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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

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

A clear answer is vital ...


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 18/01/2023 @ 8:00AM

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 ...

copyright: geralt / pixabay

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 of the eight levels of consultancy and put them together. They express wider aims to do with organisational change. Whilst some companies, usually corporate or public sector, may purchase these directly, more often these emerge out of assignments that involve 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:

  1. Building a consensus and commitment around corrective action.

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

  3. Permanently improving organisational effectiveness.

From a referral point of view if this level of engagement usually occurs as an outcome of the first project for a client it is unlikely to involve your original introducer to that client as you will then have formed your own relationship with the client.

If you're looking for referrals at this level then it probably needs a more detailed tactical briefing session with your referral partner about how they can introduce you effectively to that client.

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. To help your referral source make sure they understand the level of engagement you offer as your opening to an introduction to new clients and particularly the outcomes you expect to deliver.

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like some help with defining your business model and getting your version of what do you do pinned down, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857.

Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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