A Business Development Template Consultancies Can Use to Introduce Their Firms

This article was last updated on 11 September 2023.

When pitching a consulting firm to potential clients, what's the best way to introduce them? Most consulting leaders default to talking about the consultancy’s history or impressive lineup of consultants. 

But there's a better way to make an impression - by highlighting the firm's unique achievements in solving problems. In other words, focus on the firm's client-centered outcomes that were achieved in previous projects. 

The outside, client-centered view instead of the inside, self-centered view. 

In this post, I’d like to share this template and explain why consultancies should aim to always introduce their firms according to it.

And by the way, there’s no difference: solo, small, medium, and big consultancy, everybody can use this introduction template. 

The template for introducing a consultancy with a client-centered, outside view

Readers of this article probably wonder why I am writing about the subject of introducing a consultancy. Well, it’s easy to explain: I hardly ever see attractive introductions. 

The 98% I am experiencing on an everyday basis is boring, self-centered, sameness-sick (everybody is saying the same things), and not at all output-driven (achievements with clients) or client-centered. 

Those who have made it ‘to the other side’ will always score and will have remarkable pitch results. 

Not because of the client-centered introduction (only) but because of their overall habit of putting the client at the center of everything they do. 

Let’s get started. 

Here’s the template to introduce the consultancy, developed in the spirit of: ‘Client achievements our consultancy is known for’ (instead of saying: “Here’s what we do”).

Here are the 8 components of the client-centered introduction (examples follow below):

  1. Clients usually call us for help with… (overarching problem statement clients are suffering from)
  2. They commonly suffer from… (typical pain points detail)
  3. Typically these clients are… (target client clarification, fast disqualification)
  4. What they routinely achieve when working with us is… (outcomes, outcomes, outcomes)
  5. Here’s how it works... (high-level information on how collaboration generally works or starts)
  6. Trigger point(s) to call us... (identification of common problems the target audience experiences)
  7. Our entry service... (a service that typically kicks off a collaboration with a client)
  8. Thought leadership pillar themes... (speaking to the pain points that are typically covered by thought leadership)

That’s it. In under a minute, consultancies can explain to their prospects what problems they tackle, how they do it, and what former clients have achieved – the most important information to make a powerful impression.

I’ll explain all the details below. But first, let’s get rid of the inward way of thinking. 

The outward, client-centered vs. the inward, self-centered presentation of a consultancy

As I already said, in my experience, the majority of consultancies tend to introduce themselves in an inward-looking, self-centered way:

  • We are the most experienced in X (how do you know, there are 1,000’s of others doing exactly the same thing, maybe even better)
  • We have a combined expertise of 80 years (even brand new expert consultancies - with only 2 years on the meter - can solve complex problems)
  • We are client-centered (no, you are not, if you talk about yourself)
  • We have a great team and a super culture (everybody says that, clients might like it, but in the end, they don’t really care)
  • We are easy to work with (that’s nice, but not relevant to differentiate)
  • We are affordable in our pricing (help, you’ve just shot yourself in the foot)
  • Blah blah blah (and more self-centered bragging)

These introductions are 100% focused on the consultancy instead of the prospect. 

They are boring, they are utterly unpersuasive, and they are totally uninspiring. And they are drowning in the sea of sameness. Everybody says the same BS. 

It’s time to stop! Consultancies should take a step back and listen to that introduction from the prospects’ perspective. 

  • Why should they care? 
  • What pain points that keep them up at night do they think the consultancy can address? 
  • Why should they trust this consultancy to help address these pain points?
  • How can they start working with a consultancy with minimal risk?

The inside, self-centered positioning tends to get reflected in everything consultancies do: 

  • how they introduce themselves at pitches or events
  • how they talk about their services on their websites
  • how they create their “thought leadership” pieces (putting “thought leadership” in quotation marks because these are really self-promotional, low-value pieces, disconnected from the prototypical client challenges)
  • how they hire and train new consultants
  • how they manage the consultancy
  • how they develop and design new services (without proper client validation)

Yes, in everything! 

Recommended reading: The Single Biggest Mistake Consultancies Make: Talking About Themselves

The client-centered template and its individual parts

To help you understand how it works...here’s how I am doing it. 

When I get the question to explain who I am or what I do, I always turn that into a client-centered statement: “Well, clients usually call me because they struggle with the business development in their consultancy”. 

Part 1 below is the overarching problem (in my case: challenges with consulting business development). 

And I continue explaining what exactly these business development problems are (part 2) and who typically these clients - who call me - are (part 3). 

I continue my introduction by briefly explaining what tangible outcomes typically can be achieved (part 4) and how a collaboration usually starts (part 5).

Finally, I give a brief explanation of the trigger points that make prospects reach out to me (part 6), what the first step in our collaboration entails (part 7), and the type of thought leadership content that I produce that the prospect can consult (part 8). 

I always strive to do this in 1 minute or less, explaining those 8 client-centered statements. You bet it took a while to get there, and I rehearsed it many times. 

So, let’s dive into more detail about the 8 components next. 

Part 1: The overarching problem statement clients are suffering from

This is where consultancies should give the macro perspective. What is the overarching challenge most of their prospects try to solve? 

It could be an inefficient process. It could be the use of legacy technologies that are slowing down their operations. It could be the lack of expertise in identifying the right areas for analytics projects. 

Every consultancy should leverage its expertise and past client work to identify the common theme of the problems that their prospects experience.

At first view, this might sound a little abstract. It’ll become more obvious in the examples below. 

Part 2: Typical pain points 

This is where consultancies zoom in on more specific pain points. For example, if we are talking about the prospect’s company using legacy technologies that are slowing down their operations as an overarching problem, the lack of integration experience would be a specific pain point within the overarching problem.

In my experience, most consulting firms only talk broadly about their services without focusing on the specific pain points of their target audience. 

However, this approach will likely leave potential clients feeling unconnected and unclear about how a consultancy can help solve their problems. 

Consulting firms should instead focus on talking directly about their client's pain points to create an immediate connection with that target audience.

Part 3: Target client clarification

This is the perfect opportunity to qualify prospects. Consultancies should be upfront about what types of clients would benefit most from their services. 

It could be CHROs in large FMCG companies, or CIOs in the healthcare sector, or CFOs of small- and mid-size companies in the IT sector. 

Client disqualification is an important step in protecting the time/efficiency of consultants in the firm and avoiding taking on projects that do not fit into the narrowly defined focus of the consultancy.

"What consultants need is the confidence that "the void" that is created by saying no, becomes an opportunity to do things that bring them further and closer to what they want to do. And with that comes the confidence that something else will come along, because they're worth it". (David Ducheyne, founder of Otolith Consulting)

Part 4: Outcomes, outcomes, outcomes

What can the prospects expect to achieve by working with this consultancy? Here, I’m talking about clearly defined, tangible outcomes. 

Which processes will improve as a result? By how much will efficiency improve or employee turnover fall? 

I urge consultancies to go through their past client work and put together a list of the end result of their work. What’s the “promised land” that they help their clients transition to from their current pain-ridden state?

Part 5: High-level information on the process

Without going into details, consultancies should be able to briefly summarize what a collaboration with them entails. Does it start with an audit? Is it a series of design workshops conducted over a 4-month period? Where does the process start? Who’s involved? 

This will help prospects understand what they would be committing to by collaborating with a specific consulting company – the types of team members who would need to be involved, how long the collaboration will take, and what the mediums for collaboration are.

Recommended reading: I Never Had To Sell, Persuade Or Negotiate To Grow My Consulting Business

Part 6: Clients' trigger points

Here, it's about showing a deep understanding of what circumstance/business needs prompt prospects to finally pick up the phone and call for help.

The ability to identify triggers points to the consultancy's deep level of expertise, which, in turn, allows them to identify patterns and common symptoms.

By explaining common trigger points, consultancies help put prospects' minds at ease: "Others experienced similar problems but this consultancy helped them overcome these issues."

Part 7: Entry service

Hiring a consultancy is, more often than not, a resource-consuming commitment. Clients need to allocate significant budgets and time. This, understandably, makes prospects hesitant to commit to full-scale partnerships at first.

Consultancies can easily overcome this hesitation by explaining what their entry service entails. A great example of an entry service is an audit/discovery service. It gives the consultancy a chance to explore the parameters of work, determine what the underlying issues are, and create an improvement roadmap. For clients, this is a low-risk start to the cooperation. The client gets valuable insights and a stronger understanding of the capabilities/expertise depth of the consultancy. A win-win.

Part 8: Thought leadership pillars

Last but not least is providing a prospect with a concise summary of the theme pillars that the consultancy's thought leadership strategy is based on.

In short, it's about explaining what pain points of the target audience the consultancy tries to address in its educational efforts. 

This demonstrates the consultancy's generosity in knowledge-sharing, its deep understanding of the underlying issues that prospects struggle with, and having the necessary expertise to address those issues.

Examples of applying this consulting template to practice

So how can this template be applied in practice? Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1: My consultancy – The Visible Authority

1. Why clients contact me

This is what I say: 

“Consultancy owners, entrenched in project execution, call me when they hit a revenue or profit ceiling, struggle to grow, and need a trusted advisor to challenge current assumptions. The goal: creating a high-performing consultancy, intentionally crafted rather than spontaneously occurring.

2. What typical pain points my clients experience

  • Unclear positioning: Struggling to define their target audience and address specific pain points
  • Limited thought leadership: Difficulty establishing themselves as leading thinkers with a bold perspective
  • Lack of focused expertise: Striving to develop and communicate a specific, expertise-led service offering
  • Misaligned co-owners: Struggling to unify a cohesive revenue growth strategy
  • Inconsistent new client acquisition: Experiencing difficulties attracting new clients predictably, resorting to chasing instead
  • Inadequate existing client development and retention: Failing to methodically engineer service expansion for existing clients
  • Stagnant scaling: Struggling to develop innovative service offerings, programs and delivery methods, avoiding linear headcount increase
  • Inefficient pipeline management: Lacking disciplined and reliable forecasting and pipeline management processes
  • Weak infrastructure: Insufficient sales and project management systems in place, limiting overall productivity and efficiencies
  • Absence of performance measurement: Struggling to monitor core high-performance indicators consistently
  • Difficulty retaining key talent: Experiencing challenges in keeping essential team members engaged and committed

3. My ideal clients

  • Mid-sized consultancy firms, +/- 20 to 100 consultants and/or +/- €2M to €25M revenue.

4. What clients walk away with after working with me

  • A thorough assessment of their current consultancy's situation, followed by a detailed evaluation that identifies areas of improvement.
  • A co-created roadmap and a plan for improvement that addresses critical pain points and aligns with the consultancy’s unique goals and vision for success.
  • My implementation guidance over an extended period of time, to provide ‘peace of mind’ for the consultancy owners. 

Inevitably, these outcomes will deeply impact long-term revenue and profitability.

5. How can consultancies start working with me

  • Every collaboration starts with a foundational assessment followed up by my guidance on the implementation of my improvement recommendations (details on my website)
  • You can start with a workshop for consultancy owners, leaders, or partners and start the reflection process within the team
  • Consulting owners, leaders, or partners can book an individual guidance package

6. When prospects typically reach out to me

I receive call requests from boutique consultancy owners and leaders when:

  • The consultancy's growth has stalled or is on a downward trajectory
  • Competitors consistently beat out the consultancy for projects
  • Prospects don't get back to the consultancy, requiring multiple followups
  • There are constantly price-related negotiations with prospects
  • Employees seem to feel unmotivated and burned out

7. My entry service

My engagements with clients almost always start with an audit, which culminates in an improvement roadmap. This provides my clients with a myriad of insights into the underlying issues of their less-than-ideal performance and the steps that they can take to resolve those issues.

8. My thought leadership pillars

I make sure to provide my prospects with as much educational content as I can. The topics I typically cover are business development for boutique consultancies, improving profitability, revenue and profitability growth models, and the impact of positioning on every aspect of running a consulting business.

Example 2: A boutique marketing automation consultancy

1. Why clients contact this firm

This is what they say:

“Our clients are struggling with maximizing the returns on their marketing investments and are looking to optimize their processes”.

2. What typical pain points the firm’s prospects experience

  • There are too many automation solutions on the market, and it’s difficult to figure out which one to go with
  • There is a lack of expertise on how to integrate an automation solution into the existing marketing tech stack
  • There is a lack of best practices on which solution delivers what sorts of results
  • There is a lack of consensus on how to proceed because each team within marketing has its own set of priorities, and there seems to constantly be a lack of alignment.

3. The ideal clients of this firm

  • B2B e-commerce companies

4. Typical long-term outcomes of the firm’s work

  • A seamlessly integrated marketing automation solution that improves the efficiency of the marketing department by 10-20%
  • A change management methodology to ensure 100% organizational adoption of the newly streamlined processes within a 6-month period

5. How can prospects start working with the firm

  • Every project starts with an onboarding questionnaire to map out the existing tech stack and bottlenecks
  • A typical project lasts for 8-10 weeks, depending on the complexity of the existing infrastructure
  • The implementation typically requires bi-weekly 2-hour sessions with the CTO, CMO, and managers of marketing teams. 

6. When prospects typically reach out to the consultancy

Prospects typically pick up the phone and call the consultancy when:

  • Managing the tech stack starts taking up more time than actually setting up marketing campaigns
  • Marketing fails to produce strong results for two quarters in a row, often citing the lack of the right resources and feeling overwhelmed with the volume of tasks
  • Competitors seem to be churning out campaigns that get noticed by the right audience
  • There is no unified goal and strategy among various departments

7. The entry service of the consultancy

The first step in client engagement is the questionnaire, which is followed by a document produced by the consultancy that outlines the diagnosis: what the bottlenecks are, which teams need to be involved to address the issue, and recommendations for the best way to proceed.

8. The firm's thought leadership pillars

The consultancy makes sure to address the negative outcomes of the lack of an optimized tech stack for B2B e-commerce companies. The content also covers the untapped potential these companies are missing out on by refusing to automate marketing processes and to optimize marketing tech stacks.

Example 3: A mid-sized sustainability consultancy

1. Why clients contact the firm

This is what they say:

“Our clients are increasingly under the pressure both from within the company and from the outside by regulatory authorities to improve their sustainability practices”.

2. What typical pain points the firm’s prospects experience

  • It is practically impossible to figure out which initiatives have any significant results as opposed to greenwashing
  • A lack of expertise to calculate the costs of implementing various projects as well as to quantify the results of these projects
  • A lack of understanding of what types of sustainability projects will have long-term results, which ones require constant maintenance vs. one-off set-up

3. The ideal clients of this firm

  • Healthcare providers: large hospitals and specialized centers
  • Educational institutions: universities with a student body size of 5,000 minimum
  • Commercial real estate: facilities offering office space with a capacity of 3,000 people minimum

4. Typical long-term outcomes of the firm’s work

  • A reduction in the use of non-renewable energy sources by 10% in Year 1 and an additional 25% in Year 2
  • A portfolio of sustainability projects broken down by investment level, outcome projections, and duration estimates
  • An implementation roadmap that will allow the client to gradually but effectively roll out the set of selected sustainability projects

5. How can prospects start working with the firm

  • Every project starts with an in-person or virtual sit-down involving the CEO, CFO, CTO, and COO.
  • The duration of the collaboration is typically 6 to 12 months.
  • The project is executed in bi-weekly sprints, with each sprint clearly outlined and explained to all stakeholders at the beginning of the collaboration.

6. When prospects typically reach out to the consultancy

Prospects tend to reach out when they face one or more of the following problems:

  • They get penalized by government institutions for the failure to comply with relevant environment-related regulations
  • They are failing to attract the right talent due to the lack of effective sustainability practices
  • Maintaining the current mode of operations is becoming increasingly costly in light of the more efficient technologies and processes available on the market

7. The consultancy's entry service

99% of client engagements commence with an audit of existing processes, technologies, and operations manuals. The audit is concluded with a detailed list of recommendations that the client can execute to significantly improve their status quo.

8. The firm's thought leadership pillars

The consultancy owners and leaders dedicate a significant amount of time to educating their target audience on such topics as:

  • Latest innovations in the sustainability space and whether they are worth the hype
  • The negative consequences of failing to implement various sustainability initiatives
  • The benefits and risks of individual sustainability initiatives/technologies

In conclusion

There is only so much time consultancies get to make an impression on their prospects when they meet them at a conference or some other networking event. 

The truth is, if a consulting leader fails at this first impression, it will be significantly harder to get any positive results down the line. 

They can send follow-up emails and try to schedule calls – the prospect is unlikely to be interested if, in the first 1-2 minutes of meeting the consulting leader, he/she bragged about how amazing his/her consulting firm is.

If, on the other hand, consulting leaders spend these first couple of minutes demonstrating their deep understanding of the prototypical pain points that prospects in the same industry/position experience and giving an easy-to-understand explanation of how these pain points can be resolved, these prospects will remember. 

They will want to learn more. They will also want to see how they can benefit from the highly focused expertise of the consultancy to reach the “promised land”.

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