David A. Fields explains how your consulting firm could benefit from his experiment with outreach.
There are people you’ve not talked with in years, and it’s a shame. They’re good people, you enjoyed your relationship with them, plus, reconnecting could help generate business for your consulting firm.
But if you’ve been out of touch for so long, is it really possible to renew the relationship? And if so, how, and is more than one bar of To’ak Art Series Blend required?
Any time you sort through your consulting firm’s network to identify your Network Core, you will find dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of previously strong, A- or B-level relationships that have slipped away.
You think, “Oh, I remember Jack! He was a client of our consulting firm years ago.” Or, “I wonder if Alicia is still the head of that trade association. We haven’t talked since the late ’90s.” Or, “Sarah… Sarah… Hold on. I forgot I had a sister!”
I’m no exception. Even though I’m a huge believer in the value of relationships, sometimes it’s hard to keep up and my consulting firm’s contact list harbors more than one A relationship I’ve inadvertently let dwindle.
Therefore, I decided to run a brief experiment on outreach to lapsed contacts.
My assistant selected a slew of contacts with whom I’d had no contact for more than two years. How he selected these contacts is important, and I’ll get to that in a moment.
I sent a very brief outreach message to each one. The message is also important.
We tracked the response rate.
Because of the selection approach, we included contacts that are notoriously difficult to reach—such as an ex-client who rose to become the CEO of a large company and was too swamped to respond to me when he didn’t need our services.
Key points include:
- Email vs. LinkedIn
- The impact of revived connections
- The relationship restarter email
Read the full post, How Your Consulting Firm Can Benefit From My Experiment With Outreach, on DavidAFields.com.
If you need to improve your firm’s sales system, David A. Fields‘ latest post offers ten components that can help you do it.
What would the perfect, consulting firm sales system include?
Systems are the greatest. They help you master vital tasks and perform them more efficiently and effectively.
That’s why there are extensive personal systems and business systems, such as comprehensive methods for project management, turnkey packages for managing HR administration and, most importantly, a system for learning to cook chocolate desserts that includes recipes, ingredients and the equipment. (In the latest versions, you don’t even have to add your own light bulb to the Easy-Bake oven!)
My team and I identified a range of important components in a business development (a.k.a. BD or sales) system for consulting firms.
Some of the parts are listed below. Admittedly, my view of the list is biased because we’ve developed/installed these systems in many consulting firms.
However, consulting is all about discovery, and I’d love to learn from you. Hence, I left some elements out of the list and kept an open space for you to fill in anything else you think should be in a perfect, consulting firm sales system.
What should the 10th part be to make this a perfect system to help you/your firm succeed at business development? (Or, if you like the list as-is, which of the elements above are most important for you?)
Key components include:
- Visibility building
- Task management
Read the full article, The Perfect, Consulting Firm Sales System, DavidAFields.com.
David A. Fields explains why some of the most promising opportunities fail to transpire into contracts, and what you can do to ensure a more positive outcome.
Your hard work on business development and some good luck resulted in big opportunities for your seed optimization consulting firm: potential engagements with Worldwide Walnuts, Paramus Pecan Co, and NoNutz.com all at the same time. But, somehow none of those opportunities blossom into closed projects. Why?
You may have a “Step 0” problem.
If you’ve read The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients, you’re familiar with the six steps to unlimited clients, starting with Step 1: Mindset and running through Step 6: Propose, Negotiate and Close. (If you haven’t read that book, go here, read this. Don’t pass Go or collect $200 first.)
It turns out that there’s a step before Mindset:
Step 0: Delivery Confidence.
If you aren’t confident that your consulting firm can deliver on a project, you will intentionally or unconsciously sabotage your business development efforts.
Your consulting firm’s Delivery Confidence wanes when you or your team members worry that you lack sufficient capacity or that your capabilities fall short.
A Step 0 deficiency is serious. Instead of winning the easy, NoNutz.com project and possibly cracking open the Paramaus or Worldwide engagements, you end up losing all three opportunities. That’s not good.
Your capacity concerns can be addressed with straightforward tactics, including hiring, delegating, streamlining and renegotiating. (You’ll find 11 capacity-increasing strategies in this article.)
Key points include:
- Questions to ask
- Confidence in delivery
- Increase capacity and capability
Read the full article, Step 0: The Prerequisite For Your Consulting Firm To Win More Business, on DavidAFields.com.
David A. Fields shares a recent post that is designed to help consulting firms identify and address areas that limit growth.
To achieve the next level of success with your consulting firm, you have to know what inflection point is next on your route (or, where you want to stop and optimize). Let’s briefly walk through the common stages on your consulting firm’s growth journey.
Transitions are hard. When you think about a typical, personal life journey it’s easy to remember (or imagine), the pain and setbacks, missteps and do-overs at each defining inflection point:
You live with your parents → You live on your own → You (successfully) live with a partner → You have kids in the household → You’re an empty nester → Oh no, your kids live at home again?!
Some gateways to a new stage of life are inevitable. None are easy. You shed a fair number of tears during the lead-up to each inflection point.
A consulting firm’s path to success differs from a personal journey in (at least) three ways:
The typical stages of a consulting firm’s progress are less widely known
Consulting firms’ inflection points are more predictable
You can stop at almost any point, optimize your consulting firm’s current life stage, and say, ‘That’s good enough for me.’
Key points include:
- Stages of growth
- Sticking points
Read the full article, 10 Stages of Consulting Firm Growth (Where Are You Stuck?), on DavidAFields.com.
David A. Fields shares a post that illustrates the value of naming the intellectual property of your consulting business to encourage client buy-in.
In today’s world of smartphones, texting, and in-car wifi, the 1970’s CB radio craze hovers somewhere between quaint and weird. Yet, one aspect of that short-lived fad will help your consulting firm win more clients and, importantly, deliver higher perceived value to your current clients.
In the parlance of CB radio fanatics, your handle was your short, memorable on-air nickname. A CB-er would refer to herself with a moniker like “Big Tuna” or “Boombox” or “Sir Burpsalot”.*
The genius of handles for a consulting firm was revealed to me over 20 years ago. I had developed a sophisticated, market ranking methodology for one of my clients, and the approach delivered excellent results.
However, my algorithm would have been a one-time, geeky solution had my boss in the consulting firm not said, “David, this methodology needs a handle.”
We named my approach the “VQ Model” and our clients contracted well into seven figures worth of VQ consulting projects.
Clients loved the VQ Model and perceived the results as robust and valuable. Simply having a name made the model far more sellable and higher value.
Key points include:
- Where to Apply Handles
- Avoidable Handles Mistakes
- Quick Tips for Developing Handles
Read the full post, Consulting Firm Razzle Dazzle: The Art of Handles, on David.A.Fields.com.
David A. Fields shares a post that is a must-read if you are considering partnering with another consulting firm to increase business.
There you are, polishing the sign in front of your catamaran and trying to attract consulting projects from the throngs of prospects meandering along the oceanfront. A boat-owner on the adjacent pier hails you: “Would you like to join forces? I’m sure we could catch more consulting clients together.” What do you think? Will adding more boats to your armada result in more clients?
Take a moment to look at the reality and rules of partnering.
(Note: This article was published in slightly different form in 2015. In the intervening years, I’ve obtained no new nautical knowledge, nor any greater misgivings about grossly overextending a metaphor.)
Reality: Prospects who want berths on ocean liners won’t choose
your skiff, even if it’s tied to a handful of others.
Many boutique consulting firms consider partnering to make themselves more attractive to buyers who lean toward big-name consultancies. “Companies don’t want a small shop like mine,” they reason. “Adding a confederate or two will make me a viable option for more projects.”
But heading in this direction misjudges the currents. Most prospects who will seriously consider a 50-person consulting firm will also hire a 15-person consulting firm, a five-person shop or even a solo practitioner.
In contrast, decision-makers who dismiss single-shingle consultants out of hand typically express equal disinterest in boutiques and loose networks of small players.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking a partner or two will convince a prospect to jump ship from his Crystal Cruises mega-steamer. You’re a different type of vessel, period. Take on the clients who appreciate your sleek lines.
Key points include:
- Reaching prospects
- Company values
- Sharing opportunities
Read the full article, Partnering with another Consulting Firm, on DavidAFields.com.
From David A. Fields, a post that can help the discerning consultant decide whether a project is too big for their current capabilities.
Wouldn’t it be great to land a massive, game-changing new project for your consulting firm? Maybe. However, huge assignments have equally huge downsides, and there’s a better way to grow your consulting firm.
You may have bumped up against an opportunity or two to win a whale of a project—perhaps even dethroning Deloitte or some other big name consulting firm to secure an engagement that would dwarf your typical assignments.
It’s understandable that you’d covet a mega-assignment that could instantly double your revenue and lift your consulting firm to the next level of success.
However, rather than angling for whales, you’ll build a more successful, healthier consulting firm by hauling in netfuls of trout. And if you’re already landing plenty of trout, then start reeling in salmon.
A giant project could potentially swallow your consulting firm.*
Consider some downsides:
Higher Risk of Failure. You’re not currently built to deliver a project that is 5-10 times the size of your typical engagement. You probably don’t have the people nor the proven systems and templates required to deliver A+ work on a much larger scale. Similarly, you may not be built to handle the large leap in complexity that accompanies a mega-project.
Key points to consider include:
- Elevated Client Scrutiny and Expectations
- Distorted Portfolio Risk
- Post-Project Vacuum
Read the full post, Too Big? The Correct Way To Tell If A Project Is Right For Your Consulting Firm, on DavidAFields.com.
David A. Fields shares a post on key steps to take to grow your business.
Clients hire your consulting firm in part because you know more than they do. You’re an expert. Wise in the ways of management, marketing or the musk beetle (or whatever your area of expertise happens to be).
How expert are you, though, and what are you doing to continuously upgrade your knowledge?
Domain knowledge is one of the three ingredients you mix together to whip up a consultant. (The others are consulting skills and s’mores.) Examples of a domain include: an industry, function, methodology, technology platform, geography, or particular situation, problem or aspiration.
New consultants at your consulting firm often need to polish their consulting skills and supplement their domain knowledge. Plus, of course, newbies need to learn your consulting firm’s IP and family recipes inside and out.
Ideally, you’ve developed onboarding and training materials to fling newcomers up the capability curve.
After that initial bolus of learning, however, the vectors of learning in many small consulting firms narrow down to one: experience.
Similarly, as a consulting firm leader, you’ve gained the lion’s share of your valuable wisdom from experience on projects.
Experiential learning is huge. It’s real-world, and directly relates to your clients’ needs.
Key points include:
- The true value of experiential learning
- Creating a domain knowledge ladder
- Identifying the knowledge source
Read the full post, The Ladder You Must Climb To Grow Your Consulting Firm, on davidafields.com.
David A. Fields shares a post designed to help the independent consultant accelerate revenue growth.
If you’re having trouble accelerating your consulting firm’s revenue growth, it could be because you’ve forgotten to create a stable revenue base.
“Bread and Butter” work (outlined in this classic article) is the most common and straightforward path to establish a solid, bedrock of revenue for your consulting firm. However, you have another interesting option:
Your consulting firm houses a treasure trove of assets, all of which are sellable to create a steady revenue stream that supports your consulting work.
A half-dozen assets that you could possibly leverage into cash flow are outlined below:
You can rent out your people to clients at a fee-for-time rate. This is staff augmentation, not consulting, and it’s a tried-and-true revenue generator.
In some industries, such as IT, staff augmentation margins are razor thin; however, some of our clients earn north of 50% margins on staff augmentation engagements.
Clients hire your consulting firm in large part because of your approach to solving their problems. You understandably guard your approach jealously and view it as a secret sauce that you don’t want to share. However, that precious resource could also line your coffers.
Licensing or franchising your consulting firm’s approach can yield generous income streams while potentially boosting awareness and demand for your services.
Key points include:
- Developing freestanding software content
- Developing an online academy
- Monetizing connections
Read the full post, Alternative Revenue Sources For Your Consulting Firm, on davidafields.com.
David A. Fields shares three ways consultants can expand their market. Bonus information and insights in the comments section.
There’s a rich, hidden vein of project opportunities for your consulting firm—projects that your consulting firm may not have been in the running to receive. With the proper outlook and actions, you can reveal and win them.
Usage of certain consumer products such as toothpaste and toilet paper are fairly constant—you’re unlikely to persuade consumers to use more of them or to use them on more occasions.
However, manufacturers of other types of fast-moving consumer goods, such as tahini, cheese and chocolate chips know that the right marketing and promotion strategies can increase usage and purchases.* Manufacturers call this “expandable consumption.”
Can your consulting firm tap into expandable consumption, or is consulting a fixed-consumption product?
Logical answer: Consulting is fixed consumption.
Consulting isn’t an impulse purchase like chocolate bars, parmesan crisps or Teslas. You can only win a consulting project when a client has a need for your consulting firm, and needs aren’t expandable or discretionary.
Key points include:
- Actively building visibility
- Focusing on hot buttons
- Creating high-touch engagements
Read the full article, 3 Tips to Expand Your Consulting Firm’s Market, on davidafields.com.
David A. Fields shares a few key tips on promoting your services through a podcast in the best possible way.
Podcasts are (relatively) easy to produce, the barrier to entry is virtually zero, and they’ve become more popular than cabbage patch dolls in the 1980s. Should your consulting firm have a podcast? Probably. Can you leverage the podcast movement to your consulting firm’s advantage? Absolutely.
My consulting firm can trace a substantial portion of our revenues to podcasts. Your firm can enjoy this success too.*
Your consulting firm’s podcast strategy can be bifurcated based on your position: are you the host or are you a guest?
HOST – Use your consulting firm’s podcast to create deep relationships.
GUEST – Use partners’ podcasts to create broad interest in your consulting firm.
You’ll find that being a guest is a far easier, less expensive, more sustainable path to gaining clients for your consulting firm. So, for this article, let’s focus on being a guest!*
Promoting your consulting firm through guest appearances is easy:
Key points include:
- Finding partners
- Being a memorable guest
- Adding value for listeners
Read the full article, How To Promote Your Consulting Firm On Podcasts (Without Being Boring Or Annoying), on DavidAFields.com.
In this week’s post from David A. Fields, he offers stellar advice and two simple, yet powerful tips to help consultants make a positive impression within the first five minutes of a meeting.
The initial few minutes of every client meeting present your consulting firm with a unique opportunity. Will you let it slip by unnoticed, or create a regular, business-building habit to maximize that time?
Let’s say that next Tuesday you’re scheduled to deliver a regular, periodic project update to your consulting firm’s client, Gridlock Enterprises. You’re joined for the half-hour Zoom meeting every month by Gridlock’s Chief Obstruction Officer, Philip A. Buster.
Typically, you dive into an update of the progress you’ve made on your consulting project for Gridlock, note the next steps, solicit feedback Phil may have heard from his team, then confirm the next month’s call before signing off.
For your next meeting with Phil, though, you’ll kick off the meeting differently. Better. You’ll use two simple and powerful techniques:
Key points include:
- The right-side up meeting intro
- The connection carveout
- Unforgettable stick figures
Read the full post, You Did What?! The Ideal, First 5 Minutes Of Every Consulting Meeting, on DavidAFields.com.