Hello there, this is Dan. 13 consultancy partners wanted me to write about status reporting. So that's today's "Adding Value" topic.

A quick reminder for the new subscribers: I personally read and reply to every email. It might take a while, but if you want to connect or suggest a topic, feel free to drop a line.

Wish you a great reading.

One Idea

How do you increase the actual and perceived value of your work?

When we talk about value in the context of consulting, we're really talking about different questions, with different answers. At the very fundamental level, you need to fulfill your client's expectations. This means delivering what you promised (on your marketing and work agreement), within the timeframe and budget that you promised.

But we all know this is a lazy goal, and one that won't help you build a healthy brand and reputation over time. A successful consulting service requires delivering great work AND exceeding the client's expectations.

Doing this creates a whole new set of challenges. Morgan Housel wrote,

Expectations move slower than reality on the ground, so a lot of frustration comes from clinging to the trends of past eras.

This is not only true for financial investors, but also for consulting clients. They unconsciously use information from the past to direct expectations. Based on your last communication, they will:

  • Anticipate a certain outcome for the end of the project;
  • Hold a vision in their mind of how and when things will play out;
  • Wait for you to take (or not take) certain actions to ensure success.

If the client gets hugely surprised or unnecessarily worried during the engagement, the consultant has done a poor job of communicating. When you let the distance between the past and the present get too big, client expectations won't be aligned with reality.

That's why good consultants frequently report on the status of their work.

The best way to do that is by using inverted thinking. How do you want your client to feel after the engagement is over? Relieved? Excited? Curious? Encouraged With that in mind, design a way to quickly report progress and get aligned.

These ongoing reports can be structured and delivered in many ways - as always, context matters. Luckily there are some general best practices that you can use to make the best out of them:

  • Schedule a meeting to report and review status at least a month in advance. This reduces the chance of your client asking to reschedule it or not taking it seriously.
  • Invite not only your point of contact but his superiors (if any). This is an opportunity to improve the client relationship, connect with higher-ups, and be seen as an alternative for larger projects.
  • Share a summary of the report with the client a couple of days before the meeting. This is professional, as it reduces surprise and anxiety on their part.
  • Spend 2-3 minutes in the beginning to recap context (what's the goal of the project, a timeline with phases, where are you now). This is especially important if you work with larger/FT500 companies, since they may have multiple consulting projects happening at the same time.
  • Avoid 50-slide presentations. A 20-minute chat can often be done without slides. If you need them to illustrate or simplify your message, have no more than 2 or 3 - you won't have time for more.
  • If there's nothing significant in your report (the work is going as planned, with no major surprises or changes), develop the relationship. Ask good questions and listen. Find out if there's anything else you can help them with.
  • If there are significant problems, be clear about them. Speak openly about what you see as challenges and don't downplay risks. Accept responsibility and never blame the client's team, ever. After doing that, look at the future and focus on solutions - bring recommendations on how to solve or deal with each issue.

What else would you add to the list?

One Quote

We have all fallen into the temptation of overpromising to win new business. But if client satisfaction = value perception - expectation, it might be a good idea to (reasonably) lower expectations. David Maister illustrated it well:

One professional I know describes the syndrome this way: “The most depressing day in the office is the day after we have won a new client. We look at each other and say, “How on earth are we going to deliver all that we promised for the budget we agreed to?”

One Number

Only 1 out of 6 consultancies have a documented process to design and report status updates during client engagements.

These are the numbers from 36 micro consultancies that collaborated with BCC. If you know of any larger research or publication that looked at this topic, please share it with me. It’s a quick and easy way to boost perceived value, and as a consequence, improve your upselling and client lifetime value.

One Question For You

What can you do this week to improve the quality of your service?

David Maister reminds us that both value perception and expectations don’t necessarily reflect reality. This means that our work consists of not only delivering good results but also delivering great client experience. And improving the quality of our service is way easier than improving the quality of our work.

Some clients enjoy regular check-ins and detailed project summaries. Others are happy with a monthly status report. But all of them enjoy a better service.

Thanks for reading. You can get more specialized and actionable growth insights for micro consultancies in our newsletter. Every Tuesday, you get one idea from Danilo, one quote from other experts, one number you need to hear, and one question for you to level up your consulting practice.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.