Last week I had a prospect come to me pessimistic and frustrated with the current state of his consulting firm. After our diagnostic, my advice to him was straightforward: "You should focus on implementation, and ignore those short-term goals. They are not signal, but noise."
In this post, I want to go deeper into this idea. The same advice could apply to many other consulting partners.
But first, if you don't know your numbers or haven't set clear and aligned goals for your consulting practice, go do it now. There's no discussion that setting goals lead to better performance. And I never met a successful consulting firm that didn't keep track of KPIs to measure and improve progress.
The problem is not our goals - but what we make from them.
Whether it is building our consulting practice, investing, or losing weight, in practice our goals become expectations. And that means signing in for an "all-or-nothing" contract.
Reach the goal and you're happy - but not for long, since the pressure is on to hit the next one. Fail to achieve a goal, and you get guaranteed frustration and loss of confidence. If you're looking for long-term, sustainable improvement, tying your emotional state to numbers that include mostly noise is a recipe for disaster.
Blaming The Tactic Will Keep You Busy Searching
Humans search for excuses instead of admitting to making a mistake.
When we miss a goal, the more common response is to blame the tactic, tools, approach, or even the current environment. If I failed to lose weight, the diet doesn't work. I called some previous contacts and couldn't book any meeting? Phone calls are a waste of time.
The natural - and almost always unconscious - decision is to search for a different alternative: A new scheduling app. An innovative marketing approach. Another diet.
But have you really devoted enough time and attention to implementation?
The time and energy we waste searching for the new shiny thing could have been invested in implementing our plan. It's only through execution that you can learn from the process and, if needed, shift your approach. We need time to turn noise into signal.
What I see among many consultants - and what I identified in the firm of that prospect previously mentioned - is that their frustration it's self-inflicted. They rush their judgment and focus entirely on short-term goals so that they don't need to admit they struggle with showing up and executing consistently.
The solution is to shift the focus: from obsessing over short-term metrics, to building systems that ensure flawless execution.
Getting The Basics Done
There are many examples of behaviors that have the potential of improving our lives if we only executed them with consistency:
- Want to improve your health? Exercise more regularly.
- Want to be more productive? Stop multitasking and do one thing at a time.
- Want to feel more positive? Practice more gratitude.
None of these ideas are new - they have been used and promoted for centuries, if not millenniums - but we still dismiss them when trying to reach the related goals.
Sometimes we know what to do, but can't seem to make ourselves do it. When we allow ourselves to simply execute the basics consistently, we gain more experience and information. This allows us to effectively review and prioritize, change or eliminate our tasks.
What are those basics for a consulting firm? From my experience working with +100 consultants, the list includes:
- Creating a strong offering mix. You must have at least one effective offer, that solves a big problem or pain and your audience loves to hire.
Implementation includes: Having private conversations with your audience to stay up-to-date with their needs and challenges, and performing a complete review of your offering mix at least twice a year.
- Generating market demand. First, you find a method to generate quality attention and trust from the people who need your offer. As soon as you identify which activities it consists of, you should systemize it and continually invest time and money into them.
Implementation includes: Getting your message in front of new prospects, nurturing your existing network, and creating valuable content to demonstrate your expertise.
- Capturing demand. This is how you predictably convert interested people into paying clients. Selling is the process of exchanging value for money.
Implementation includes: Performing sales calls and activities, and continually improving your sales operations (tools, processes, and pricing strategy).
Finding consulting firms that are not executing all of the activities listed under this implementation list is more common than you can imagine. And out of those three items, demand generation is what usually creates more frustration.
Yes, you will need some strategy support when looking for the right channels and messaging to generate traction - but any plan of action needs to be tested in the real world through iterating campaigns. It might take you a while but, with flawless implementation, it should be clear where you must focus on.
If your consulting practice is doing less than 7-figures a year, stick with these basics and learn how to execute them consistently. 99% of the time, what is capping your growth is a flawed implementation of these activities.