You can enhance your consulting firm’s performance and results by reexamining the language you use to understand and communicate your clients’ challenges.
A cursory internet search surfaces a plethora of fascinating articles describing how language affects perception.
Perhaps the most compelling and commonly cited example is attributed to Jules Davidoff. It suggests that Westerners, who have a word for blue can easily pick out the different colored square in the image on the left, below. In contrast, members of the Himba tribe, who have no word for blue but many words for green, more easily pick out the different colored square in the image on the right.
Unfortunately, deeper research reveals that example is misleading and untrue.
Your vocabulary doesn’t change your ability to perceive or think about the world.
However, your language absolutely focuses your attention and thoughts.
If you don’t possess terms to describe something, you’re much less likely to pay attention to it. That’s true for objects, situations, feelings, conditions and more.
Similarly, if your language is imprecise, it’s harder to call out distinctions and convey their implications.
Imagine if you had no words for any colors and you were trying to instruct your assistant to buy cookies decorated with the flags of Luxembourg and Lithuania for your consulting firm’s “L Countries” celebration. How would you avoid cookies with the flags from Hungary, the Netherlands and Sierra Leone?
Your consulting firm is in a similar bind. So are your clients. They don’t notice subtleties that, with better language and practice, stand out like a blue square among the green. They’re ignoring the obvious.
For you to spot what others overlook, your consulting firm needs to learn (or develop) the language of your expertise.
You’ll benefit from a framework of distinctions that is nuanced, enabling your consulting firm to describe differences, measure them, label them and, therefore, notice them.
Of course, the differences highlighted by your consulting firm’s nomenclature must have meaning. There must be some value for your clients from distinguishing between blue and green.
For example, everyone has a contact list. However, if your consulting firm regularly talks about your contact list in terms such as “A1,” “C3,” and “Network Core” you’re more likely to take actions that boost your connections with high-potential buyers of your services.
The seven steps below will help your consulting firm develop powerful language that improves your performance.
7 Steps to Develop Your Consulting Firm’s Language
Catalog the nuances you pick up on that others overlook. Note the important differences your consulting firm’s clients ignore.
Reduce the number of distinctions or differences to a manageable number. Two distinctions (e.g., dark vs. light chocolate) are easiest to internalize.
However, your consulting firm can utilize multiple distinctions (e.g., newborn, infant, toddler, adolescent, uppity graduate, codger), particularly if you offer an easy-to-remember mnemonic.
Assign clear-cut, easy-to-remember terms to each distinction. We sometimes refer to these as “handles” because the best labels are easy to (mentally) grab hold of and hang onto.
Establish a metric that enables people to easily recognize your consulting firm’s distinctions.
You’re looking for a simple rule that immediately associates a particular condition with one of your labels. For instance, “If it looks like the sky at midday, it’s blue. (Except in Seattle during January. That’s gray.)”
Illustrate why your consulting firm’s taxonomy is meaningful and why it’s helpful to notice and act on the nuances you’re pointing out.
Ideally, designate specific actions to specific labels. “When the traffic light is red, stop.”
Offer tools, rituals and reminders that help instill the habit of employing your consulting firm’s vocabulary.
For your consulting firm’s lexicon to become valuable, it must enter the common vernacular for your clients (or, at the least, at your firm). Therefore, create aids and enablers that encourage ongoing usage of your terms.
Start practicing your language and direct your clients to use the nomenclature you’ve developed.
How do you use language to help your clients and enhance your consulting firm’s results?
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.