Success is measured in your perceived value to the client
I launched my consulting practice in 1999 and, oddly enough, my perception of the role of a consultant has not altered over the years.
A consultant is a specialist who provides advice on a specific technology, skill set, subject, tactic, scenario, situation, standard or methodology. What has changed drastically over the last 12 years are customers’ expectations and the value of the term “consultant.”
In today’s professional services industry, more emphasis has been on the value proposition of the specific service offering, including quality and what options a customer has that can help to solve their problems or achieve a specific goal. For me, he following seven elements are key to being a successful consultant:
- Trust: First and foremost is gaining a customer’s trust. When a breach of trust occurs, the consequences can be damaging. Your customers cannot be concerned about where your interests lie.
- Value proposition: Your value proposition and perceived value of the engagement is equally important. The deliverables do not world’s greatest solution; to provide a positive outcome.
- Reliability: Do what you say you do; provide engagement ensure all deliverables are time and on schedule. Remember to deliver great service as well as great services.
- Subject matter expert: Ensure your knowledge is acceptable for the engagement and was gained from experience and education, not just from a textbook.
- Prudence: Understand your customer’s business. Be careful and do your homework before you suggest a course of action. Research and stay on top of developments and industry trends. If you fail to do so, your next engagement could be your last.
- Relationship management: Help your customer understand what you are doing; ensure they understand the process and results. Make it your goal to have the customer retain your services again. Your references are your reputation.
- Content: The best advancement of your reputation is submitting and publishing your own content. Be original and sincere.
Once you have mastered these key elements, it is important to review what your client thinks of your services. Your customer’s answers can drive opportunities for service improvement and uncover opportunities for referral business. During this process, you will also understand how much value was perceived from your services.
Now, how do you get the consulting fees you deserve?
Consulting service fee rates take on a variety of different formulas. Ideally, your objective should be to maximize growth, profit and repeat business and to establish a value-based fixed fee.
Value is a function of the perceived fairness of a price, or return on investment, in the mind of your customer. Value-based pricing is a strategy that sets selling prices on the basis of the perceived value to the customer, rather than of the actual cost of the service, the market price or a competitor’s price. Remember that return business is more important than maximizing billable hours.
You should be more concerned about delivering value superior to that delivered by the competition, and less about the competitor’s actual price.
If you are a respected consultant, one who fully embodies the responsibility of the term “consultant,” your success will be based on available industry opportunities. Good consultants seek to win clients by delivering superior value, not by having the lowest price.