Weathering the consultancy storm: How to win in a competitive environment

Thomas Struyf


5 Min Read

How to win as a sales team | Uman

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The last two and a half years have been a roller-coaster.

Since the Covid pandemic, the consulting industry has been growing at an exponential rate. We’ve seen a significant rise in the demand for consulting services, but along with it a significant rise in competition.

This has put consultancy firms and their commercial teams under a huge amount of pressure.

They are facing an enormous increase of challenges such as issues with the supply chain, digital transformation, cybersecurity, and sustainability. And on top of that, more recently they’re having to deal with inflation, the increasing cost of labour, rising energy prices, and a client base that is becoming more and more demanding.

These seemingly ever-growing challenges are putting a large amount of strain on their margins and scalability, as well as their overall growth.

So how can commercial teams within consultancies differentiate themselves from the competition? And how can they stay competitive in a challenging market?

Let’s take a look.

Macroeconomic trends are putting pressure on consultancies’ margins

In recent years, we’ve seen an enormous increase in the demand for consultancy services with 20% year-over-year growth in the market. To put the scale of this growth into perspective, in the United Kingdom the total income for the consulting sector in 2021 was estimated to be around £14.4 billion.

But with this growth, we’ve seen a rise in challenges, problems, and complexity on the one hand, and a lack of internal expertise to deal with these challenges on the other. This has resulted in expertise, speed, and trust becoming much more important for clients.

In some sectors such as digital and technology, there are examples of firms with over 50% growth. It’s these types of companies that we would label as being “hyper-growth” companies.

These types of companies are characterised by having strong expert brands that are able to differentiate themselves, place a strong focus on doing more with less, and have hyper-efficient pre-sales and knowledge-sharing processes that allow them to spread their expertise across the organisation.

On the other end of the scale, we have slow-growth companies.

These are firms that struggle to create strong expert brands, are inefficient and inconsistent in their processes, and are unable to keep up with the growth and increasing demands in the industry.

With this growth, we’ve seen a rise in challenges, problems, and complexity on the one hand, and a lack of internal expertise to deal with these challenges on the other. This has resulted in expertise, speed, and trust becoming much more important for clients

It could be said that all of these issues are being exacerbated by a looming recession.

As a result of this impending financial crisis, consultancies need to review their position due to a future of uncertainty. We are already seeing that clients are starting to prepare for the impact of the recession, and this could well cause the gap between hyper-growth and slow-growing firms to grow even larger.

Consulting services will still be necessary, but clients’ budgets will be shifted to consulting businesses that can show how their services will impact the bottom line and who can act as trusted advisors that can guide their clients through rough waters.

Staying competitive with efficient pre-sales processes

Research shows that clients expect three things from their consultancy partners: 

  • Expertise: Four of the five reasons why a client chooses a particular service provider relate to expertise. The five reasons are:

    1. Skills of the team – 42%

    2. Relevant experience (references) – 35%

    3. Industry knowledge and subject matter expertise – 27%

    4. Ability to deliver results/past performance – 25%

    5. Good cultural fit – 22%

  • Trust: 88% of B2B clients will only buy when they see you as a trusted advisor.
  • Speed: Speed has become an increasingly important aspect of the sales process. Clients want things faster, so being able to deliver in a shorter time frame makes you a more valuable asset.

But these three aspects aren’t the be-all and end-all. Staying competitive depends on multiple things, and perhaps the most important of these is ensuring that information is not siloed or scattered.

During the pre-sales process, questions that are often asked include:

“What references do we have?”
“Who has worked on this?”
“Where can I find our up-to-date template?”

This struggle for internal information affects everything from your efficiency and speed to the overall quality of your work.

With this in mind, improving your processes and your tools can truly make a difference and help you to tackle most if not all of the challenges currently facing consultancies.

By creating a streamlined pre-sales process, your references and expertise can become accessible in seconds, you can be in full control of the quality of your content at all times, and you can build proposals on top of existing building blocks instead of having to constantly reinvent the wheel.

You’re therefore putting yourself in the best position to have higher win rates, eliminate any trade-off between speed and quality, and lower your pre-sales costs.

Change brings opportunity

The future certainly promises to bring a fair number of challenges and uncertainties, but it’s not all doom and gloom.

The firms that can adapt, weather the storm, and come out stronger on the other side will do so because they view these challenges as an opportunity.

And it’s true, this is an opportunity to both win clients over and attract exciting new talent. It’s an opportunity to capture the market in the here and now, as well as in the years to come, by providing clients with a strong hand to steady the ship.

In our latest webinar, we sat down with industry expert  Luk Smeyers and Uman’s CEO Charles Boutens as they gave us clear guidance on how to remain successful as a commercial team in this competitive environment.

To find out more, watch the full webinar on demand by following the link below.

Watch the full webinar now

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