Building a healthy pipeline that can withstand changing economic conditions is the dream of every partner at consulting and advisory firms. Whether you’re looking for new strategy consulting opportunities, M&A advisory, or restructuring prospects, you need a continuous pipeline development effort.
There is never enough time in a workday – especially if partners and their teams need to find the right balance between project delivery and pipeline building. There are moments when everyone gets caught up in the more involved, and often more interesting work of delivering outcomes for existing clients. Business development work must then be done in a reactive manner. On top of time and bandwidth constraints, seasonality and economic vulnerability make pipeline building even more complex.
Through our work with multiple consulting and advisory firms, we have observed certain trends and practices that can help build a healthy pipeline. Here are our four key tips on how technology can ensure a steady inflow of consulting and advisory projects:
#1 Word of Mouth is No Longer Enough
In this highly relationship-driven industry, word-of-mouth and referrals are key. Partners’ professional networks can be a great pipeline foundation. Nevertheless, relying on them too much can slow down your growth:
- Digitization, innovation, and disruption create new opportunities every day. Personal networks have an exhaustible supply which might not be enough to spot and close these new opportunities.
- You might miss opportunities coming from unexpected sources e.g., Tier 2 or Tier 3 customers whom you do not stay in touch with or monitor actively.
- Relying too much on partners’ personal networks is an organizational risk that consulting and advisory firms want to avoid.
Word-of-mouth and personal networks are still important but should be complemented by strong pipeline-building processes and technology. We believe AI/NLP can increase the top of the funnel and make partners’ lives easier and more focused on building long-lasting customer relationships.
#2 Combine Internal and External Data
Too often separate data sources remain separate. For instance, your CRM data can be siloed from lead data brought in from third-party tools or/and disconnected from the sector insights which are available within your knowledge teams. This leads to either an incomplete or unrealistic view of your market and customers.
This gap can be reduced using technology. Today’s AI/NLP tools can draw huge reservoirs of data from multiple sources, then derive actionable insights from all of them combined.
While internal data can be a good indication of past customer behavior, external data can highlight relevant market opportunities. Example: M&A advisory teams can use external data to find the next deal opportunities and leverage internal data (e.g. CRM) to connect to relevant leads. In the pitch/proposal stage, having credible external and market information can be an important competitive advantage increasing your conversion rate and leading to more business.
#3 Choose the Right Cadence
Timing is everything, particularly for consulting and advisory firms. For certain solutions (e.g. turnaround advisory), there’s usually a short window when a company is considering bringing in a consultant. Approaching a potential target too late will result in no business. The question, of course, is how you can identify and approach potential clients at the right time.
This is also where technology can help. AI/NLP technology has made considerable progress at identifying the right events that could lead to a relevant business opportunity. External data, such as financials, website traffic, press releases, etc. could be interesting signals that a company is looking to hire a consultant.
Here are some examples of events that can help turnaround consultants can track firms at an early stage of distress based on our proprietary solution – Insightsfirst Opportunity Radar (ORAD). Of course, the below mindmap will look different for strategy consulting, deal advisory, and other service lines.
#4 Review and Adapt your Lead Generation Tactics
A pipeline development program needs to be reviewed on regular basis to make sure it addresses well company’s objectives and changes in market conditions. This is particularly important in current uncertain economic conditions. Companies need to constantly monitor whether KPIs and objectives are being met and change course accordingly. Feedback from stakeholders is also important – does the system work for those who must make use of it? A successful pipeline development tactic is not only generating a high number of new opportunities but also generating quality opportunities that can be converted and profitable for the firm. Sometimes less is more – allowing partners to focus on closing the best opportunities. The lead generation program needs to be adjusted to internal business priorities too. Solutions that worked for a small niche consultancy might not prove effective for a global multi-practice setup.
At times of expansion or growth, it’s vital to develop a systematic pipeline for new business, and one that generates a high proportion of promising leads, leading to a higher proportion of eventual conversions. Therefore, your pipeline development should be a long-term and strategic program (with defined KPIs, program manager, etc.). Such a program should incorporate:
- Uniqueness of your organization, sector team/practice – there is no ready recipe for adding new opportunities to your pipeline. Each team might have a different USP and BD approach, which should be built into your program.
- Technology – navigating through information overload might be ineffective without the help of smart tools, such as AI-driven platforms.
- Sector knowledge – spotting and qualifying an opportunity can be art rather than science as it requires the ability to connect dots, which comes hand-in-hand with experience.
At Evalueserve, we’ve always believed that human ingenuity works best in tandem with systems that do the legwork that people simply cannot – analyzing, sorting, and deriving actionable insights from billions of data points. Having in mind the unique requirements of consulting and advisory firms, we have launched Insightsfirst Opportunity Radar (ORAD), an AI-driven platform to complement your current pipeline and spot opportunities that could otherwise be overlooked. The platform uses AI-NLP and a trigger-based approach to identify hidden opportunities, reduce noise and ensure faster time-to-market.
If you’d like to know more about how you can use Insightsfirst to build a healthy pipeline, contact us at email@example.com
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