We are a 22-person consulting firm that never had a hard time marketing and selling a range of services. However, sales cycles are longer and hurdles higher to close business. Some of us feel it is just regular competition and others feel the consulting market is changing. Which is it?
A little bit of both but there is another factor that you may not be considering. It may be that your services were unique and high-value a few years ago but the way clients buy consulting services has changed in ways you may not be aware of. I assume that you have upgraded your services and freshened your marketing approach, but you may need to offer a key feature on which consultants never competed before.
If you were waiting for the definitive feature that will place you head and shoulders above your competitors, I regret to say that I don't know what that is for your firm and your market. It will vary with your type of services, your firm's ability to create and sustain this feature, your client's inclinations and industry, and what your competitors are dreaming up for their own strategies. But here are a few candidates.
Consider low margin, high competition markets where products are mostly substitutable. It is not a marginal improvement in price or performance of the product that wins over the buyer because these are always being improved. It is often something else about the buyer's purchase, use or service experience that no one has seen fit to address before. What is it the user or beneficiaries (not the direct purchaser) need that is not being supplied and whose satisfaction could significantly influence the purchaser? Find something that you can provide at low marginal cost that has high marginal value for your clients. There are features or service augmentations that only you can provide, depending on your specific capabilities and firm structure.Tip:
For example, limited lifetime warranty for consulting services - call any time, even 6 months or a year after the engagement ends (clients tend not to abuse this but the good will it generates is incredible). Your firm then becomes known as the "lifetime Warranty" firm, one that stands behind its work. Create a list of ten such ideas and run them by your clients to see which ones resonate.© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA