Being in Demand… How to make it happen

Today in Hollywood there is a good example of being in demand.  Here is the current list of Hollywood’s “most wanted”. They receive more offers for films and command more compensation on a consistent basis than any of their peers.

Of the top 20 finishers in this year’s poll, 12 have been nominated for an Academy Award. Eight have won. They have each generated top earnings for their studios on a consistent basis.  Who provided the ranking?  The survey polled over 100 top executives at all major studios, independent companies and financiers.

AKA The clients.

What is the most important thing the studio execs are looking for? Track Record. Consistent delivery of highly profitable films.

Consultancy engagement is well named. The client and the consultant agree to venture together into potentially uncharted areas. The problems they face together are often complex and the solutions tend to be multi-faceted. Consultants want to be in demand, where clients are seeking them out, hungry for their expertise. You can achieve this sooner by setting excellence and consistency as your operating standard rather than investing time in marketing your services. Setting excellence as your operating standard builds your reputation, ensures your track record and in turn leads to you receiving referrals from satisfied clients.

Nothing will matter more than your track record of excellence to keep you in demand.

There are elements of being in demand that are counter-intuitive. Some consultants might think that having the broadest possible skill set will make you more viable for more engagements.  The opposite is actually the case.

Breadth and depth of skills are orthogonal to each other. You cannot know every topic, know it deeply and better than someone else with equivalent intellect and drive,  who with a smaller scope of those topics has deep-dived to know them intimately. 

I am an architect and very well respected for my skill in this area. I can also program in a variety of languages, design OO models, design database schema and OLAP cubes etc. However, I cannot compare my skill in database design to another consultant with the same years of experience who focused exclusively on database.  They are a defined expert in this single area, as I am in architecture.  Spending time deepening my skills on database design does not make me more in demand. In fact, the time spent detracts from my ability to sustain and increase world-class architecture skills and consequently lowers the demand for my skill.

(Now I also believe the best architects are grown from real-world, hands-on understanding of the technology, but it doesn’t mean that I need to be a world-class expert in each technology domain.)

This is the part that is not readily obvious to most consultants. They believe that having  breadth and some skill in each area makes you more in demand. It actually just makes you a commodity.  Similar to thousands of other resources, no distinctive value-add and if you get the contract it will likely be because of your low price and availability.

The critical elements of being in demand are:

  • focus – don’t be a jack of all trades, focus, specialize and become technically excellent in your area of specialty and stay ahead of technology change
  • track record – watch for opportunities that will develop your skill and track record in your area of specialty and take them over other opportunities that don’t
  • excellence –  set technical and consulting excellence as your operating standard and raise the bar on every engagement
  • network – participate in , contribute to and develop the professional network in your area of specialty

Low-Demand consultants can be spotted by these signs:

  • “I am happy to do most things that are asked of me”
  • “I like to be invited to help”
  • “I can do just about anything! Just look at my resume, I’ve got a few weeks experience in a ton of areas!”

The attitude of these ordinary consultants will result in:

  • Being used as a pair of hands, brought in as needed for the shortest possible time
  • Superficial involvement
  • Projects of marginal value (commodity service)
  • Value unclear and being questioned
  • Lowest Price
  • Low influence with client

High-Demand consultants can be overheard saying:

  • “I specialize in these three areas”
  • “I always deliver, here are the two key projects just like yours.”
  • “Because I specialize, I offer my views in these areas based on my expertise”

The approach of the excellent consultant results in:

  • More rewarding and challenging work
  • Development of reputation and expertise
  • Value added clear for all to see
  • Better compensation
  • Higher influence with the client, you are an expert
  • Used at tactical and strategic levels and
  • Being in high demand.

Remember, a compass that pointed in more than one direction, would really have no point at all.


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5 Responses to Being in Demand… How to make it happen

  1. Casey says:

    Ian, this is excellent. Casey.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Hey Ian – valuable reminders here. Thank you…

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