For most independent consultants, the key to long-term success and building long-term client relationships requires more than just delivering the projects they've asked you to complete, or advising them on strategic direction and execution. It requires consultants to create long-term value for clients that aren't simply measured by how well or how efficiently we complete our assignment, but rather how your work helped to meet overall business objectives. Establishing business value propositions involves four steps: Defining exactly what the value is, communicating the value, integrating it and then measuring it. Here's what that looks like:
The goal of defining business value is to set up a ROI structure upon which all stakeholders agree, a cost-benefit analysis is a good place to start here. It should be expressed in terms that are relevant and resonate with the business. If it can't be communicated in terms of revenue, make sure any savings are translated to budgeted dollars. From this, you should be able to derive KPIs that you can use going forward. Consistently meeting them for your clients will contribute to your credibility as an expert in your space. In this step, remember to keep it simple and be conservative.
Strong communicators follow the rule: Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. The key here is making sure that value is recognized and that all stakeholders are able to clearly see it. Typically, everyone is busy focusing on getting the work done and may forget this important step. Be your own best PR person. When clients don't want to pay for an outside consultant, or they set out to take on the projects themselves to save money, it's likely the work doesn't get done as planned, or the project doesn't have a connection to the overall business objectives. Team members are more focused on getting it finished, as opposed to achieving the desired results. However, as the outside consultant who was able to attain the desired results, you should be touting the win.
It's also important that communications must be on-going and consistent throughout the project. Make it clear from the beginning that you will work with the client to establish a cost benefit analysis and progress will be evaluated against the value statement to manage any changes. You can also leverage the value you create to show how you helped support existing investments and how your work can provide continued optimization of your client's services thus enabling even more business value.
Creating long-term value for clients is achieved when it's well-defined, communicated and integrated into processes, methodologies or work plans that you deliver. Building and enabling repeatable, consistent work and flow creates a high-level of value for your clients. When the project is completed, the value of integration should be communicated to highlight how it has supported all business goals.
At this point, business value should be projected and you're delivering work as promised. If not, you can begin to assess any gaps and close them before they become problematic. Stay engaged with the client to finish the project well, measuring and communicating progress through to the end. Be sure to celebrate successes with your client and draw up next steps to enhance or expand on the foundation you've built.
Don't miss opportunities to create long-term value. Being able to speak confidently and clearly articulate business value if it's ever called into question, will help to establish you as a trusted business partner, drive growth and ensure successful long-term relationships.
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