David A. Fields shares a consulting checklist that identifies how to elevate your practice.
You run a great consulting firm. You can point to glowing testimonials and clients who stick with your consulting firm like fluffernutter pasted to the roof of a six year-old’s mouth.
And while you originally found your consulting firm’s tagline on a pizza box (“You’ve tried the rest, now try the best”), you still believe your team delivers better results and value than the average crew of consultants. Let’s benchmark your performance against the traits of the very best consulting firms.
What does separate the very best consulting firms from the great? Much like this companion article about the very best clients, we can sort consulting firm behaviors into Rock Bottom, Rock Solid and Rock Star.
The list of traits below is purposely incomplete. It desperately needs input from thoughtful consultants like you.”
7 TRAITS OF ROCK STAR CONSULTING FIRMS
Declines projects that are outside the consulting firm’s area of expertise, and actively finds an outstanding, alternate resource for the client.
Proactively thinks and acts beyond the strict bounds of the consulting engagement to help the client achieve their goals, while alerting the client well in advance if the client’s request or a requirement to achieve the goals is substantially outside of scope.
Delivers A-level work ahead of schedule by exquisitely balancing the quality of work with speed of delivery. (A.k.a. “Working to a 95” unless speed of delivery is unimportant to the client, in which case “Working to a 98” is the rule.)
Read the full post, 7 Traits That Separate The Very Best Consulting Firms From The Rest, on DavidAFields.com.
David A. Fields offers practical scenarios to get a company foot in the door of a new client.
A small project with a new client could pave the way to a long-term, lucrative relationship with your consulting firm. Alternatively, it could waste your time with a low-margin, low fee engagement.
Let’s say your consulting firm has forged a connection with Esther Bunnie, CEO of Cad’s Berries, a multi-national player in the chocolate novelties market.
Cad’s Berries is completely missing the digital chocolate boom, and your consulting firm could help. If you play it right, Bunnie’s company could become a large portion of your consulting firm’s basket of clients.
Let’s look at four, common scenarios.
FOUR FOOT-IN-THE-DOOR SCENARIOS
You’d like to offer a Digital Cacao Transformation project; however, when you realize Bunnie doesn’t have the appetite for a full transformation, you offer a few variations of a Cacao Nib engagement to get your consulting firm’s foot in the door. Cacao Nib projects are quite small, but they preserve your premium fees and high profit margin.
When it’s clear Bunnie would reject a Digital Cacao Transformation project, you propose a few flavors of a Cacao Shavings Remix engagement. The Shavings projects are small and you offer them at a substantial discount to get your consulting firm’s foot in the door.”
Key points include:
- Long term results
- Lifetime customer value
- Don’t offer discounts
Read the full post, 3 Winning, Foot-In-The-Door Projects For Your Consulting Firm, on 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 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 valuable tips on consulting fee structures.
Consulting engagements come in many flavors. Your consulting firm’s work for a client could range from answering questions in real time based on your knowledge and experience, to developing research-based recommendations, to constructing and implementing complex solutions.
Where does advisory work fit in, and should you construct contracts for advisory work differently?
Let’s say Mabel Maybell, CEO of the famous Home o’ Phonics literacy company (a.k.a. HoP), asks you for help. Your consulting firm recently completed a project for HoP in which you researched a broad range of possible expansion opportunities. Ultimately, you recommended they enter the digital shirts arena.
Mabel’s senior staff think your recommendation is a good fit, and now Mabel wants to shoulder into the new jersey market.
Key points include:
- Client expectations
- Two different types of consulting contracts
- Mixing project work and advisory engagements
Read the full article, SHOULD YOU USE THE SAME FEE STRUCTURE FOR THESE TWO CONSULTING ENGAGEMENTS?, on DavidFields.com.
Nora Ghaoui shares the top three ways she built her business as a solo consultant during the difficult year of 2020.
Building a consulting pipeline is tough in any year. In 2020, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic made companies cautious, so it was harder to get projects agreed and started. I tried out different actions to build my project pipeline, and some worked better than others. Here are the top 3 things that made a difference to building my business as a solo consultant. They might not be what you expect!
Spend your time wisely
Time gets away from you when your established routine is broken. Without strong deadlines or direct feedback, it’s easy for actions to be postponed, half-done or forgotten in the jumble of dealing with lockdowns and working from home.
So the most important success factor is: Be very intentional about how you spend your time. What you spend time on, and what you get done, makes the difference between building your business or seeing it languish. It sounds obvious, but it can be hard to do in practice.
As an “army of one”, all the work has to be done by you, although you can outsource parts of it. This work includes refining your positioning, creating and publishing your marketing, building and nurturing your network, prospecting for leads, pitching for projects, negotiating with clients, working on projects, doing administrative overhead, keeping your expertise up to date, and, last but not least, having fun and enjoying what you do.
Key points include:
- Questions to help you prioritize
- Reviewing progress to stay on track
- Expanding and maintaining connections
Read the full article, Keep building your consulting pipeline (in a tough year), on Veridia.nl.
David A. Fields shares a blog post on the omnipotent power of gratitude and how it can serve your consulting practice. Extra bonus tips included in the comments.
At this time of year, one word is bandied about with unusual frequency. It turns out that word can help you win more consulting business.
Each Friday I pause to consider everything I have to be grateful for. Family, friends, a thriving business, homemade banana-chocolate cream pie. Some wise folks do this exercise every day. Others limit their gratitude to a day here or there such as Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) or when they exchange gifts.
Gratitude is terrific. Warm and snuggly as a cashmere afghan. But how does that one word help your consulting firm?
Key areas covered include:
Read the full post, Five Supremely Practical Ways Gratitude Benefits Your Consulting Firm, on David’s website.
If you are looking for ways and means to improve client attraction, spend, and retention, read on. David A. Fields provides practical steps and innovative approaches to improving your firm’s offerings.
If your consulting firm’s offerings aren’t generating gleaming stacks of revenue, it’s time to develop a Level 3 Offering.
You’re not alone if the projects that sustained your consulting business in the past have recently become difficult to close.
Prospective clients are confused about how to please their own customers, or are caught in the grip of uncertainty. As a result, they no longer view your consulting firm and your solution as an obvious, easily-justified choice.
New times, new conditions, new market reality.
Or, perhaps you’ve realized that you need to change up your offerings in order to elevate your consulting firm to the next level of success.
Either way, your consulting firm needs to revamp, or craft from scratch, your offering to achieve your ambitions.
Areas covered in this article include:
- The basics of building offerings
- Offering-development questions
- The three levels of consulting firm offerings
Read the full article, If Your Consulting Firm’s Offering Isn’t Attracting Enough Clients, Try This…, on David’s consulting website.
Do you find yourself stressed about your consulting firm? David A. Fields provides the advice you need to adopt a healthy approach to business to ensure long-term productivity and prosperity.
These days, maintaining physical distance preserves your health and protects those around you.
News Flash: Mental and emotional distance between you and your business bolsters your health, happiness, and the success of your consulting firm.
All entrepreneurs tangle themselves in their businesses. As a consulting firm leader, this issue is magnified. The separation between you and your practice can narrow to nothing because your consulting business is an extension of who you are.
You promote and offer your own thinking, IP, approaches, brainpower, insights and skills. Your firm and you are conjoined, even if you employ a staff or team to tackle your projects.
When a prospect rebuffs your consulting firm’s proposal, it can feel like your contact is spurning you and passing judgment on you, personally. And that hurts.
Wait a second, though. Consulting is a personal business, and that’s one of the wonderful attributes of our profession. So, is linking yourself hip-to-hip with your consulting firm really so bad?
Benefits identified in this article include:
- Maintaining energy, enthusiasm, and excitement
- Gaining perspective
- Consistent leadership
Read the full article, Do You Practice These 7 Tips For Proper, Consulting Firm Distancing?, on David’s consulting website.
David Fields explains how to maximize the benefits of video conferencing by encouraging clients to give a testimonial. He provides five stellar tips, including questions to ask to ensure you make the most of the moment.
Your consulting firm’s prospects and clients are settling into the video call format. Other than the relationship-building advantages of video, has this newly-accepted communication medium ushered in any valuable opportunities for your consulting firm?
Video testimonials are where it’s at.
Any testimonial from a happy client builds credibility for your consulting firm.
However, since most people trust what they see more than what they read, videos of people earnestly extolling your consulting firm’s virtues pack a particularly powerful punch.
Also, clients who record testimonials for you are more likely to hire you again and recommend you.
The five tips include:
- Stage setting
- Directing the response
- Camera direction
Read the full article, 5 Pro Tips For Transforming A Lockdown Into Killer Testimonials on David’s website.
As more consultants rely on video conferencing to connect with clients, David A. Fields shares timely, tractable, and tongue-in-cheek tips on how to avoid common mistakes that are all too often made.
Are there video call-specific rules of etiquette? Of course.
Remember the old days, when people left their houses? Consultants would frequently travel thousands of miles, sardined next to strangers (crazy, right?).
Even then, your consulting firm’s best, everyday outreach tool was your telephone.
However, in the modern, no-travel era, video calls have become totally acceptable and quite common.
Video calls are far more effective than the phone for building relationships with your consulting firm’s clients, prospects, influencers and partners.
As noted in this article, you’ll benefit from quickly moving email and phone conversations to video.
However, video calls do come with some risks and behavior changes.
For instance, when you were on a phone call and the other person was talking, you could sneak in a quick bite of your lunch (or one, entire Krispy Kreme donut).
On a video call, you tell your contact that you see a tarantula dangling behind them, then quickly scarf your box of donuts while you’re watching the other person shriek and flail. (Later in the conversation you can mention how much you like their pajama bottoms.)
Obviously, a quick review of avoidable video call faux pas is in order.
- Visual disconnection
- Audio fails
- Hot mic/camera
- Unhappy endings
Read the full article, “10 Common, Avoidable Mistakes Consultant’s Make on Video Calls,” on David’s website.
Jason George explains with delightful simplicity how the formula used by Dr. Seuss to tell a story is a good example to follow for presentations. The distillation of the core idea to ensure comprehensive understanding that opens the door to deeper exploration.
Author Theodor Geisel was dealing with some tough constraints. The audience for his next book required an instantly captivating story with a clear narrative arc, but there was a catch: they could only process a limited set of words, ideally fewer than 300, most of which would have to be monosyllabic. This was understandable given his target was students in the first grade, who would be around six years old.
Geisel had written children’s books previously, but this was to be his first in a new publishing imprint aimed at the youngest readers. After wrestling with these limitations for almost a year, Geisel worked out a deceptively sophisticated tale that differed markedly from those of the simple reading primers used to increase literacy in 1950s America. It featured a whimsical cat whose unexpected encounter with two children generated amusingly outlandish antics, all told with unusual irreverence.
Read the full article, Simplicity rules – Short and sweet, on JasonGeorge.net.
David A. Fields provides expert advice on how to manage customers during a crisis.
What do you do when your well-intended outreach call crashes into a brick wall of negativity?
Like many consulting firm leaders, you may have been burning up the phone lines the past week or two, reaching out to your clients and other contacts. Your motives are pure—admirable even. You’re checking in, showing support during a difficult time and offering help.
By and large, your efforts engender successful conversations. More executives are picking up the phone these days.
Advice offered includes:
- Staying right side up
- Responding with empathy
- Offering help
Read the full article, How To Gracefully Manage Your Consulting Firm’s Shell-shocked Clients, on David’s website.
David A. Fields offers an encouraging post on how to manage your ego when clients don’t respond to your overtures.
With a sigh and subtle shake of your head, you send one more outreach email to Pippi Burntkernels, the co-founder and COO of Plumper Popcorn, Inc. A few months ago, you and Pip had a great conversation about their operations, and you gave some advice on effectively instituting a better butter beater process.
You know that if you and Pip keep talking, there’s a consulting project at Plumper for your consulting firm.
But she doesn’t return your phone calls, nor has she responded to any of your emails. What’s going on?
Read the full article, How To Overcome Your Consulting Prospects’ Fear (So They’ll Call You Back), on David’s consulting website.
In this timely post, David A. Fields provides ten strategies consulting firms can implement to help navigate through difficult times.
You’re swimming in a vast sea of stressful news and, given today’s reality, you’re well within your rights to feel anxious, nervous and uncertain about how your consulting firm should proceed.
Clients are shutting down their operations; workshops and meetings are being called off; in fact, the entire economy appears to be headed for an abrupt, if temporary, halt. What does that mean for your consulting firm and how should you respond?
I pulled together a couple dozen “to dos” for my consulting firm clients. Nine of them are presented below, leaving a space for you to fill in your recommendation for your own consulting firm and for other readers.
Areas covered in this article include:
- Client relations
- Budget management
- Partnership opportunities
- Remote work and delivery
Read the full article, 10 Tough-times Strategies For Consulting Firms, on David’s website.
David A. Fields offers a valuable resource for consulting firms in this series of articles that provide a comprehensive guide to marketing tactics.
Your Challenge: Can you come up with even one tactic that’s not on the list below? (Bonus points if you post two or more tactics.)
Have you ever wanted to co-write an article because writing your own stuff is hard and takes time? Woo hoo, here’s your chance!
In the next part of this two-article series, you’ll learn a framework for determining exactly which marketing tactics you should invest your precious time and energy into for your consulting firm to attract more prospects and clients.
Spoiler alert: The best marketing tactic is not the same for every consulting firm!
Read the full article, Your Comprehensive Guide to Marketing Tactics for Consulting firms, on David’s website.
Pitching all the reasons why your company, service, or product is better is often received with a lack of response. David A. Fields explains where the miscommunication lies and provides a solution to the problem.
You know a rain barrel full of reasons why your consulting firm is better than other firms that do what you do. Among the reasons, of course, is you. Your experience and ideas and unique perspective.
Hence, when Bethany Buttonwerk asked you why her company should work with your consulting firm instead of others she’s talking to, you quickly trotted out all your advantages.
Alas, that lessened your likelihood to win the project!
Oh no. Why’d that happen?
Let’s revisit Bethany’s query. Unfortunately, she unwittingly asked the wrong question. You then proudly tootled your answers to her mistaken question, which left her dissatisfied, disgruntled, and disinterested. (And you disappointed or dyspeptic.)
Read the full article, A Superior Response to “What Makes Your Consulting Firm Better” on David’s website.
David A. Fields’ first blog of the year provides a pathway forward for consulting firms in 2020.
It’s the first week of the year and one thing you’re probably wondering is what you and your consulting firm should do first. Right now.
Your consulting prospects are asking the same question. What should they do now? What should their priority be? Unfortunately, their list could be topped with challenges that your consulting firm doesn’t solve—penetrating the blacklight market, designing an office layout that houses 200 employees in a 50-employee space, or inventing new uses for leftover holiday yams.
Where does that leave you?
Without a consulting engagement.
In this article, points covered include:
-What’s Important Now?
-What’s the VIP for your consulting project? For your consulting offering?
-Three Questions to Identify Your VIP
Read the full article, What Your Consulting Firm Should Do Right Now, on David’s company blog.
David A. Fields explains why correct assumptions can quickly become wrong, and how to test the assumptions of your consulting practice to create new opportunities.
You throw your best efforts into delivering value for your consulting clients, improving your consulting firm’s marketing, and creating a rewarding consulting environment. Then you find your work was off by a bit. Or more than a bit. Or completely wrong. Pickles-in-peanut-butter wrong. That’s no fun.
Alas, I have bad news for you and me: we’re mistaken. About everything.
I also have good news: our mistaken assumptions represent a huge opportunity for our consulting firms.
The article identifies nine signals that could transform your consulting practice, including:
-Unexpected success signals
-Unexpected failure signals
-Closely held belief signals
-Two transformative questions
Read the full article, Signs Your Consulting Firm Is Operating on Faulty Assumptions, on David’s company website.
David A. Fields provides an eight-week plan for an effective strategic planning process that will engage and enthuse your team of consultants for the year ahead.
If you develop an annual plan for your consulting firm, there’s a decent chance you sit down with your senior team and/or advisors for a day or two to hammer out your objectives, strategies and tactics. (If you don’t engage in any strategic planning for your consulting firm then, as the old saying goes, ‘When you don’t know where you’re going, any road could end up in Newark.’) The annual rigmarole requires substantial effort, time, M&Ms and endurance. It’s a chore.
The six steps covered in this article are:
-Report the facts
-Lessons learned and implications
-Revisit vision, values, and mission
-Goals, gaps and objectives
-Strategic Initiatives and Success Metrics
Read the full article, 8 Weeks to Get Juiced – A Better Strategic Planning Process for Consulting Firms, on David’s website.