“Why Should We Hire Your Consultancy?” Here Is How to Answer
Business Development in Consulting, Narrow Focus in Consulting
“Why should we hire your consulting firm?” Consultants get this question a lot. Most have ready-to-serve answers:
- “X number of years of experience”
- “Unmatched capabilities”
- “The use of the latest technologies”
- “Unparalleled commitment to quality”
- "We are client-centered and team-oriented"
Here is where I stand on this...
Ordinary consulting firms pitch and get ‘the why question’ from the client. Go-to expert consultancies get invited and ask clients ‘the why question’ to (dis)qualify the support request.
Consulting is a credence business
Prospects need to find, like, and trust us before they buy. Research says that 70-80% of the ‘homework’ is done before prospects contact consultants to discuss support.
A recent Source Global Research (specialized in researching professional services) study mentions that less than half of all consulting engagements seem to create a value that exceeds the fees paid. Wow, what a surprisingly low score!
I recommend checking out this HBR article (‘How to tell if hiring a consultant will be worth the investment’).
So, no wonder prospects will assess the consultancy: can they deliver value to us? It’s not a nasty, evil question at all.
Getting the why-should-we-hire-you question is a symptom of a lack of trust in you or your consultancy (or in consulting in general).
Recommended reading: Your Consulting Positioning Has the Single Biggest Impact on the Buying Decision
Don’t start arguing with the prospect
I’ve seen it way too often; most consultants’ mindsets switch into defense mode by getting the why question. They feel the need to justify, convince, and claim to have the expertise.
Deep inside, they feel mistreated and misunderstood.
Unfortunately, they can rarely win by defending the why question because they might have lost the game already. And if they try to persuade the prospect, they will come across as either weak, desperate, arrogant, or maybe even a bullshitter.
It’s a harsh statement, I know.
70-80% of the selling should be done before consultancy firms even engage with the prospect in a project discussion. The consultancy's digital footprint should be powerful enough to convince the prospect that:
- The consultancy is truly an expert on the client's problem (and explains the prototypical problems of the client in the slightest detail);
- The consultancy has delivered high-level client results with similar problems (testimonials of referenceable clients);
- The consultancy has a strong point of view and can explain the business case for the pain-solving approach (it's easy to understand why the client should invest);
- The consultancy consistently educates its clients and prospects on how to make the shift (to solve the problem) and can explain the cost and risk of inaction.
I've been there many times in the past decade. With all of the above, I never had to sell, persuade or negotiate. I didn't get the why question at all.
SUBSCRIBE TO 'THE AUTHORITY' NEWSLETTER
What should be your answer?
I learned this many years ago from the ‘Win Without Pitching Manifesto’ book and the articles of Blair Enns. Here’s what I learned to say:
“I appreciate the question but I don’t consider it as my job to talk you into hiring me/us so why don’t I tell you why our clients typically hire me/us”.
Inevitably, that requires the immediate availability, top of mind, of transformative client cases or client feedback you can explain.
And, of course, those cases should fit into the prospect’s ballgame (the referenceable case study, as I call it).
Hardcore social proof is the only way to address the why question in the right way, hopefully. That’s why I’ve invested 80% of my writing time in the past in writing compelling, transformative case studies and business cases to invest in our support.
Write or die.
Don’t (only) look at your competitors
When we lose a pitch, we tend to look at the competition. That’s OK. We should be fully aware of our competitors and why they win pitches.
However, competition in consulting is not always what we think.
More often than we assume, I've seen with my consulting clients that it’s about the buyer who’s not willing to switch to them.
Why? Because of a too low trust level and/or lack of outcome-rich case studies from other clients in similar shoes. It's not (always) about the competition. It’s about themselves.
If a consultancy constantly has to defend itself, it should re-assess its approach. The journey starts inwards.
Recommended reading: Why You Should Reverse-Engineer Your Consulting Service Offering
The ugly stuff: why did you get invited?
70-80% of the buyer’s homework is done before you get invited. So why did they invite your consulting firm and ask you the why question? Poor homework? Not at all.
Here are some brutal consulting realities:
- your consultancy is probably #3 in the pitch (‘the benchmark candidate’);
- the prospect is ghosting your consultancy to get some free advice;
- the prospect is exploiting your (desperate) lower rates to negotiate with ‘the others’;
- the prospect invited your consultancy because they need three proposals to remain compliant.
The main takeaway
The why question is a symptom of a lack of trust in the consultancy's expertise to solve the client's problem.
If the consulting firm gets asked that question more often, the prospect doesn't consider you as the go-to experts yet and you’d better give it some reflection.
Simply put: the why-should-we-hire-you question measures the authority of a consultancy.
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 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.