Consulting technology guide for 2024

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A rapidly evolving market—with new economic obstacles

The consulting market has faced a range of challenges over the past year. Macroeconomic headwinds adversely impacted client budgets, which resulted in many clients canceling or pausing projects and pushing for lower fees.

According to Source Global Research, overall growth in the consulting market slowed in 2023. However, this was unevenly distributed—with certain sectors, like cybersecurity and technology strategy, growing while other areas contracted. 

Despite these challenges, a strong underlying demand for consulting services remains. Data from our 2024 professional services outlook shows that professional services firms anticipate a growing demand from companies for their assistance in adopting new technologies, improving operational efficiency, addressing ESG-related objectives, and more. 

Source: Affinity Survey for the 2024 professional services outlook

Successful consulting firms don’t necessarily have more resources to put towards projects. Instead, they’re experts at managing their relationships and tapping into the skills and knowledge of the people in their network. 

They’re also making a strong case for their firm’s brand value. Whether firms are trying to grow their book of business with existing clients or searching for new companies to sell their services to, the most successful ones are turning to technology to expand existing accounts and prove their capabilities to prospects. 

This guide shows how leading firms are using technology to optimize their business network and project pipeline to secure more projects and stay ahead of their competition. In it, you will learn:

  • How to use data about your business connections to grow your project pipeline
  • New ways to strengthen your brand authority and demonstrate your expertise 
  • What relationship intelligence is and how it can help you close projects more efficiently

Focus on the right data-driven insights

Relationships are key to winning more business, and the best firms have learned which technologies can turn their connections into contracts in a market with more frugal clientele.

These firms are avoiding obstacles that come with:

  1. An ever-expanding, globalizing network of business relationships
  2. Massive, siloed, and/or disorganized stores of data about their business network and pipeline
  3. Attempting to demonstrate their firm’s value to prospects effectively
  4. Building a brand that helps scale their book of business with prospects and existing clients 

Simplify data management

As your network grows, so does the data that you have to keep track of. This is a great problem to have. But effectively managing all of the information relevant to each connection and opportunity becomes more and more difficult—as does knowing when and how to act on that data. 

“I had plenty of business relationships, but no way of keeping track of them. Information about clients and potential clients was everywhere—my email inbox, my calendar, and various Word and Excel files—that is, if I remembered to record it.”

Charles De Segundo
Partner at Impact Delta

Rather than letting it overwhelm them, the most efficient firms are using this plethora of data to strengthen their relationships and guide how they win projects. The first step is storing accurate, up-to-date records on clients and projects in one place so anyone on your team can find important details about an opportunity at a glance.

Turn contacts into projects

Pipeline management data—such as where engagements are stalling in your pipeline, average time to close, and average project size—can inform which engagements are more likely to close and, by extension, which relationships to prioritize. Combining project and client engagement data enables you to improve how you manage your project pipeline and answer questions like:

  • Which internal and external partners introduce us to the highest-quality opportunities?
  • Are we setting up meetings efficiently with top-priority leads?
  • Do we have a consistent communication cadence with our most valuable connections?
  • Which companies have been stuck in a single project stage for too long?
  • On average, how many emails or meetings does it take to close a project?

Prove your value to a wider range of clients

Imagine this scenario. You’ve had the opportunity to build a strong connection with a prospect. You’ve been tracking news, market activity, and notes from your previous interactions, and all signs now point to moving forward with the project. You already understand their business and what they’re looking for in a partnership: now you have to demonstrate this understanding to close the deal. 

Because the reality is, securing (and nurturing) a connection to a business partner doesn’t guarantee they’ll view your firm as the right fit for the job. 

According to Source Global Research, “There are some notable changes in how clients are interacting with consulting firms. They are more hesitant to invest in long, expensive transformation projects, and are only spending on consulting to counter the most critical of pain points.” In response, leading consultants are turning to their own aggregated, anonymized data to demonstrate their value and prove to clients why a team of outside experts makes all the difference. 


Use data to demonstrate your expertise

Leading consulting firms are able to convert data about previous engagements into insights to demonstrate their value. 

With the right system in place, you can:

  • Gather relevant data to pitch more nimbly
  • Anonymize and aggregate that data
  • Store it centrally and comprehensively
  • Extract actionable information from it more quickly
  • Share and present it to your clients more easily
  • Provide tangible proof that you’re the best team to see the project through

Showing up to a meeting with precise supporting evidence of your success with previous projects helps prove your team is right for the job.

Build a brand that clients trust

Brand carries weight. A report published by Source Global Research specific to professional services shows that brand and reputation are the most important elements of a client’s decision-making process, followed closely by expertise and sector knowledge. 

Your brand is a sales tool. Advocates within a prospect’s organization can make a case for using your services not just based on your skill set but also based on your firm’s reputation for success. Building a trusted brand requires demonstrating repeatable successes, which is why firms with the strongest brands are also the best record-keepers—and they use data to prove their worth.

Brand authority is created by: 

  • Showing how quickly you completed similar projects
  • Accurately projecting costs based on previous engagements
  • Reporting on the ROI of previous work

Invest in the currency of the relationship economy: relationship intelligence 

Agile, tech-forward consulting firms are more effectively harnessing their business network with the support of relationship intelligence—insights into their team’s collective network, business connections, and previous client engagements that help them find, manage, and close more projects quickly. 

Relationship intelligence solutions automatically capture your team’s “data exhaust”—details that are automatically gleaned from email communications, meetings, and contact information such as names, roles, industry, and source of introduction—so that you can easily access contextual information about any contact in your network.

These details inform AI-driven relationship scores—quantified, up-to-date measurements of the strength of your relationships—that help you identify the best individual on your team to reach out to a contact. These scores uncover hidden inroads to new accounts. Teams can minimize cold calls to unlikely prospects and instead focus on opportunities with warmer introduction paths, which can help close deals 25% faster.

Act on the data you collect

Relationship intelligence also analyzes company data like hiring, headcount, and monthly, quarterly, and annual growth trends so your team can check in with a contact to discuss predictive events like leadership changes before other firms are aware that a new project may be on the horizon. 

But disparate data sources and incomplete records yield muddled details about clients and prospects, making it impossible to determine who last reached out to a contact or to find up-to-date news or funding data. Or files go missing because they are disconnected from the associated contact or company. 

When client, prospect, and project information is centralized—not siloed in a single person’s email inbox or spreadsheet—all of the data you need about the relationships in your network, the companies they work at, and the markets they operate in becomes readily available. 

Inform your decisions with data enriched by third-party industry sources

Relationship intelligence solutions contextualize and enhance the contact and project data in your CRM with data from external partners—including financial data from industry leaders like Pitchbook and Dealroom. 

These enriched datasets can highlight signals that notify consultants when to reach out to companies with a well-informed pitch. With a solution that consolidates this data, you can more efficiently conduct market research and due diligence for clients—directly from your CRM, browser, or inbox.

“Affinity helps us quickly map the market and startup landscape by giving us access to data points that serve as proxies for success.”

Sebastian de Lange Kofoed

Strategy Consultant at Founders Intelligence

Never lose track of a contact

Augmenting your CRM records with enriched data also enables automated reminders. You can set up reminder triggers when critical company insights change—such as when a company hires more than two new senior leaders within a quarter—or when a relationship score drops below a certain threshold. Or you can set a cadence of quarterly follow-up reminders to keep the conversation warm or touch base with clients, regardless of business activity.

Work transparently to keep clients informed

Once you’ve sealed the deal, you can use enriched Salesforce reporting tools and progress dashboards to send clients important updates at regular intervals. These routine updates ensure your work is transparent to your client from start to finish, highlighting progress, anticipating snags, and optimizing project management.

An augmented CRM designed for consulting firms

Purpose-built relationship intelligence solutions like Affinity for Salesforce are enabling firms to move more quickly with a more personalized, data-driven approach to relationship and project management. 

The Affinity for Salesforce relationship intelligence augmentation provides complete access to your relationship and project pipeline data. Centralizing both project information and relationships in one place enables you to use one to inform the other: past patterns point you toward which relationships are the most impactful, and comprehensive relationship histories with quantified, AI-driven relationship scores help you find introductions to new opportunities.

“Putting together consulting deals is not a linear process. Projects I sign today may have started with a conversation last year with someone only tangentially related to the actual project. Affinity is structured specifically for a relationship-driven industry like consulting.”

Charles De Segundo
Partner at Impact Delta

With consolidated insights into your project and relationship data, as well as enriched datasets, you can easily build smart outbound lists that connect you to warm introductions instead of diving into cold outreach and hoping for the best.

The Affinity for Salesforce relationship intelligence solution

Firms looking to secure new and recurring projects in a tighter market can use a relationship intelligence solution to build better relationships, make more informed decisions, and close more projects. 

Here are a few ways Affinity for Salesforce enables you to do just that: 

  • Data captured automatically from your email and calendar ensures Salesforce records are comprehensive, accurate, and accessible—which can save 200+ hours of manual CRM work per employee every year.
  • Enriched datasets supported by external data partners help you keep up with key developments with your clients and prospects, enabling you to offer additional expertise.
  • Email and browser extensions provide insights within your everyday tools, allowing you to access and update CRM insights directly where you work. 
  • AI-driven relationship scoring leads to warmer introductions by measuring the volume and type of connections between your team and your contacts—helping you close deals 25% faster
  • Automated Salesforce triggers can alert you when relationship scores for key contacts fall below certain thresholds, reminding you to reach out when a relationship is at risk.
  • Richer Salesforce reports and dashboards incorporate metrics like employee growth, team activity, relationship scores, and more, so you can graphically depict and manage your clients and prospects alongside your project pipeline.
  • Built-in compliance with the highest-level data security protocols, including SOC2 Type II, GDPR, and CCPA, provide the reassurance you and your clients want.

The most successful firms in today’s market are closing more quality projects with a relationship intelligence CRM solution built to optimize relationship building, improve your firm’s timing when acting on key deals and contacts, and demonstrate your value to clients.

Find out what Affinity for Salesforce can do for your consulting firm.


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