When the close for a consulting engagement takes a long time or never happens, I always wonder what I could have done differently. How can I get over this feeling that I didn't do enough?
In good times, clients call us out of the blue and referrals reach out to inquire about our services. The new normal is that businesses are more prudent about investing in outside advisors instead of fully using existing staff. Your need to make the case of your services as a wise investment hasn't changed, but the bar has been raised. The world changes even if you don't and your attitude going in to a pitch determines to a large extent how you feel after.
Consider your discussion with prospects as an proposed exchange of "value for value." You have something of value (expertise) and they have something of value (compensation). Assuming you have correctly characterized the opportunity or challenge they face, you may or may not reach agreement on fair compensation or the path forward. That evaluation by the client is only partly under your control and they may not see your value or be able to compensate you adequately for it. Remember, the close is as much a challenge for the prospect as it is for you. If you are even having the conversation, they see intrinsic value in your expertise. A "no" only means that your perceptions of the value differ, and is usually as much a disappointment to the prospect as much as it is to you.Tip:
As many books on closing will tell you, a "no" does not mean your services have no intrinsic value. It just means that they don't for this client at this time. Lest you think this lets you off the hook, a "no" is also an opportunity and a challenge to refine both your selection of prospects and sales pitch so that you can find the best chance to get to "yes" next time. Although it may be a disappointment at the time, consider a "no" as advice on how to increase the value of your services.© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA