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The 10 Best Ways for Your Consulting Firm to Add Value

Half the spinning cycle of consulting is creating value for your clients. (The other half is winning engagements.) If your consulting firm can add more value, you can win more projects from more clients at higher fees. So, let’s cover the ten best ways to add value to a consulting project.

In consulting, as in desserts, layering on the sweet stuff ensures your product will be snarfed up and produce satisfied smiles. Sure, a brownie is good, but my grandmother’s seven-layer dream bars were divine.

Similarly, a consulting project that delivers one type of value is good, but seven layers of value are going to make your clients swoon. (And sending dream bars to your clients could make you consulting firm of the year.)

The intrinsic value of a consulting project depends on the problem you’re solving for your client. Problems that are bigger, juicier and more urgent intrinsically are more valuable and will allow you to command higher fees.

The extrinsic value of your consulting project reflects the benefits you add on top of the client’s initial request. These benefits also affect the size, scope and margin of your consulting project. Generally, it’s obvious how to offer one or two classes of benefits in your consulting projects, because your client asked for them.

The question, though, is whether you can layer more extrinsic value on top of what your client asked for.

If you had a checklist of the best ways your consulting firm could add value to a consulting project, then you could quickly scan down the list and craft additional tiers of gooey, sweet, benefits.

Fortunately, we have that list!

The 10 Best Ways for Your Consulting Firm to Add Value

Solve

One classic use of consultants is identifying solutions to problems. Typically, this is top-of-mind when clients hire your consulting firm.

On the other hand, even if a client didn’t ask you to solve anything, is there a problem you could eliminate?

Represent

Clients also hire consultants to access a voice of experience in a certain industry or function. In this case, you are lending perspective as a representative of a certain class that the client is interested in—oncology physicians, or lean operators, or brownie bakers.

Highlight your expertise as a source of value in your proposal.

Advise

Enhance your value to your clients by stepping into the role of advisor and suggesting a specific course of action.

Offer go/no-go recommendations, counsel on improving leadership, strategic direction, or any of a thousand other ways you can point your clients to a better future.

Clarify

Frequently, your clients are so tangled up in the minutiae of their problems, that they’ve lost focus and direction.

Consider simplifying and prioritizing your consulting client’s efforts. That’s often perceived as enormously valuable.

Implement

Implementation on its own is staff augmentation, not consulting. However, many clients view a consulting proposal as weak or hollow if it only offers advice or a solution without any hands-on implementation.

Even though you should generally avoid “end-to-end” consulting, you can probably add value to your proposals by including some level of implementation.

Customize

IT consultants, in particular, are familiar with projects focused on customizing a particular application or software platform to meet a specific client’s needs.

If you’re not in IT consulting, take this source of value to heart. Is there a way you could boost the value of your consulting project by customizing a standardized approach or idea for your client?

Train

You can easily raise the worth of your consulting project by offering to transfer skills and knowledge. Generally this takes the form of instructing, coaching, and mentoring in a plethora of formats.

Whether it’s in-person classes, online materials, facilitated peer-groups, or some other modality, try layering some training into your projects.

Advance

Are you on the vanguard of thinking in your field? Have you developed a breakthrough approach?

You can promise to step up your client’s approaches and operations, setting them ahead of their competition and positioning them to be at the forefront of important trends.

Insulate

Sometimes, clients need an impartial voice to explain a strategy or choice to their troops.

Your consulting firm can fill that role, creating separation in an emotional situation, reducing the perception of bias, or diffusing an apparent conflict of interest. While this may not seem like consulting, it’s definitely a layer of value you should consider.

Other?

I have four other layers of value on my checklist, but I bet you can come up with even more. I’m leaving this space open for you.

What other ways can your consulting firm add value for your clients?


26 Comments
  1. Bill Blades
    October 31, 2018 at 8:30 pm Reply

    My comment is a simple one: Tell them the truths. That, along with doing more than you promised, is just good business.

    • David A. Fields
      November 1, 2018 at 5:58 am Reply

      Indeed, Reveal is what many of our clients need. A consultant who will reveal the truths, unvarnished, is a valuable asset. You’ve made the list stronger with your suggestion, Bill.

  2. Gary
    November 1, 2018 at 1:40 pm Reply

    Always insightful value. Thank you

    • David A. Fields
      November 1, 2018 at 3:57 pm Reply

      Thank you for being part of the community, Gary. Smart readers help create valuable content.

  3. Alex
    November 2, 2018 at 4:14 pm Reply

    What about “research”? Although in some cases it goes with “solve”, however there some project when the knowledge generation and research what the client is looking for.

    • David A. Fields
      November 4, 2018 at 10:14 am Reply

      Absolutely. While research, itself, had no inherent valuable, what you provide (insights, knowledge, etc.) with the results of the research can be enormously valuable to your consulting clients. In some cases, even the knowledge, and understanding that the data convey can be a benefit.

      Great extension of the list of ways to add value, Alex.

  4. Elena Yearly
    November 6, 2018 at 7:12 am Reply

    Our emphasis on quality is what endears us to our clients. We deliver on time and on budget. Wearing both a consultative and, at times, PMO hat has allowed us to showcase to our clients that we have the endgame in mind and that we have our eyes on the task at hand. Also we do not come across as “snake oil” sales persons. We share best practices that we have seen elsewhere to help our clients with their internal processes without compromising independence nor objectivity. These are what I would term “value added” traits.

    • David A. Fields
      November 6, 2018 at 8:01 am Reply

      All those traits definitely contribute to your clients’ perceptions of you as a top-flight consulting firm. As you rightly point out, a focus on quality and the client’s needs will endear you to them.

      FYI, you may enjoy 10 Practical Ways Consultants Can Delight Clients, which is a list of ways a consulting firm can endear itself to its clients. (The overlap between pleasing clients and adding value is very high, of course.)

  5. Mike Chirveno
    November 6, 2018 at 9:32 am Reply

    CONFRONT – certainly one of the most difficult to pull off. Occasionally, the biggest impediment to the organization is the person that brought you in for the engagement. However, if you can build a relationship with that person that is able to bear the weight of truth, you can help them correct their destructive behavior and repair the damage to the organization. A few times in my consulting life, I’ve had this opportunity and it’s incredibly rewarding personally. And the client is very grateful that someone would take the risk to speak the truth.

    • David A. Fields
      November 6, 2018 at 9:44 am Reply

      The very best client/consultant relationships are candid partnerships in which both sides have permission to give tough feedback and both sides listen attentively.

      Outstanding addition to the list, Mike.

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