In many areas there is a gap between buyers’ activities and sellers’ business development ideas, and it is the responsibility of sellers to understand that and make adjustments.

But what is the starting point for that? Do sellers have to completely change their ways to win business? After all, they’ve been able to stay in business using their current model, right?

We don’t advocate upending the business development ideas that have made sellers successful. But, our research shows there are trends that need to be taken into account so that sellers can continue to win business.

Then view the graph that compares reputation and visibility. You see a clear trend among management consulting firms where visibility and reputation – the pillars of a brand – don’t match. Brands can get a boost from a combined increase in visibility with a good reputation.

Another surprising statistic about the sellers is that most were not accurate in knowing who their competitors were. 75% of competitors identified by buyers were not even on sellers’ radar. This could be due to the many sub-specialties within management consulting, but the takeaway is compelling: your competition is not necessarily who you think it is.

The way that sellers approach their marketing also presents discrepancies with what buyers seek. Sellers believe they will find buyers at traditional venues such as events, although buyers put relatively little stock in them. Perhaps this is because of the inherent challenges of venue size or that targets didn’t attend.

Sellers overemphasize some approaches, but to some extent they know what works in order to get the coveted referral. Some of their online activities are good examples of this because they are establishing their expertise in the venues where buyers are looking or validating what they hear.

This leads to one of the more interesting points in the research: the most useful and least used business development idea is asking buyers for the referral. 57% said there’s a high probability they’d recommend a seller, but most are never asked. There’s lots of untapped potential there for management consultants to set themselves up for more business.