to master than most people realize and, as with any skill, a bit of instruction on technique and a lot of practice go a long way.
Thanks again for chiming in on this discussion. A first for the Irresistible Consulting Moments blog. W00t!