Why Businesses Aren’t Buying Generative AI Consulting 

I’ve been thinking about generative AI consulting. 

My head has been spinning with AI use cases for marketers, agencies, and business operations.

In the past six weeks, I have hosted a dozen AI training events and witnessed firsthand how our generative AI technology has increased productivity at my agency by 30%.

Yet, agencies and consultants are failing to sell their generative AI consulting services. I’ve heard from several agency owners struggling to sell AI consulting services.


They believe businesses are hesitant because the competition for AI services is fierce. But that’s not the problem. 

The problem?

Businesses aren’t ready to buy generative AI consulting.

Let me explain.

My AI workshop attendees were most interested in exploring generative AI to extract insights from data, create document drafts, streamline report generation, and automate data entry.

But despite the potential, businesses are hesitant to purchase AI consulting services.

Why Businesses Aren’t Buying 

Businesses are hesitant to buy for several reasons. Every business is different. But here’s what I’ve

1. Still Exploring – Many businesses are still in the early stages of exploring how AI can benefit their operations. They don’t yet have a clear understanding of use cases or potential benefits. They may have a wait-and-see attitude or be satisfied with their internal efforts.

3. Lack of Business Case – AI consultants struggle to articulate a convincing business case for generative AI. ROI is difficult for you to quantify BEFORE thoroughly assessing a business’s current processes and objectives. This can feel like a chicken-or-the-egg situation for consultants. What comes first? The business case or the consulting engagement that clearly defines the business case?

2. The DIY Option – Some business leaders think implementing AI will be straightforward and prefer a DIY approach before hiring outside experts. This often leads to frustration. But this approach feels safer than going “all-in” with an expensive consultant.

4. Overhyped Technology – After years of AI hype without many tangible use cases, some business leaders have AI fatigue and are hesitant to invest in more consulting to prove its value. Convincing case studies on rival businesses may be required to get some to act.

5. How to Choose – Businesses have no way to evaluate consultants pitching AI services. Every proposal looks vague and similar. Generative AI is now so they have few contacts who can refer them to a trustworthy AI consultant.

6. Cultural Resistance – Change management is hard, even for well-managed organizations. Resistance may come from competing business priorities, employees fearing job loss, or managers preferring “low-risk” incremental change.

Do Businesses Want Generative AI?

Some individual contributors are racing ahead with generative AI, while leadership is more cautious about the risks.

Individual contributors want training on how to automate their tedious day-to-day work. If they have a training budget, they will spend it to learn more about generative AI. 

At the leadership level, however, the perspective shifts towards a more strategic approach. 

Business leaders are intrigued by the potential of generative AI to streamline their organizations, yet they are approaching AI adoption with extreme caution. 

Business leaders view AI implementation as a challenging exercise in change management. Risks include employee resistance, data privacy concerns, cultural inertia, unforeseen technical hurdles, and uncertain ROI. Before they make the leap, they need proof points and case studies from similar organizations showing real-world gains from generative AI.

Selling Generative AI Consulting is Hard

Businesses have been burned in the past by consultants with flashy presentations and promises of results.

Consultants who sell AI’s sizzle without the steak of proven results will struggle to convince business leaders to invest anything beyond a small, exploratory budget. Cautious executives are hard-pressed to pay top dollar for speculative projects.

Additionally, the market is flooded with consultants focusing only on generative AI training and strategy. Businesses want not only strategic advice but also the tangible, practical implementation of AI solutions. Offering a comprehensive service—from initial assessment to deploying custom AI solutions—becomes a key differentiator. 

Still, without proof points, AI sounds theoretical and intangible to skeptical business leaders. They want to know how AI will impact productivity, efficiency, costs, and other important business metrics.

Agencies are Well-Positioned

Businesses will hire generative AI consultants from firms they trust, not a cold email. 

As an agency or consultant, you are a trusted advisor to your clients. Many consultants overstate their capabilities, making promises they can’t deliver to win business. So businesses are wary.

If you can’t secure business within those trusted relationships, it’s a strong indication that you need to refine the offering, target different use cases, or work on your case studies.

How Will This Market Develop? 

In the near term, businesses will look to trusted partners to implement exploratory generative AI projects. They will be persuaded only by proven use cases backed by industry case studies. 

Over time, competitive pressure will build for businesses to deploy AI as case studies emerge showing its benefits. As word of AI success stories circulates, the demand for AI consulting will surge.

Go-to-Market Strategy  

Sell generative AI consulting by ditching the speculative pitch and first building AI champions internally. AI training leads to organic buy-in and upsell opportunities.

By offering existing clients AI training or no-cost assessments, agencies can establish credibility, demonstrate tangible benefits, and organically build demand for targeted AI solutions, leading to larger consulting deals.

Here’s my recommended go-to-market strategy:

1. Offer AI training to your existing clients. 

2. Upsell them on AI consulting for targeted solutions for specific use cases.  

3. Write case studies based on your work 

4. Win new clients by pitching case studies showing tangible benefits for specific use cases 

This approach will allow you to build demand for your AI consulting while building the business cases required to win future contracts.

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