A recent survey of management consulting firms found that 81% rated attracting and developing new business as a top challenge. And according to Alan Weiss, author of The Consulting Bible, the most successful consultants demonstrate thought leadership and better value.
Thought leadership through technology
Here’s where technology can help. When businesses call in a consultant, they’re often relying on you to help them implement your solutions. And often, your plan requires company employees to change their behavior, even if they just need to learn new systems.
But people resist change, and once they stop resisting, it still takes time to develop new habits. Unfortunately, you can’t spend weeks and months onsite with a client, gently reminding people to practice new habits.
In reality, consultants have little impact on how successfully their clients apply solutions over the long term.
An unaddressed opportunity to add value
Here’s a gaping opportunity for you to add value by offering an application that helps your clients implement your solution over time.
According to the 2015 Good Mobility Index Report, 67% of businesses are using 2 or more mobile applications aside from email. Businesses see the value of mobile applications, and you can leverage that.
Specifically, you can use mobile and cloud technology to assign homework, send reminders, encourage collaboration and keep track of everyone’s progress even as you’re working with the next client.
The result? You’re providing value long after your main engagement is complete.
With a follow-up or practice tool, you give clients a path of activities they can execute during their daily work. You remind them of their new habits, share resources, and hold them accountable for incorporating your advice into the real world.
Plus, let’s be honest. A tool is cool. And a cloud-based tool means that you don’t have to get people to install software or wrangle with IT in order to use it on any web-connected device.
Advantages for you
For further differentiation value, a tool helps you collect data on how well your suggestions work for your clients. Very few businesses collect success metrics on consulting engagements, but that kind of data makes a huge difference in the sales cycle. A tool can help you collect useful data without being onsite or convincing the client to track results for you.
Key features for your tool
So if you want a practice tool to set you apart from the cloud, you can find existing ones like Pract.us and others. Or you can have one built custom. Either way, you need to look for apps that offer key features:
Ease of use:
The application needs to be “stupid easy” for you and your clients to use. No one wants to spend weeks learning a complex application.
- Allows you to easily and quickly create custom follow-up plans for your clients.
- Allows you to easily set up client accounts.
- Makes it simple for employees to understand and use.
- Simple enough to be used by technophobes but versatile and modern enough to delight Millennials.
Guidance and support capability:
This type of app needs to “coach” people, remind them to work on their new skills, and offer help if needed. Like a coach, it also keeps them accountable for their own progress.
- Assigns “homework” to your clients, which guides them in implementing your plan during your workshop and after you’ve left the client site.
- Provides reminder notifications to help clients stay on pace with their progress.
- Shares additional resources from your consulting library to remind people of key concepts.
- Connects employees with others on their team to keep them accountable, help them apply your ideas to their work, and strengthen team relationships.
Useful data and reports:
You need to see at a glance how everyone is doing at each client site, so you can step in with a phone call if needed. This data will form your success track record that will convince other businesses to hire you as well.
- Gives you instant updates on each clients’ progress with the homework so you can tell who is progressing well and who might need a follow up phone call.
- Gives you overall success reports with the metrics most important to your clients.
- Provides insight into ways you can improve and further differentiate your service.
When a project begins, everyone is enthusiastic, but that energy naturally wanes. Your application can keep interest high long after the onsite engagement.
- Add motivational elements of competition, goal tracking, and completion stats to your solution long term.
- Provide dashboard reports to share with key stakeholders and keep interest in the project high.
Your tool needs to make business sense for you. So aside from being easy to use and setup, it needs the flexibility to work in different business situations.
- Works in concert with your existing toolset or as a stand-alone tool.
- Allows you to collaborate with other consultants when it makes sense.
As a business consultant, your survival depends on finding ways to provide more value than competitors and stand out from the crowd. Fortunately, with today’s technology, you have the tools for innovation at your fingertips.