As a World Class IT-consulting Company — You Need a World Class Offering Catalog

Obviously, from a business development perspective, it is all about selling more and then deliver in a way that make your clients happy. But how do you accomplish that with IT-consulting organizations growing increasingly “overhead-slim” and billability requirements hitting the 90th percentile?

- You create a world class offering catalog — and here is why (and also how).

Provide your consultants with an opportunity to open the door

With consultative selling becoming a buzz word and overhead costs needing to be kept down in order to remain competitive, it is no wonder that IT-companies are doing away with the traditional sales force concept. Instead, consultants are asked to step up to the plate and fill the void. And with most large IT-consulting companies having 100+ client offerings, what better way for consultants to find the right one than to have them all well documented in an easily accessible offering catalog.

With such a catalog, any consultant on a client assignment can feel comfortable listening for cues to what the client might need. If s/he picks up on anything, the consultant can just refer to the offering catalog to see if there is an offering that can be suggested to the client. This potentially creates a situation where the consultant might become a hero both internally for opening the door to a potential deal and with the client for suggesting a possible solution to their problem.

Easier meeting preparation and increased quality control

With an easily searchable offering catalog listing the company’s entire portfolio of offerings in a homogenous way, it will be much quicker to prepare for client meetings as you can just filter the offerings based on, for example, client industry, target role or technology used. If you have done the rest of your homework, you can now effortlessly select the most likely sales collateral to bring to the meeting.

In addition to speeding up meeting preparations, a well organized offering catalog with a common base plate of sales collateral and a uniform offering design, will also ensure that offerings meet set baseline criteria and that people searching the catalog will feel familiar no matter the type of offering they are looking for. The latter is especially important in larger companies where you as a consultant or manager cannot reasonably be an expert on the company’s entire range of offerings.

Employee onboarding and social media sharing

Other, maybe not so obvious, reasons to maintain an offering catalog is because it really describes the core of a company. If it weren’t for the offerings an IT-consulting firm provides to its clients, there would be little reason to exist. Thus, it is easy to see that studying the offering catalog is the perfect way for new recruits to learn what the company is all about.

Also, having every offering, product sheet, sales presentation, reference case etc at your fingertips, will give you a plethora of material to draw upon when posting insightful blogs and articles on social media. Doing so is both in the interest of the company and yourself as it builds brand recognition for the both of you.

How to build a world class offering catalog

Ok, so now we know why an offering catalog should be central to an IT-consulting company’s business development and related activities. But what considerations are needed when designing such a catalog? The answer is layout, templates, commonality, flexibility, filtering and, last but not least, maintenance.

Layout

The most important aspect of an offering catalog is to make it easy for consultants to find and digest the offerings in the catalog. The way to accomplish that is to use a homogenous layout meaning that no matter what type of offering you are viewing, the design and layout of it will always be the same. This way, people will feel comfortable viewing and bringing offerings to their clients that are outside of their normal area of expertise.

Templates

Another important aspect of creating a successful offering catalog is to make it as effortless as possible for proposition owners to document and publish offerings in the catalog. Using templates takes care of this. Create templates that not only contain the proper headings and sections but also descriptions on how and what to think of when building an offering.

Commonality

Having a common base plate in the catalog is key. If not, offerings will start to vary in design and scope over time making it difficult to find and absorb needed information. By establishing a mandatory content minimum that all offerings must include, you guarantee that catalog visitors will always know what they can expect to find.

Flexibility

On top of the above suggested common mandatory minimum, you can build in flexibility, for example, by offering a set of optional templates that can be used if the proposition owner believes it will add more flavor to the offering. Another way to offer flexibility is to include a way to link to relevant internal and external content as well as other related offerings within the catalog itself.

Filtering

As mentioned in the beginning of this post, most large IT-consulting companies offer a lot of different solutions to their clients. For that reason, it is of importance from an UX standpoint that the catalog is easily searchable and that you can filter offerings in different ways depending on what you are looking for. For example, you might want to prepare for a client meeting by finding all offerings geared toward that client’s industry and the specific target role of the person you are meeting with.

Maintenance

Putting together a world class offering catalog is only haft the job. Maintaining it once it goes live is the other half. If must be easy for proposition owners to update their offerings. If not, people will stop using the catalog quickly as finding outdated offerings is almost worse than not having a single point to look for them. You have to provide at least a form or dashboard view of the of the offerings a proposition owner is responsible for maintaining for overview purposes. If it is possible to do the actual update in the same view, even better.

In conclusion — How?

If you made it this far you now have a good understanding of the why and the what of a world class offering catalog for IT-consulting companies. However, the complete picture should also include a how. How do you implement an offering solution like the one mentioned here? Should you build it in-house, outsource it or is there a SaaS solution available? Is the catalog to an internal affair or does it make more sense to make it available to our clients directly?

These are all good questions with no right or wrong answer but consider this: In-house development using consultants that could be billing clients instead is always a tough choice priority wise. On the other hand, ordering a custom made solution can be both costly and not as flexible as you need it to be. A better option might be to use a hybrid solution like, for example, SharpCloud which is a web based no-code data visualization tool where you can build your own solutions — like an offering catalog.

A final consideration is how should be able to access the tool. Making it available directly to clients might be tempting but if you do, you will probably miss out on opportunities to meet with potential clients to paint a broader picture of your company than an offering catalog can convey. Instead, consider keeping the catalog an internal tool but make it available to all employees to leverage the power of having a company wide sales force meeting with clients every day in the natural setting of already ongoing engagements.

Entrepreneur, Intrapreneur and, one day, Pensioneur