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How are the super competitors winning? They’re good at what matters, when it matters

If super competitors are super competitors because they have successfully increased the amount of work for which clients are prepared to consider them, the next question is naturally: How do they do it?

To think about this, we’ve looked at our recent client surveys to understand what matters to clients at different stages of their buying journeys, and how well Accenture, Deloitte, and McKinsey—our newly crowned super competitors—fare in each category.


Top of funnel

When clients are in the earliest phases of their relationship with firms, the most important attributes they tell us they consider, other than brand and reputation overall, are the speed of delivery, the quality of a firm’s thought leadership, and its prices. It’s straightforward enough to see how clients can make an assessment of a firm’s content—clients often tell us they’re bombarded with it—but how can they have an opinion about prices without seeing a proposal, or speed without having worked with a firm?

From talking to clients and measuring firms’ brands, we know that clients do form opinions on these aspects very early on. With price point, it’s quite easy to see how brand affects clients’ earliest assumptions: Just as you don’t need a sledgehammer to crack a nut, you probably don’t want to pay what you perceive to be McKinsey prices for straightforward resource augmentation work. (It also works in reverse—you don’t want to pay bargain basement prices for the turnaround strategy that’s going to save your business). Clients use price as a quick way of narrowing the vast field for the issue at hand. And, perhaps, they’re doing the same with speed: Does a firm’s brand send signals that it’s quick to deliver or that it’s a lumbering machine?

Most brand measurement work focuses on metrics that are borrowed from B2C trackers, but we contend that there’s far more going on at the top of the funnel than simply whether clients are aware or familiar with a firm.

Middle of funnel

To progress to being shortlisted, the most important attributes to clients that a firm must demonstrate are its sector expertise and its ability to implement (again, alongside brand and reputation overall). This, effectively, is what gets you in the room. Once you’re in the room…

Bottom of funnel

We asked clients why they chose to work with the firms they ended up selecting. The three most common clinchers were innovation, account management, and the firm’s methodologies. Being seen as strong in these areas is what gets you over the line to winning the work.

So, how do our super competitors, Accenture, Deloitte, and McKinsey, stack up across these three stages of the buying cycle? You guessed it—they’re strong across the board. The only area of relative weakness is around pricing, which, as we discussed, is a double-edged sword. Our guess is that these firms are pretty happy to be both expensive and widely used.

Data based on our annual survey of clients’ perceptions of consulting firms and 12 further client surveys conducted in different markets from January to July 2022. In total, over 4,840 clients were surveyed.