Eight differentiators that dont work

You can start by avoiding the following eight mistakes. Using any of these trite, overused, ineffective pitches will show clients that you are not creative and are living in the past. Clients don't have the time or patience to dig deep to identify what differentiates you from other consultants; don't expect them to do so. Jettison these surefire losers when you explain why your practice stands above the crowd:

1. Quality service. Every client expects consultants to provide "quality" service. Every competitor will make this claim, thereby neutralizing its impact.

2. Best price. Most clients do not hire the cheapest consultants to handle their toughest problems. A study on the impact of varying pricing methods showed that almost 50 percent of the professional service firms trying this strategy reaped no measurable increase in sales.4 Clients rarely choose the lowest-price candidate or the one with the most pricing options. Some clients, such as those in the public sector, are exceptions: Lowest price may always be their primary criterion.

3. Methods, tools, and approaches. If you hire a carpenter, you expect that tradesperson to show up with all the tools needed to complete the job quickly and efficiently. Clients expect the same from consultants. A study on effective differentiation strategies of professional service firms showed that 40 percent of firms that boasted new techniques and tools to deliver services ended up with dismal marketing results.5

Ti-ying to sell services based solely on your consulting prowess is foolish. Competitors with newer and ever more complex tools will pop up every time you take that approach. Clients expect every serious competitor to have the proper tools.

4. Service responsiveness. It is a waste of your breath to promise clients quick responses to questions or on-time and on-budget project performance. Clients who pay high consulting fees expect quick service, and they will pressure you to provide it. Unless you can move quickly, they'll find firms that can meet their demands.

5. Credentials. Many firms stress the academic pedigree of their team to show why they are special. However, most clients couldn't care less where your team was educated; they want to know what your team has done that relates to their project.

6. Importance of the client. Some consultants stress how important clients are to the firm's business and promise them special attention. Clients will shrug off this offer as hype unless they have a special status with your firm that confers benefits to them not extended to others.

7. Testimonials and references. Don't provide clients with testimonials. Instead, show them your complete client list and invite them to call whomever they wish. Clients will contact the firms they know and put more stock in the opinions of their trusted network members than in praise from unknown clients.

8. FUD. Consultants often try to convince clients that there is an urgent need for a specific service by instilling fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) in their minds. Clients routinely see through this ploy and will stop listening if you try it.

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