Consulting is performed in different ways. While we most often categorize it by area of expertise (strategy, operations, HR, etc.), another perspective we can take is to look at purpose. What are the goals or main objectives of the consulting project?
There's a specific framework we can use to assess how "deep and complex" the client-consultant engagement is (topic for another post). But at the lowest level, we have a project where your main goal is to provide information to a client. This is the most simple consulting engagement.
There are a few reasons why organizations hire this service:
- Companies may want access to the consultant's documented expertise;
- Companies may want up-to-date or proprietary information only your firm can provide;
- Or some companies may simply be unable to allocate time and resources to gather/develop the data internally.
Whatever their motivation is, information is valuable and worth paying for. As long as it is, of course, the right information.
This is where things start to get interesting, and your role of providing expert guidance and advice comes into play. The information a client needs sometimes is not the one the consultant is asked to provide. And it's your responsibility to alert, inquire, and explore that with your clients.
Most of you have gathered data or done some kind of research to clients. During the initial discussions of such projects, an important question that every consultant should have in their toolkit is:
"What will you do with the information once you’ve got it?"
Many clients have never thought about that.
Often, the client just needs to make better use of the data already available. When that's the case, you can (and should) talk them out of the project and move to the next level of consulting: exploring problems. What's the problem they were hoping to solve with this information?
It's perfectly fine to build your consulting business selling information. But remember that professional consultants always put the client before the transaction. If you're information won't help them, selling it will ultimately hurt your relationship, revenue, and reputation.