Consultancy: 8 Answers To The Question, What Do You Do?

A clear answer to this question is vital whether you’re starting up a consultancy, reviewing your results, negotiating those sales or explaining to others on the networking scene. It seems easy to answer, but people have different pictures in their heads about what you really have to offer ...

That can be problematic as a consultancy contract can range from simply providing information right through to a full organisational change programme and everything in between. So, when managing prospects and clients' expectations, it's useful to lay out your business model quite clearly.

"A business model encompasses two strands of information!"

It describes what your services and products entail (your operational processes) and then how you turn that into profit (your sales and marketing processes). Answering clearly and succinctly, "What do you do?" is the first stage in describing your model to yourself and other potential stakeholders. Get this right and the rest of the processes fall into place.

This blog post gives a list of specific interventions you can offer as a consultant in your speciality and I'm indebted to Arthur N Turner in the Harvard Business Review (1982) for still the most useful list of the level of interventions in consultancy I have found. Using his hierarchy of objectives that the consultant and client agree will be delivered, I have added the outcome that the client can expect from your involvement.

What the client will see and hear after you've finished and how that makes them feel. Obviously, what I have produced is fairly generic, but I hope it gives you a useful template for you to add the specifics of your speciality.

Like Turner, I would separate out the last three levels of consultancy and put them together as wider aims that more often come as added value that may emerge with any assignment that involves looking deeper at the root cause of problems. A common analogy used by consultants is when you lift a stone you never know what is lurking underneath!

These are usually around major organisational change:

- Building a consensus and commitment around corrective action.

- Facilitating client learning—that is, teaching clients how to resolve similar problems in the future.

- Permanently improving organisational effectiveness.

I will end this blog post with a note of caution. Each of these levels of assignment feeds into the adjoining ones and it is easy to get sucked in at a deeper level than your contract as a consultant supports. Be prepared to re-negotiate if the scope of the work starts straying into other areas. And when the going gets tough always, always remember who it is that you are working for and what outcomes were they expecting.

My tip to avoid this is to ensure that this operational business model, and particularly the outcomes expected, are as clear and unambiguous as possible. The wonderful part of stepping out to work for yourself is that you can decide whether to offer this full range of services or cherry-pick the level of engagement you wish to offer.

If you'd like to learn more about referral marketing then do give me a call on 07970 638857 and let's have a chat and see how I can help you.