Guerrilla Intelligence Clients Youll Meet

Buyers of consulting services generally fall into one of the following categories. To avoid those who have no intention of hiring you, no matter how good you may be, learn to recognize the following client types:

Serious buyers: They have (1) real projects, not merely ideas they're toying with, and (2) they need outside assistance. Serious buyers carefully evaluate the services you and your competitors offer. They get involved: They work with consultants to design approaches for completing projects; they help with proposals; and they work hard to select appropriate consultants for projects. Look for these clients.

Tire-kickers: Visitors to auto dealerships frequently circle new cars, slam doors, check out sound systems, and even take test drives—with no intention of buying. Some clients behave similarly. They'll invite you to meetings just to have a look at what you have to offer without any intention of using your services. Some take advantage of the opportunity to gather free competitive intelligence.

Benchmarkers: In the proposal process, these clients set up one competing firm as the "benchmark" consultant. That firm's fees and approach are used as a baseline for leverage in the negotiations with competitors, especially the preferred firm. These clients use your proposal to induce preferred providers to lower their fees or provide more services for the same fees.

Idea shoppers: Some prospects will ask multiple consulting firms to present their best ideas on a particular problem, such as how to enter a new market. Once consultants provide the information, idea shoppers assign internal teams to complete projects without hiring any of the consultants; they take the consultants' ideas and run with them.

Deflectors: Clients have been known to invite consultants to submit proposals just to get rid of them. Perhaps the personal chemistry didn't work or the consultant's qualifications weren't right. Some prospects just aren't willing to tell consultants why they won't hire them; so they ask for a proposal, which they ultimately reject.

Identifying motives is not always easy. But if you evaluate prospective clients with the above types in mind, you will be able to focus on your targets—serious buyers.

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