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Consulting Pull vs. Push Strategies December 10, 2012

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Organizational dynamics, strategy.
Tags: , , , ,

Several of my former colleagues are now working to establish themselves as independent consultants. I’ve thought a lot about consulting over the last few years. I’m attracted to the narrative of tackling a new puzzle, dispensing wisdom from an independent perspective, solving problems and fixing whatever needs fixing, and then accepting the team’s grateful thanks before riding off into the sunset in search of the next opportunity.

I suspect it doesn’t work that way for the majority of solo consultants. Consultants are no different from other businesses in that they have to define a value proposition that’s compelling to their target market and provides some competitive differentiation. Building a successful practice requires advertising and promotion. You have to offer something that people need, and you have to sell it.

It seems to me that selling a consulting service should be focused on making it easy for a potential client to understand how you can solve a problem. The client’s gain that will be realized after the solution of the problem provides the potential energy or attractive force that pulls the consultant in. Some effort is necessary to identify a problem that’s worth solving (your target market), but that surely requires less effort than trying to push a solution on a skeptical or reluctant client.

Your choices are:

(1) Wait for a client whose problem is so serious and evident that they know exactly what kind of help they need (“the power’s out, so let’s call an electrician”). That definitely doesn’t require much energy on your part, but it’s also a very passive approach.

(2) Cold-call clients armed with your credentials, in the hope that one of them will have a problem that coincides with your current availability and skills (“excuse me, do you need an electrician?”). This is the hard-sell push and requires a lot of energy.

(3) Think about how your skills can benefit potential clients, then target your business development activities accordingly (“I can help you reduce your energy bill”). This approach is still active, but uses the customer’s emerging awareness of the problem to pull you in.

Just as change management requires people to first accept that the status quo is unacceptable, clients are more likely to be open to a consultant if they first acknowledge the existence of a problem. The consultant looking for business should focus on problems that need solving and the benefits to clients (in terms the client can appreciate), not tools or specific solutions.



1. Ezra - April 14, 2013

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I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I am quite sure I will learn lots of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

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