Consulting Tips from The Million Dollar Consultant®

How do you compete against a larger firm? Do you pack your bags and go home, lie about your actual size, or disparage the behemoth?

Fortunately, there are more positive alternatives. All of us find ourselves being considered in competition with larger consulting firms, sometimes the giants like McKinsey, Ernst & Young, BCG and the like. (If you’re never in this position, then you’re probably never bidding on very large projects for major organizations. You ought to be.) Here are some methods to employ to convince a buyer that size not only doesn’t matter, but large size can actually be a disadvantage in meeting his or her needs.

  1. The buyer is always dealing with the principal when he or she is dealing with your firm. You are the relationship manager. There is no junior partner to whom responsibility will be transferred. There is no decreased accountability, no “hand-off” to a less-informed colleague. If the buyer’s interests are at stake continually, shouldn’t the buyer reasonably expect the principal’s continual involvement?
  2. You provide resources on a “just in time” basis. That is, your projects do not have to cover excessive overhead, such as multiple offices, large administrative backup, recruiting, partner perks, etc. You are organized to efficiently provide everything that the buyer needs, but nothing more than that. So the buyer is paying for value and results, and only minimum overhead.
  3. There is more likelihood of privacy and confidentiality being observed with fewer people working on the project. In addition, there are fewer “filters” in terms of differing consultants’ differing perceptions (a very real problem in focus groups, interviews and work observations). You (and/or the few people you might also involve) are constant and there isn’t the need to sift through dozens of differing perceptions.
  4. You’re faster. You can respond to requests quickly, and return all calls within two hours (if you can’t, then you’re not taking advantage of your smaller size). There isn’t the need to worry about a bureaucracy, delays and unknown people on the other end of the phone.
  5. Since you handle fewer concurrent projects than larger firms, your attention is relatively undiverted. The client doesn’t have to “compete” with another dozen or so of your clients, which may be larger or more time-demanding. You structure your work so that every client receives maximum attention.
  6. Investment is controlled. There is no “meter running.” You work for a fixed, value-based, project fee (if you don’t, read chapter 8 of my book “Million Dollar Consulting,” or listen to “The Consultant’s Treasury,” both available in our bookstore). Large firms can’t afford to do that as readily because of all the people involved and their own insistence on measuring their success by billable hours. You measure your success by client objectives reached, not time units.
  7. Inevitably, you are less expensive. (Note that this is only way down here in the number seven spot, because you shouldn’t be THAT MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE!). There are economies to using someone who can base their fees on each situation and not on a pre-determined service scale or need for reaching a practice quota.Add your own, additional reasons, and have them handy anytime you know that a prospect is considering other, larger firms. Don’t be rocked back on your heels, defensively trying to explain why you can do things with fewer resources. Defense might win football games, but it doesn’t do a thing in the sales process. Take the offense to explain why smaller is better for this particular client’s particular needs. Don’t disparage the competition; simply point out your superiority.

    If you don’t believe that, then you have no right being there, anyway. Million Dollar Consultants don’t get that way by assuming they start from an inferior position. They get that way because they know that they’re the best alternative, and they merely have to educate the buyer in that regard.