The Most Important Question Consultants Need to Answer is How?

Consultants need to show clients how

By Kasie Whitener and Jodie Cain Smith

While completing value proposition canvases this week for three independent consultants, I had one of those teacher lightbulb moments. You know the ones: it’s something you always knew, but then you apply it and the light bulb just about bursts you’re so illuminated.

What was this glass-shattering realization? Tell them how.

Figuring out the process for putting ideas into action has long been one of my personal strengths. But this week I realized it’s not just my super power. It’s the work of consultants everywhere.

Consultants are contracted because the client has a problem that they cannot solve. It’s Specific, it’s Urgent, it’s Persistent, Expensive, and Recognized* by the entire firm. Clients hire consultants because they tried to solve this problem and they couldn’t dedicate the resources to it, they didn’t have the tools available to do it. Or they simply didn’t know how.

Tell them how.

Some consultants know how to do something because they’ve done it before. When I create training programs for clients it’s because I learned how to do that in a full-time, work-for-the-man role a long time ago.

Some consultants know how to do something because they invented a new way and it worked. That was the case with one project where we created an implementation methodology for a new software firm. We did it for a different client, so we knew how to do it again.

Some consultants know how to do something because of a deep understanding of their client’s problem, full visibility to the available resources, the ability to access needed but unavailable resources, and the planning and discipline to design and execute a plan. Consultants can see where their clients want to be and where they currently are. Then they fill in the gap with the solution they design.

They tell the client how to reach the desired condition.

During discovery, you’ll ask the client what the problem is and learn the impact. While they explain, you’ll learn why they have been unable to solve it on their own. Ask what happens if it goes unsolved and you’ll learn the when or the time frame for the project. Ask who the stakeholders are, the users most impacted by the problem, and you’ll get at the who. The where of the problem may not need clarification, unless it’s to discover whether you are expected to work on site, remotely, or with additional locations.

Your proposal is the how. Depending on the industry, the how could be selection and implementation of a new software application. It could be a multi-faceted blended approach requiring communication, training, customization, and adoption tracking. Or it could be a one-hour lunch and learn on not clicking sinister email attachments.

The consultant designs the how and by doing so, creates the vision for the journey. Build for your client the path they will follow to reach their destination. After you tell them how, suggest they hire you to lead the way.


*  S.U.P.E.R. acronym courtesy of Angelique Rewers

Kasie Whitener and Jodie Cain Smith are Clemson Road Creative, a fully remote company serving independent consultants in operations, marketing, and intellectual property.