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How to sell innovation consulting? (5/10)

Selling innovation consulting means listening. But, as corporate meetings can be very dense and long, what should the innovation consultant listen to in greater detail?

I/ Innovation listening should aim at collecting information on how people reach decisions

Courtesy Seven pillars of success

Listening must also involve an aim to understand how the client reaches a decision on an individual basis. And, as mentioned earlier, Paul may reach a decision in a different way than Sarah or John. Every single individual has his own way of getting to a decision.

And the real talent of a sales executive is deciphering how that person sitting right in front of him will make the decision of hiring him as an innovation consultant. That’s what listening must do. That’s why it’s so critical to understand and listen to people. To do this, the listener must:

  • get the facts right
  • understand the concepts

II/ Innovation means getting the facts right

Very often, I’ve seen innovation consultants have only a partial understanding of what the facts are. For me, understanding the facts, getting the facts right, means being able to:

  • define every single acronym that the client has enunciated
  • recall every single name that the client used
  • understand the client’s critical concepts

III/ Innovation listening also means understanding corporate concepts


Now, there is also often misunderstanding on what understanding a client’s concept means. Understanding a client’s critical concept involves the following:

  • Identifying corporate-specific and industry-specific vocabulary
  • Identifying a specific word which has some kind of richness in meaning
  • Showing how this word has seen its meanings evolve over time as a function of changes in corporate direction, market dynamics, industrial policies

Every time there has been a change in the meaning of corporate concepts, this is the result of changes affecting the company’s environment. And, for every single change in meaning, there needs to be some understanding of how this change in meaning is the result of market and strategic changes. In other words, understanding client concepts assumes an understanding of:

  • the client’s current strategy
  • how this strategy has evolved over time
  • how this has altered the meaning of a number of critical corporate concepts.

IV/ How to sell innovation consulting?

So, this is the kind of information one should aim at collecting through listening

  • understanding acronyms, names and specific vocabulary
  • understanding concepts and being able to bring some context explaining how and why each word means what it means today
  • understanding how people reach decisions

Above, I mention all the explicit information one should listen to. But, as I’ll show in upcoming post, there are also many implicit clues that help to understand how people make a decision.

In the meantime, what do you listen to when you’re trying to close a sale? What’s the most important thing you listen to when you’re trying to get a client to sign you up for a consulting job? Please feel free to share your ideas !

Further readings

  • For a fun post on how to listen, please refer here
  • For a discussion on why people buy innovation, please refer to this BusinessWeek article
  • For a super fun article on why people buy, please refer here.


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