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How can Consultants Find Hidden Gem Projects and Win Them

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January 6, 2022
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5 minutes
Lynn's diverse perspectives on business stem from her extensive experience as a management consultant - her role as a beloved wife, mother and grandmother adds further depth to her insights.

Perhaps it’s a sign that you’ve made it when you can select only the management consulting projects you like!

When you first set out, you probably accept all types of consulting projects just to get your toe in the water. But the sooner you can find the projects for you and your company, the better off you will be.

Knowing what’s right for you depends, among other things, on how well you have identified your ideal client and your unique value proposition. It can also be a financial or relationships decision.

Let’s look at these elements in more detail and consider finding hidden gems and winning them.

Identify your ideal client and your unique value proposition (UVP)

Identifying your UVP is not about you. It is about the value your clients will experience when they use your service. It is what clients believe sets you above your competitors.

So, identifying your ideal client and your UVP go together.

It’s a mistake to aim at everybody. You need to focus on a particular target market, and the pain points your service will solve.

You might ask

  • What size business will you work with?
  • What type of business could afford your rates?
  • Job title of your ideal client?
  • Does geographic location matter?
  • What are the typical problems your ideal client may face?

As an example, in my consulting business, we decided that

  • We would only take on business when the primary contact was in a top management or executive position.
  • Generally, only relatively large companies could afford – or would need – our services.
  • Our niche was assessment and development:
  • Individual, primarily aimed at the most senior managers in organizations, and
  • Organizational, primarily aimed at climate and culture.

These decisions meant that our competitors were the country's largest consulting companies.

So, we focused on how our small size would benefit the client.

  • Selling our flexibility and fast decision-making. The motto on all our proposals was: “It used to be that the big ate the small. Now the fast eat the slow.”
  • Relying on the personal attention and expertise we would give our clients.
  • Having strong networks of equally skilled independent professionals to scale up if a project size warranted it.
  • Having a business model of just two partners and minimal staffing meant that we could undercut the price of nearly all large consulting companies. We could also pay independent consultants more if they worked with us than they could earn on their own.

It never worked out when we strayed from our decisions – for example, taking on a project where the project leader was in a middle management position.

But our approach has worked for us.

In twenty-five years, our only advertising spend has been for business cards, a few corporate gifts, and some travel to meet affiliates. Most of what we do is repeat or referral business. And our clients have included the most prestigious in the country.

When you have clarity on your target market and exactly how you will benefit them, you can choose the management consulting projects that are best for you – and turn down those that aren’t.


  • Accept and find projects that are consistent with ideal client profiles and your unique value proposition.
  • Make sure that the project makes financial sense.
  • Walk away from toxic clients.
  • Look out for hidden gems – the best consulting jobs may not look very promising

Financial and relationship decisions in management consulting projects

The types of consulting projects you take on must make financial sense. And you need to recognize when clients are just too much hard work.

Here are some typical consultant mistakes:

Taking on projects that are too small or have margins that are too small.

We have all taken on these projects. Sometimes it is because nothing else is coming in, and you feel a bit desperate – or hope that this unprofitable project will lead to something bigger.

Unfortunately, we may have these projects because

  • We didn’t cost them correctly.
  • The consultants are hooked into scope creep because they didn’t adequately specify deliverables, or they can’t say no to the client.
  • We over-deliver and set standards that our clients often don’t even notice (I must own up to this!)

Taking on work outside of your area of expertise

There is a joke that when you ask consultants whether they can do something, the answer is “Of course” - and they figure out afterward how to do it.

That might work if the request is within your area of expertise. But it is problematic when you take on a project away from your core offering.

You might learn a lot and even deliver the final product, but it will take too long and distract you from what you should be doing.

Working with toxic clients

Some clients can only be described as toxic. They drain your energy and create tension and conflict in your life.

It’s difficult to walk away when the project is lucrative. You must decide whether the price is worth the aggravation.

In my experience, there is nothing quite as liberating as “firing” a toxic client.

Finding Hidden Gem Projects

Be on the lookout for projects that may be better than they first appear.

For example,

  • A client describes a problem and specifies a solution. You might recognize that the client has misdiagnosed the problem or the answer – and you have a better suggestion.
  • The project may be very “boring” and basic. Even if this is true, an occasional easy job means you can earn well without having to be at the limits of your expertise.
  • The geographic location, need for “hand-holding,” or project management demands may be problematic. This might be an opportunity for you to upgrade your systems and processes so that you can deliver at a profit, have a satisfied customer, and be better equipped for future work.

In retrospect, one of our best consulting jobs required a detailed and extensive project management system. I considered it onerous at the time, but excellent project management became a hallmark of our business.

Using online platforms to find the best consulting projects

Online consulting platforms have removed much of the difficulty and risk of finding management consulting projects.

Let’s look at what a good platform like Consultport offers to companies and consultants:

  • They pre-screen clients, projects, and the consultants registered on their platform.
  • The platforms engage with clients to fully understand their needs, then recommend the most suitable consultants.
  • They can select from over 3,500 consultants, covering a wide range of expertise and experience levels.
  • There is a no-risk policy. The search process costs nothing if the client does not find a suitable consultant (generally within 48 hours).
  • If they do, the consultant and client can immediately get to work. Consultport will handle the contracts, invoicing, and quality management.
  • To date, Consultport has placed consultants in projects in 53 countries.

The online consulting marketplace has revolutionized consulting. Those who choose to participate will find a whole world of opportunities opening to them.