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Two Secrets to Delighting Your Consulting Clients

Your consulting firm’s clients are wired to notice certain things. That’s because they’re human. Let’s take advantage of that wiring to help your consulting firm win more projects and create happier clients.

Consulting clients want results. That’s pretty obvious, right? But what do results look like, and what should you make them look like in order to attract more engagements and delight your clients?

The short answer is: scorecards and rabbits.

I bet you want the longer answer.

It has to do with the two ways humans perceive impact.

Scorecards

When comparisons are quick and easy, people notice even subtle differences.

For instance, in the illustration below, I bet you can tell which cookie is bigger.

You’re able to discern the cookie on the right is larger, even though the difference is quite small. Why? Because the cookies are next to each other and I’ve included some handy reference lines.

To capitalize on this comparison effect, your consulting firm should employ scorecards.

Scorecards juxtapose current performance against past performance and/or standards. The best scorecards demonstrate progress and make even small shifts stand out. There’s more on scorecards in this article.

Rabbits

Ironically, absent a direct comparison, people can be frustratingly poor at noticing large, absolute differences. Particularly if the relative change is small.

For example, if two Holstein cows are flying their airplanes past you at 500 mph and one guns his engines to 505 mph, you won’t notice the difference. The relative change is too small.

However, if two rabbits are at a standstill, nibbling on your begonias, and one suddenly springs away at five miles per hour, your attention will immediately be drawn to the bounding bunny. The relative difference between stationary and hopping is huge.

So what? Well, if your consulting firm’s offerings don’t create noticeable movement, then there’s a good chance you’re struggling to win projects.

Similarly, even if your consulting firm can help a prospective client realize large, absolute gains, the prospect may be disinterested if the percentage gain is small.

What you need is movement. You need rabbits.

A rabbit is a work stream that creates eye-catching progress for the client. Readily-observable, positive change. Your consulting firm’s project should include a rabbit or two. Your offering should promise rabbits.

When you build scorecards into your projects and focus on delivering rabbits, you delight your clients and position yourself to win rewarding projects.

How do you deploy scorecards and rabbits (i.e. observable movement) for your clients?


11 Comments
  1. Kyle Gillette
    February 6, 2019 at 5:29 pm Reply

    I love this concept. What are your thoughts on how to do this with life/leadership coaching clients? Currently, I have them fill out a form before each session that has a few questions, one of the questions is about the results they’ve gotten since the previous session.

    Another approach I’m toying with is a Life Satisfaction ranking type scorecard. Other things could be tracking habits or goals, but most of this is work they need to do. How can I create my own scorecard that I can present to them?

    Thanks!

    • Michael Goold
      February 6, 2019 at 6:12 pm Reply

      Great questions Kyle. I am a team consultant (fishing line in progress) and there are a few team assessments I could use to measure pre and post intervention change. Have you shared back to your clients the collective results they’ve made as a result of your coaching?

      BTW..I use an EQ coaching model and I’ve seen clients scores go down the more we meet but that is because their EQ is improving. A self reflective rabbit might be in order. 🙂

      • David A. Fields
        February 7, 2019 at 7:22 am Reply

        Thanks for sharing your experience too, Michael. I’m sure Kyle (and many others) are finding it helpful.

        A reflective rabbit… now there’s an idea worth noodling!

      • Kyle Gillette
        February 13, 2019 at 12:59 pm Reply

        Michael,

        Your question makes me think taking purposeful time to highlight their progress at the beginning of a session would be helpful.

    • David A. Fields
      February 7, 2019 at 7:21 am Reply

      Excellent questions, Kyle. Scorecards are always about the client’s results, regardless of who does the work. Scorecarding activity has value when it’s the client’s activity; however, tracking the consultant’s activity only proves you’re working, not that you’re adding value.

      For coaching clients, you can look at their actual performance against concrete issues (e.g., did they successfully launch the product?) or improvement in specific attributes highlighted by their peers in a 360-type survey, or achievement of goals they set. That’s just for starters.

      Your rabbits are the little things that make a big, noticeable difference. For instance, learning to say “Thank you” throughout the day may generate a large, perceivable impact.

      Nice job raising an issue that many coaches have, Kyle.

  2. Mike Dalton
    February 6, 2019 at 8:28 pm Reply

    Interesting David. As you know, I work with manufacturers who are tired of throwing money and resources at delayed or struggling new product programs. After implementing the changes necessary to get them back on track, we optionally install a customized dashboard that they can use to drill into the results and drive continuous improvement.

    But you’ve got me thinking about how we can deliver a very simple version with the key metrics from our context document.

    Powerful stuff!

    • David A. Fields
      February 7, 2019 at 7:25 am Reply

      Wow, Mike, what a great example! Simple dashboards are exactly what we’re talking about.

      Also, nice job with your Fishing Line, Mike.

  3. Adrian Botham
    February 7, 2019 at 5:56 am Reply

    Interesting David, but I confess, I’ve no idea what you’re talking about re: rabbits! I get the story and the concept but I don’t know what rabbits look like in practice for a consulting business. Do you have some examples of what you mean or is there a less conceptual way of explaining your point?

    • David A. Fields
      February 7, 2019 at 7:42 am Reply

      Thanks for letting me know my rabbits were too conceptual. (“Come back, you abstract bunnies!”)

      Let’s say you’re working on a process improvement. The big win may be redesigning the overall process flow; however, a rabbit could be eliminating one step in which an employee has to walk across the office five times a day. To that employee (and everyone she talks to about it), you’ve made a huge, noticeable impact.

      Or, look at my answer to Kyle’s question. Learning to regularly express gratitude could be a small part of your leadership coaching with a CEO client; however, the sudden shift in how he treats his employees could be extremely noticeable to his whole company.

      You may have heard the expression, “Put points on the board,” which means delivering an early win. That’s another version of a rabbit. It doesn’t have to be a lot of points, because at the start of the project you have no score and any win–any change–is noticeable. So, build into your projects opportunities to score points early. Tada, rabbits!

  4. Buyan
    February 7, 2019 at 8:29 am Reply

    Hi David,
    This is a great post !! I am a salesforce crm consultant and when we do implementations, we do have business results which can be realized at the end of the implementation. Now your score card can be helpful on this.
    But your idea of rabits makes me think that i can identify small changes in my clients process to show my value. E.g We are enabling analytics for one of our clients and now the sales teams can proactively look at status of support cases before they walk in to a client visit and sell something!! This builds trust with clients and improves satisfaction especially for Manufacturers.
    Is this the rabbit you are talking about?
    Buyan

    • David A. Fields
      February 7, 2019 at 9:06 am Reply

      The point of a rabbit is that when it hops, you notice it. In other words, it’s not about the size of the change–because rabbits aren’t very fast–it’s the sudden movement that catches your eye.

      You see, one challenge with scorecards is that a huge absolute change that shows up on a scorecard may still underwhelm a client if the relative change is small. (Consultant: “I’ve helped you make $30m incremental from our $300k project.” Client: “Oh, really? Huh. Since our business is $6b, I didn’t notice the $30m change… I guess I was hoping for more.”)

      If looking at the status of support cases would be a noticeable, concrete, obvious change for your clients, then it could very well be a rabbit. Remember, when creating rabbits, you’re not focused on how big an absolute difference you’re making; you’re focused on observable changes.

      Great case study, Buyan. I’m glad you’ve presented it as an example.

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