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The Easy Way to Determine the Value of Your Consulting Firm’s Projects

When you’re talking with a prospect for your consulting firm, one of your most difficult tasks can be establishing the value of your potential engagement. The simple, Three Sides approach below makes your task easier.

Let’s say Cher Little, the VP of Stuff at Vageny Lusive reached out to you last month to inquire about your consulting firm’s services. Today, after weeks of scheduling conflicts, you finally have a call with Cher to discuss her needs.

You’re prepared to walk Cher through the six parts of the Context Discussion.*

Well… except, maybe, the Value section.

Uncovering the value of an engagement for a prospect can feel awkward. During past attempts to explore value with a consulting prospect, perhaps you’ve become lost, flustered or uncomfortable. So, now you frequently skip that section and substitute questions about whether stevia leaves developed a bitter aftertaste just to mock animals.

That’s a drag.

Because, to maximize your consulting firm’s fees and margins it helps to know the value of your engagement to your client. (If you’re setting your fees based on time, you’re likely to be earning much lower margins than you could, and you’re not serving your clients’ best interests.)

And, while there are multiple chapters devoted to establishing a project’s value in this book and this book, more recently I developed a Three Sides approach and have found it easy to remember and implement.

Three Sides of Value: Upside, Downside and Inside

Upside

If your potential consulting engagement with Vageny Lusive revolves around any sort of aspiration (as opposed to remediating a problem), start by discussing how Cher will be better off at the end of the engagement.

Simple Questions: Why bother doing this project? What meaningful impact will [your desired outcomes] have on your business, your customers and/or your employees?

The “37 Sources of Value” may be a useful resource for guiding your Upside discussion with prospective consulting clients.*

Downside

If Cher reached out to your consulting firm to solve a problem, lead your Value discussion by asking how they will be worse off if Vageny Lusive chooses not to move forward with the engagement.

Simple Questions: What if you don’t do this engagement? What risk does that create or how might you be worse off than today?”

Inside

Regardless of how you start your Value discovery with Cher, do not omit a discussion of the soft value: how Cher will personally gain from successful engagement with your consulting firm.

Simple Question: What does a successful project mean for you, personally?

Remember, Cher won’t move forward with your consulting firm based on the Upside or the Downside; soft motivators—the Inside—are the real reason projects close.

Do you use an approach similar to the Three Sides to determine the value of your projects to clients? What questions have worked well for you?


22 Comments
  1. John Ennis
    September 29, 2021 at 7:23 am Reply

    What a clear and helpful article. Thank you, David!

    • David A. Fields
      September 29, 2021 at 9:42 am Reply

      This is what happens when you write enough articles… a clear, helpful one pops out every once in a while! 😉

      Thanks for the feedback, John. I do appreciate it.

  2. Jean-Marc
    September 29, 2021 at 8:22 am Reply

    Perfect synthesis!

    • David A. Fields
      September 29, 2021 at 9:43 am Reply

      Simple and complete seems to do the trick, Jean-Marc. I’m glad you shared your reaction today.

  3. RAOUL DIDISHEIM
    September 29, 2021 at 8:27 am Reply

    I love your book and blog.

    This post truly clarifies the Value question. Something I struggle with at times.

    • David A. Fields
      September 29, 2021 at 9:49 am Reply

      You’re not alone in struggling with the Value portion of the Context Discussion, Raoul. Many consultants give a half-hearted attempt at establishing value or skip it entirely.

      It can be daunting and uncomfortable, which is why a simple guide can make it easier to remember and work through. Let me know how the Three Sides approach works for you in your next few Context Discussions, Raoul. I’m glad you wrote a comment!

  4. David Ponder
    September 29, 2021 at 10:37 am Reply

    Brilliant idea. Breaking down a complex topic to its core and coming up with a simple tactic that is easy to implement and weave into your selling process.

    Have a bunch of time on your hands, an already successful sales process, and a business mature enough that you’re not already wearing too many hats? Read two books and design an intensive value proposition process.

    Or, if you’re like the rest of us who don’t have those luxuries just do this upside, downside, inside thing every time and reap most of the rewards with a fraction of the effort.

    • David A. Fields
      September 29, 2021 at 11:58 am Reply

      Hold on a sec, David… my publisher will not be happy if the takeaway is “Don’t read the books!”

      Seriously, you’re right–a good process is easy to learn and delivers results.

      Thanks so much for adding your voice and humor to the conversation today, David.

  5. Laurie Kretchmar
    September 29, 2021 at 11:55 am Reply

    David, congrats on an invaluable phrase to remember value: upside, downside, inside. Thanks.

    • David A. Fields
      September 29, 2021 at 8:35 pm Reply

      The advantage of having a bad memory is you’re forced to develop helpful triggers.

      I’m glad you like this mnemonic, Laurie. Let me know how it works for you!

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