Selling Consultancy

Selling is central to success in the consulting career, but selling is hard. Selling intangibles like advice and guidance is even more challenging. Consultancy is a “pull-industry” and few organisations go looking for services – selling consultancy must therefore combine the creating, then satisfying of a need. Some useful background to establish key basic preliminaries can be seen in this video:

The initial elements of the “cradle to grave” or “life-cycle” of the consultancy process are the targeting of potential clients and the various stages involved in taking these targets though to a signed contract.

A number of targeting methods are available, including the skin thickening, hard yards of “cold calling”, the constructive use of insider contacts or the more controversial and waistband-widening corporate “schmoozing”. There are more details of the methodology and techniques here:

Once identified, an appreciation of the active participants and their roles is useful to maximise the efficiency of the sales process.

These participants are -

  • THE BUSINESS OWNER ( literally in some instances, but generally departmental managers with a problem and the money to buy consulting services)
  • THE CONSULTANT ( with ideas and strategies to apply, and in need of a brief)
  • Positioned between these will be PROCUREMENT

PROCUREMENT formalises supplier sourcing, realises and harnesses previously autonomous consultancy needs within the same organisation and professionally manages (though some say, dehumanizes) the client-supplier relationship. PROCUREMENT is generally the preferred route when engaging consultants in large companies.

One function of PROCUREMENT is to minimise the risk of corruption, exemplified by some well publicised cases where some consultancies were favoured in return for personal gain.

PROCUREMENT will generally work off a list of PREFERRED SUPPLIERS who have appropriate track records, recognised quality standards and have agreed to the potential client’s Terms and Conditions – a powerful tool that can be used for control.

The primary raison d’être of PROCUREMENT however, is perceived to be the cutting of costs. This seemingly simple objective can be subverted, however. The BUSINESS OWNER’s brief can be misinterpreted as it passes to the CONSULTANT. This is assuming of course, that The REQUEST FOR INFORMATION (RFI) is received by the consultancy to begin with; there is always evidence suggesting that perfectly legitimate and worthy consultancies are excluded from the process.

John Ruskin summarised another drawback regarding the involvement of PROCUREMENT in his “Common Law of Business Balance”. He said that “…..when you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do….”. Very often contracts are won by the lowest bidders who simply cannot meet the brief because of their uncomfortably low bid.

The requests for, and writing of proposals are disciplined procedures with expected formats covering a full detailing of Client / Consultant responsibilities and the scope of the brief.

A fuller description of these elements is here :–

The best sales consultant with the most innovative, job saving, profit-enhancing, efficiency-giving techniques is nothing without a project. The targeting of clients, the creation and submission of the proposal and the execution of a sales strategy is a therefore crucial precursor to the business in hand.

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