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An Impeccable Source of Language for Your Consulting Firm’s Marketing

Picture a deeper, healthier client list and pipeline for your consulting firm—the type you’d have if you communicated your consulting firm’s value in language that instantly resonated with the exact people you want to attract. The source of that alluring, sticky language is at your fingertips.

It’s tricky to develop exactly the right wording to convey the problems your consulting firm solves, the aspirations you help achieve and how your solutions help your clients.

Much of your consulting firm’s current marketing and sales materials feature clever parlance. Turns of phrase you’ve crafted based on long, deep thought about your solutions and the situations your prospects encounter.

That communication is frequently ineffective. Often it’s too generic. Other times it’s specific, but is out of sync with your prospects’ phraseology. Both cases fail to resonate with your prospective clients.

The best wording captures your prospects’ attention by precisely mirroring what they’ve been thinking or, better yet, what they’ve said during internal meetings and discussions.

Picture Samantha Seyeo, top dog at Pack Packaging, Co. muttering discontentedly to her assistant, “We need some way to improve camaraderie even though our executive team can’t meet in person.”

Then, later that week, your email pops up in Sam’s inbox with the subject line, “Build Team Camaraderie Even When You Can’t Meet in Person.” You can bet she’ll double-click your email. And, if the messaging inside is equally consistent with her thoughts, Sam will reach out to your consulting firm.

How do you develop perfectly aligned language?

By listening to your prospects.*

When To Listen for Language

The early phases of your consulting firm’s interaction with a new prospect are information rich. Two interactions in particular carry a treasure trove of messaging gold: 

  1. When your prospect first sends you an email, submits your contact form, or calls your consulting firm to inquire about your services.
  2. When you’re conducting your Context Discussions.

How to Find the Right Language

You can mine both of these troves with the four action steps below:

  1. Ask your prospects whether you can record your call with them so that you can focus on what they’re saying without writing notes. And/or, take supremely accurate, verbatim notes. And/or contract a stenographer
  2. Assemble the verbatim transcripts from at least ten Context Discussions that led to the same type of project. (In other words, don’t combine Context Discussions that resulted in different offerings or client engagements.) Supplement those transcripts with any raw inquiries such as contact forms and unsolicited inquiry emails.
  3. Analyze the data for common expressions and combinations of words. How do prospects describe their situation, their desired outcome and their ideal solution?
  4. Try out those common expressions and phraseologies in your marketing materials, sales collateral and business development conversations.


Before you jump into action with the action steps above, beware of three traps:

Overly Generic Expressions:

You may find virtually all of your prospects use exactly the same terms or wording, particularly during the earliest moments of your conversation, and yet their language expresses nothing useful.

For instance, even if every prospect utters “We have a problem” at some point, you won’t attract more clients by inserting “You have a problem” into your communication.

Auto-Translate Filters:

You are so smart, experienced and well versed in your consulting firm’s area of expertise, that you automatically translate what your prospects are saying into what you know they mean to be saying or what they would say if they were more eloquent.

As a result you quickly filter out your prospects’ raw expression of their needs and replace that language with your own, better-informed expressions.

To avoid this trap, analyze raw transcriptions and have an analyst who’s less familiar with your consulting firm’s offerings look for common phrases.

Reframing Prowess:

If you’re a savvy consultant and you’re even passably good at winning business, you probably reframe your clients’ situation, desired outcomes and even their concerns.

Reframing serves multiple purposes, including simplifying, clarifying and establishing you as the obvious choice. Unfortunately, reframing also obscures the prospects’ original language and expressions.

Therefore, make sure you listen and give your prospects multiple opportunities to express themselves before you helpfully reflect, rephrase or reframe their thinking.

It may be possible to take this idea to the next level by feeding your verbatim transcripts into AI-driven text analysis applications. These apps use natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to identify key phrases and concordance.*

What’s a phrase prospects use to describe the problem your consulting firm solves? Share your ideas below.

  1. Theresa Main
    March 24, 2021 at 8:19 am Reply

    Thank you for your article with great advice, David. One of the services we offer our clients aligns with your advice.

    We interview a small number of their clients and prospects. We develop key questions and conduct the interview to obtain feedback on what’s important to these individuals. We listen carefully putting aside our preconceived notions (as much as possible) and take verbatim notes….then, analyze the conversation notes for specific words and phrases they use. We often share verbatim quotes from these interviews with clients to help them walk in the customer’s/prospect’s shoes.

    We help our Clients apply what we learn from the interviews including the specific lingo to develop customer-focused go-to-market strategies, value propositions, key message platforms and quarterly action plans.

    We’ve also coached sales professionals to use this same approach with customers and prospects (i.e. when they are doing proposals, presentations and general interactions). We sometimes are able to model it for them so they see it work first hand. Any advice on how to help this sales people stick with the approach of listening to pick up on lingo and then apply it in their interactions with customers/prospects?

    • David A. Fields
      March 24, 2021 at 8:30 am Reply

      Great example of applying the concept for the benefit of clients, Theresa. As you’ve pointed out, listening for specific language is a valuable service you can offer your clients. A huge percentage of management consultants routinely include verbatims from customer interviews in their work (for example, we do that for our clients), and it’s natural to extend that voice-of-customer exercise into language/wording recommendations.

      In terms of helping sales folks stick with any approach: 1) they have to experience the success themselves; 2) they have to be able to incorporate the approach into their own routine easily; 3) they have to have a need to use the approach regularly/daily so that it doesn’t drift out of memory.

      I appreciate you contributing the twist on the concept, Theresa!

  2. Conni Medina
    March 24, 2021 at 9:53 am Reply

    Your email title caught my attention because it specifically reflects something I’m working on right now!
    To answer your question…A current prospect shared, “we’re kind of all over the place but not going anywhere. We have a lot of “dead weight” on the leadership team–a lot of ideas and no one how knows how to get it done.”

    • David A. Fields
      March 24, 2021 at 11:20 am Reply

      Wow, Conni. There are plenty of gold nuggets in that verbatim. Keep collecting those. For instance, if you find a lot of your prospects talk about “dead weight,” that would become an interesting term to use in your materials and discussions.

      Thanks for sharing the example, Conni!

  3. Sarah Sonnenfeld
    March 24, 2021 at 10:04 am Reply

    Great ideas! I saw huge success from a practice at a large consulting firm which honed an offering to be more and more and more simple, putting a single page in front of 100+ clients and noticing then leaving only what generally resonated. The sharper, simpler, and more powerful it got, the quicker they were able to get CEO meetings with it…

    • David A. Fields
      March 24, 2021 at 11:23 am Reply

      That is uber-cool, Sarah. What a great idea! A bazillion years ago I worked for a chocolate company (no surprise, right?) and every morning there were baskets of candies set out around the office. As an innate market researcher, I was always fascinated with what candies routinely left the basket first and which were still sitting, forlorn and uneaten at the end of the day. The market will tell you what you need to know if you sit back, watch and listen.

      I’m so glad you shared your example, Sarah, and highlighted the success you witnessed.

  4. Jay Arthur
    March 24, 2021 at 10:22 am Reply

    Never paraphrase because you lose the client’s key words and phrases. In Six Sigma, we talk about Green Belts and Black Belts. In healthcare, they are called “improvement advisors.” Some clients use “quality improvement,” others use “performance improvement,” while others use “operational excellence,” etc. to describe Lean Six Sigma. If you want their business, use their words, not yours. It’s the express lane to long lasting rapport.

    • David A. Fields
      March 24, 2021 at 11:26 am Reply

      Exactly right, Jay. We know that we’d communicate with our Japanese clients better if we spoke Japanese and our Italian clients better if we spoke Italian. Yet, when everyone speaks our own language we forget that even in a shared tongue there are variations, differences, nuances and dialects. That applies to different industries as well as different geographies. Thanks for that reminder, Jay!

  5. Chris Doig
    March 24, 2021 at 10:53 am Reply

    David, you mentioned recording customer meetings so you can focus on them rather than taking notes. With so many meetings online these days, it’s pretty easy to record them (with your client’s permission, of course!)

    I use zoom for meetings, and take the audio and convert it to verbatim transcripts with It’s not expensive at $10/month for 600 hours of transcripts, and there are two places where it works really well:
    1) when the transcript is garbled, you can click on the text and listen to the original recording and then correct it.
    2) Every time there is a paragraph break, otter inserts the speaker name and timestamp. My notes are never perfect, and the timestamp allows me to refer back to the recording’s precise source.

    • David A. Fields
      March 24, 2021 at 11:28 am Reply

      Chris, a number of our clients use Otter for transcriptions and love it. Zoom automatically offers transcriptions when you record to the cloud. Whatever tool you can use to help you capture the exact words your prospects use is a worthwhile addition to your practice. Thumbs up on the tip, Chris!

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