The headline and subheader tells us what you're offering, and the form header closes the deal. Over here you can explain why your offer is so great it's worth filling out a form for.
I’ve interacted with hundreds of consultants over the years – dozens of them were my clients, with others I had in-depth conversations to better understand their pain points, goals, business models, and mindsets.
This has allowed me to take a step back and look at the macro image – the paths that different consultants take and the decisions that significantly improve their chances of success to grow their consulting business.
In one of my earlier articles, I wrote about the things my highly successful clients started doing, and today, I’d like to elaborate on one particular aspect: standardizing and productizing your consulting services.
The vast majority of consultants are highly client-oriented. And that makes sense, of course. We’re in the service business. We work with people from different backgrounds, with different experiences, and different expectations.
However, many consultants take this to mean that in order to secure and retain a client, you always have to offer highly customized services that, like window insulating foam, fill in every nook and cranny of a business process.
Unfortunately, this is draining and unsustainable in the long run to develop a consulting business. Here's why.
My vision is rather extreme: as an authority, as a reputed domain expert I would never, ever do fully customized projects. Seriously!
Here’s why. As an expert, you’ve gathered tremendous experiences in your narrow domain all those years, leading to incredible depth and compelling pattern recognition.
It’s remarkably uncomplicated to design standardized approaches to solve prototypical pains of your clients. And if you can’t standardize it for 90-100%, you can carry-out a number of well-defined sprints and execute them in a pretty systematic way. It’s more straightforward than most consultants believe.
However, if you aren’t focused on a specific expertise domain and you haven’t established enough visible reputation (or authority) in your market yet, you will always struggle to ‘sell’ standardized approaches.
Clients will challenge you and you won’t be able to credibly respond to their objections. You aren’t just deep enough into your stuff yet. Focus, yes, please! As I explain in one of my articles, put all your eggs in one basket.
“But Luk, I can’t just standardize my services. Each client is different and they hire consultants for a personalized approach to address their unique needs.”
I hear that a lot. “My clients are not going to be interested in a one-size-fits-all offering.”
As I mentioned earlier in this article, if you are a true expert in a narrow domain, you realize that your clients’ problems are not unique. They all stem from a very limited number of pain points. If you don’t know what these pain points are, your level of expertise is still superficial.
Furthermore, packaging solutions doesn’t mean offering the same exact thing to every client. It means setting up the parameters of your work – what you can do, how you can help, and, most importantly, what problems you can resolve for your clients.
You still deliver a personalized service because you address your client’s specific problem but with very clear expectations of what you will and will not do, what end result clients can expect, what tools you use, what your process is like, etc.
I need to be honest with you. If you have been working in a customized way with certain clients, it won’t be easy to – out of the blue – suggest a new way of (standardized) working. Your existing clients will have difficulties to accept, to understand the change.
But you don’t have to jump off a cliff – there’s a way to do it gradually. And for new clients, there’s no problem of course.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can start delivering a more standardized approach:
The more irrelevant you become to non-ideal prospects by turning your positioning away from them, the more relevant you become to your chosen target clients”.
- David C. Baker
Being a consultant can be an exciting and rewarding career. I know it is for me. Unfortunately, I encounter too many consultants who feel overwhelmed, overburdened, and overworked. They struggle with a work-life balance, they are scared of missing out on opportunities, and they don’t see consistent business growth.
If you know what this feels like on a personal level, it’s time to re-evaluate your approach to consulting. The prospect of working in this chaotic, unpredictable, overburdening manner should scare you more than the prospect of changing your business model.
Start doing less. It will force you to prioritize what you do and how you do it. Choose quality over quantity. Strive to maximize the value you deliver for each client as opposed to maximizing the number of clients.
Give people an abundance of confidence in your expertise by creating an abundance of value and share it again and again. - Seth Godin
Standardizing your services is an important element of the consulting business approach that I advocate, but it will only work if you change your mindset about: (1) the importance of narrowing down your focus; (2) designing a client-pain-centered unique value proposition; (3) allocating time on a consistent basis to marketing; (4) learning to say no to incoming opportunities outside of your narrow area of expertise.
Recommended reading: Looking to Package Your Consulting Services? This Productization Model Is for You
Interested in receiving all my learnings to become a better consultant? No spam, no BS. Pure teaching! Subscribe to my newsletter.
Hello, I’m Luk Smeyers and I’m guiding consultants through the journey of growing their business by helping them transform into visible authorities. I have been in consulting businesses for almost 20 years, in very different roles: as European CHRO in a global consultancy, as a startup founder in an analytics consultancy, and as a leader in a 'Big 4' consultancy, post-acquisition of the startup. I had the privilege of achieving global visibility as a consultant and I never had to sell, persuade, or negotiate as a result. I have now bundled all those experiences, expertise, know-how, research, reading, successes, struggles, and failures from managing and growing that visibility in the past years.
The Visible Authority is a brand of:
Luk Smeyers BVBA
Offices in Leuven (BE) and Munich (DE)