Insights and Resources

Some uncomfortable home truths from the client coalface

By Jim Thompson

I’m sure we could be friends, in fact, there have been very few people in my life that I haven’t liked or not been able to get along with but that’s not why you’re reading this or what my clients pay me for.

So if you don’t want some tough love from the coalface turn away now, don’t worry I’ll still have a beer with you either way.

But please don’t shoot the messenger I’m only articulating what I have learnt from my own experience and working with so many consulting firms, many of them frustrated just like you.

Before I get to the tough love would you believe me if I told you that 90+% of One Rabbit clients;

  • Come direct to us and not from referral or word of mouth
  • We find them before they find us
  • Work our way, not theirs
  • Think the same way we do
  • Are great to work with
  • Pay their bills on time
  • Don’t ask for references or case studies
  • Have the same fundamental problems that we already know they have without them having to tell us

And on top of that, we never pitch, respond to RFP’s, discount or give advice away for free.

All true I promise you and if you have “yeah buts” please feel free to fire them at me I’m sure I’ve heard them all before.

Maybe we’ve been lucky but it’s all been by design and a factor of many things, not least of which is the courage to be different but essentially all driven by understanding the buyer and their buying journey.

Okay tough love time and it can be a bitter pill to swallow, I know I’ve had to swallow it too, and that pill is that none of the challenges you may face below are your client’s fault, they are yours.

No, the client is not always right, far from it but that’s not necessarily their fault either.

When did you last give a prospective client the tough love I’m giving you now?

The following insights may not all be relevant to your situation but if you can accept those that are then you’re halfway there to a better life.

The clock is ticking and you don’t even know what time it is

Most of you first hear from the prospect when they are ready to buy, at the bottom of the buying cycle and I mean the bottom. The place where you are in your least competitive position and where everyone else is.

You are too late

A whole lot has gone on in the client’s world that you are blissfully unaware of before they contact any external party about their problem, let alone you. What triggered them to act or even acknowledge they have a problem? Was it an internal trigger or were you the trigger?

You have no power in the buying cycle because you’ve given it all to them

The client can buy what and from whoever they want and most likely for less than you want to charge them. The only way you can hold the power is by creating something different that they can’t get from anyone else, in other words withholding your expertise.

Your prospective client doesn’t really trust you

No one really knows how good anyone is until they work with them right? That’s why they ask for referrals and perhaps why your website is littered with case studies and past client logos. Ever think why the prospect trusts the referrer more than they trust you?

They’re on the wrong bus

Is the client on your journey, their own or worse someone else’s?

They don’t really understand what they are buying

We’ve made it too hard for them to understand what they are buying and how your offer is different to the others.

They find it hard to differentiate you from the sea of lookalikes

The wider and more broad your offering the harder you make it for them. No wonder they ask for referrals

They want to manage you

They found and hired you; they’re paying the bills and therefore they call the shots and tell you how to work.

You’re aiming too low

The technical buyer is not your friend, they can be a roadblock, lack the internal clout and inadvertently pigeonhole you into a box you don’t want to be in. Ideally the CEO is your target and rarely if ever do we recommend targeting below the C-suite unless you want to be a job shop.

You can’t say no

We all have to put food on the table and most of us inherently want to help but saying yes to anything inevitably creates problems for both the client and you.

They’ve misdiagnosed the problem if they even know they have one

I’ve lost count of the times a client has told me that their clients are or have gone down the wrong path to solve their problem. And what about the ones you know have a problem but they don’t know or want to know?

They are not ready to buy

Out of the thousands of clients that could buy from you, how many are ready to do so today, next week or even next year? How do you maintain meaningful influential contact with them while at the same time building your pipeline?

They have bigger problems than the ones they think you solve

Every organisation has a myriad of problems and things they need help with and most only act when they manifest in a painful way or via some other internal trigger. How do you raise the urgency and importance of your offer – can you be the external trigger?

They don’t want their monthly phone call or your next newsletter

Would you?

Yes, I know you’re probably thinking it’s easy for him to raise problems, just tell me what to do about it!

The answer is simple on the surface but challenging to execute with the main roadblocks being, a lack of courage and the will to do the hard yards that you do for your clients but avoid with your own business.

You basically have two options;

Follow the market, maintain the status quo, accept that you aren’t that different, belong at the bottom of the buying cycle and attempt to outshine your competitors,


Lead the market, don’t follow it. That ultimately means having a good handle on the buyer and their journey. Take control early (be the trigger), lead the buyer to your worldview and see real value in your (different) position.

Same and plentiful is a commodity – Different and scarce is valuable.

Learn more about the buyer journey here.

Before you start

Before beginning any engagement and to create a more valuable initial conversation we ask you to download and read our guide.


Inside you will find out more about the One Rabbit philosophy, learn some uncomfortable truths and how to market your firm.

Why it’s so hard for consulting firms to market themselves.
Practical steps you can take to overcome the uncomfortable truth and leapfrog your competitors.
The most common mistakes that consulting firms make in marketing themselves.