We Live in the Era of the 'Leveraged Consultant'
Business Development in Consulting, Narrow Focus in Consulting
We live in the era of the ‘leveraged individual’. Inspiring experts have more views than news channels. And consulting doesn’t get it (yet).
Buying professional services will never be the same anymore. The next digital generation will be buying consultancy services dramatically differently. And we are still early days.
The best business development in consulting will not look like business development.
In this article, I'd like to discuss the 'leveraged consultant' - what this archetype entails and why we are entering the era of the leveraged consultant.
Business development in consulting has irreversibly changed
To understand who 'leveraged consultants' are and why they will prevail, we first need to review the new business climate we live in.
Before the pandemic, business development in consulting was already changing: more digital focus and less old-school ‘wining & dining’ to win new business. Research confirms that the fastest-growing consultancies are also the savviest adopters of digital marketing and business development.
Why has business development changed? Because the way buyers buy has fundamentally changed. And Corona has cemented these buying behaviors forever.
- Buyers do deep research: buyers of consulting services do their homework before getting in touch. Research confirms that 70-90% of the decision-making is done BEFORE contacting the consulting firm. Buyers have access to an abundance of free information that empowers them to independently navigate most of the buying process. Grist research found that 60% of decision-makers use thought leadership content to evaluate the expertise/insight of potential advisors.
- The social era: We're in the age where buyers discover & evaluate consulting services through their NETWORK: analyst reviews, social media, word of mouth, content platforms, etc. Consultants that haven’t taken care of their expertise-rich social profile? They will get in trouble!
In the professional services industry, the traditional, non-leveraged business development models - relationship-driven & selling from within (legitimate and necessary, of course) - are getting in trouble. The old strategies and techniques won't cut it anymore. An additional digital-fueled, leveraged approach will be crucial for success. There’s no way back. And we are still early days.
Recommended reading: 10 Business Development Challenges Consulting Is Struggling With
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Who is the 'leveraged consultant'?
The leveraged consultant creates an essential volume of organic demand for the consultancy by educating the target audience in the market at scale.
In the new consulting world, you no longer have a choice: you will need to develop and share the best possible educational content consistently. If you don’t, you’ll belong to the loser's camp sooner or later. Seriously.
Solo consultant, a boutique consultancy, or a big consultancy firm? There’s no difference! It’s the buyer, heck!
The best business development in consulting will not look like business development. Business development with the ‘leveraged consultant’ will occur in WhatsApp groups, peer communities, professional networks, slack groups, review platforms, social media, micro-learning platforms, etc.
The ‘leveraged consultants’ will be multi-platform educators.
With the leveraged approach in consulting, you'd end up with a much different way of doing business development, a much different way to measure results, a much different set of team routines, and a much different set of hiring profiles that you would bring to the team (multi-platform educators).
Recommended reading: Your Consulting Positioning Has the Single Biggest Impact on the Buying Decision
An amazing case study to study and follow
Since its start in late 2019, a few months before the first lockdown, I’ve been following B2B marketing consultancy ‘Refine Labs’ and its CEO Chris Walker (no, he’s not my client).
Without going into all the details, here are a few remarkable facts:
- Consulting start: September 2019 (with a slow down in the early lockdown period)
- Revenue development: from zero to $40 million in 2,5 years!
- Team: from zero to 110 people in 2,5 years!
- The leveraged consulting firm: close to 300 educational podcast episodes (a top 10 B2B podcast in the US), weekly open Q&A sessions (with impressive participation), bi-weekly webinars, and monthly open conferences. All free!
- The leadership team is a ‘leveraged team’. They have their own successful educational podcast. They are all prototypical ‘leveraged consulting leaders’, multi-platform educators;
- Chris Walker, the CEO, is on Linkedin every day (it’s his morning routine) with incredible content via text AND video. On top, he runs his excellent weekly podcast (for which he creates the content). He has just under 100k followers on Linkedin, starting from scratch, of course, in 2019.
- Chris’s priority as CEO? Chris: “Educating my target audience and, by doing so, creating the demand for my consulting firm”. (remember, from zero to $40M in 2,5 years).
You need to check him out. This kind of 'leveraged consulting firm' is a new reality. A leveraged consulting firm can start from scratch and have 40M revenue and a team of 110 in a flabbergasting short period (2,5 years only). Wow!
My take away from Chris’ story
This rapid consulting growth will happen more in the future because examples like Chris Walker will be an inspiration for other consulting firms. It would be best to reflect on that as a leader, owner, or partner in a consulting firm. A clever, digitally fueled expert can pop up all of a sudden and blow your consulting firm away with Chris's leveraged approach. And nobody is coming to rescue you.
The leveraged consulting firm or consultant? Still, a long way to go. The good news is you can start building it tomorrow. It’s not complicated. But it requires courage, tremendous discipline, new routines, and a strong belief that it can be done. Chris did it.
To all consulting leaders: become a ‘leveraged individual’ like Chris!
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Hello, I’m Luk Smeyers, and I’m helping mid-sized consultancies become high-performing consulting firms. I have been in the consulting businesses for more than 20 years, in very different roles: as European CHRO in a global consultancy, as a founder of a mid-sized analytics consultancy, and as a leader in a 'Big 4' consultancy, post-acquisition of my consultancy. I had the privilege of achieving global visibility as a consulting leader, 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 advising consultancies in the past years.