“Why Should We Hire You as a Consultant?” Here Is How to Answer

“Why should we hire you?” 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”

Here is where I stand on this:

Ordinary consultants get asked: why should we hire you as a consultant.
Authorities get invited to solve a problem. They don’t get that question.

Consulting is a credence business

Prospects need to find, like, and trust us before they buy. Research says that 80-90% 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 you: can this consultant or consultancy 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 consultants 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, misunderstood.

Unfortunately, you can rarely win by defending the why question because you might have lost the game already. And if you are trying to persuade the prospect, you will come across as either weak, desperate, arrogant, or maybe even a bullshitter. It’s a harsh statement, I know.

90% of selling you as a consultant should be done before you even engage with your prospect in a project discussion. Your digital footprint should be sufficient enough to convince your prospect that:

  • You are truly an expert in a narrow niche
  • You deliver high-level results for your clients
  • You have a strong point of view and take on a pain-solving approach
  • You can be trusted

The remaining 10%? Well, that’s the engagement you actually have with the client, where you identify their pain points and present them with case studies and other social proof that’s more tailored to their needs. This is just the last step you take to close the deal.


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. Hardcore social proof is the only way to address the why question hopefully. That’s why I’ve invested 80% of my writing time in the past in writing compelling, transformative case studies. 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 you think. What I’ve learned, more often than we assume, it’s about the buyer who’s not willing to switch to you. Why? Because of a too low trust level and/or lack of transformative case studies from other clients in similar shoes. It’s about you. It's not (always) about the competition.

If you feel that you, as a consultant, have to constantly defend yourself, start re-assessing your 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 you and ask you the why question? Poor homework? Not at all.

Here are some brutal consulting realities:

  • you probably are #3 in the pitch (‘the benchmark candidate’);
  • the prospect is ghosting you to get some free advice;
  • the prospect is exploiting your (desperate) lower rates to negotiate with ‘the others’;
  • the prospect invited you because they need 3 proposals to remain compliant.

The main takeaway

In general, the why-question is a symptom of a lack of trust in your expertise. If you get asked that question as a consultant more often, you are not considered as an expert yet and you’d better give it some reflection.

Simply put: the why-should-we-hire-you question is a measure of your authority as a consultant.

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Luk Smeyers

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. 

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