When you and your client are focused on results, instead of inputs and efforts, your client has a vested interest in your success.
When learning to walk, you first stumble
Unfortunately, early on in my consulting career, I fell victim to the "anything to get a client" mentality. I said yes to whatever a client wanted, without properly setting expectations, and often became frustrated. I had plenty of work (too much at times) yet it was uninspiring and underappreciated.
I often felt like a pair of hands - selling my labor, not my expertise.
I started believing it was the client's fault yet, ultimately, I only had myself to blame. I had no strategy. No purpose beyond "making money". And, at first, I really didn't even have a business, I had a job. I was letting my clients call all the shots.
Throughout my career and now that I advise businesses, I routinely discover technology-related consulting firms - those that build, implement, maintain or support software and hardware solutions - fail to refine their market. In fact, the typical website will list a broad set of industries supported and promise every service imaginable.
Inevitably, this leads to the fallacy of "full-service". Whereby, they may grow, but they will never achieve excellence.
Essentially, they have become generalists. And, ironically enough, clients need specialists; those consultants that offer expertise that is difficult to find and necessary to achieve their objectives.
Get serious about your value and purpose
You need a strategy. A plan for what your business will do and who it will serve.
We advocate for going narrow and identifying the type of work that you love and what you have been most success doing. While your competitors continue to chase every opportunity, you’ll be focused on the ones you truly want to win and where you add the most value.
Onboarding of clients is a necessity. It allows you to share what you believe and how you work so clients can decide whether they share your philosophy. The time investment here will pay dividends later.
If you aren’t so brazen that some prospective clients immediately dismiss you, you haven’t found your voice yet.
You will also need to be prepared to see clients walk away - aim for being polarizing. If you aren’t so brazen that some prospective clients immediately dismiss you, you haven’t found your voice yet. A client that deeply identifies with your mission is worth so much more than one that will constantly question your motivations and frustrate your team.
The right clients will see the value you offer. However, it is up to you to demonstrate and ask the questions needed to understand what is truly needed. Once you have done so, pricing becomes a subset of that value. How much you can command will take confidence and experimentation.
This is where I shout “death to the billable hour”. Now that the client has an understanding of the value that can be achieved, overall effort is less important here. The only thing that matters is achieving the valuable outcome and the game plan for doing so. It’s a win-win scenario and everyone is marching in the same direction.
Putting it all together for posterity
When you take the time to narrow your focus and select like-minded clients, they invest in your success. An outcome that is clearly defined becomes the focus and the individual efforts involved are entrusted to you.
Clients no longer care how many people are on the team or how many hours are consumed - they are focused on meeting the objective by the date promised and of high quality.
This allows you to be truly effective, employing tools and skills to achieve the outcome that only you can do. The execution is yours to own. You no longer need to maximize hours and work to ensure they can all be justified. Get clever. Innovate.