The mark of a high-quality consultant is undoubtedly a portfolio of happy clients with successful outcomes. The thing is, there’s a lot more to creating those successful outcomes than one might initially expect. I find it’s not only the successful outcomes that create those happy clients who promote you to all their friends. It’s the little things; the daily and weekly habits, connections, conversations, and continual value and partnership a caring consultant can provide. The way to become an evergreen, valuable partner for your clients is in the details, and it starts with the first phone call, and what you choose to do right afterwards.
Mean Time To Value (MTTV). 📈
All of my client relationships started with a phone call, meeting, text message, etc. I decided it would be interesting to track how much time has passed between this initial point of contact and when the client perceives real value from my involvement. That initial phone call is important because that’s the moment I first get to hear about their problems. Once I’ve been made aware of a client’s pain points, I have the opportunity to help. This is where sales becomes really fun for me because I am simply helping people with their problems, rather than trying to trick them into buying something they don’t need.
During that first call, I’m looking for quick wins, opportunities to connect them with people I know, or frameworks I know will work for their situation. Theoretically, this interval I’m speaking of, between the phone call and the value, could be measured in minutes. For short, we’ll call this metric Mean Time to Value, or MTTV. I recently had a client who deployed a remote access solution for their staff on one of the major cloud providers. It was a Friday, and I received an email from this client at 8:00am:
Subject: Cloud networking… help!
The team and I are trying to figure out a network solution and we need assistance from the pros. When can you hop on a call?
We scheduled a call for later that day (1:30 pm) and 48 minutes into the call, the solution was in-place and their need was handled. MTTV for this project: 5h18m. Outstanding!
Some needs aren’t that simple and require more time. For example, I had another client working on a SaaS application for processing images. They had built a basic UI and concept using Figma and were ready to turn it into reality. I worked with their team to build it, and a few months later (after some challenging battles with AI models and Python) we had a working prototype. The MTTV here initially looks much longer - 2 months! This is unacceptable.
Proportionally, the value delivered for this project is much greater than the first example. However, I still have a problem with this as a consultant. While it’s easy to explain to people that more value takes more time to deliver, there’s just something that makes people nervous about waiting 2 months for something and hoping it’s going to be what they wanted. There are simple ways to provide reassurance, like conducting demos and design reviews, etc. But the underlying problem still exists; the client doesn’t feel the value. Which is again, unacceptable.
By the way, I write one of these every few weeks or so. Sign-up with your email here to receive the latest, as soon as it’s posted!
Improving MTTV by sharing. 📝
I wanted to take it up a notch and ensure my client would feel real, tangible value every week that I was engaged with this project, right from the start. I accomplished this through three regular habits:
- Creating frameworks and templates based on the work I was doing and the opportunities I observed.
- Offering additional help to others within the organization.
- Circulating those frameworks and success stories within the company, to find more opportunities to create value.
Repeating these habits is very powerful because by creating standards, frameworks, or templates of what I was building from the beginning, other employees within the company could take advantage of my work for other initiatives. For example, one of the challenges I had to solve for this project was building a docker container that required an active Nvidia GPU environment for AI processing. Within the first week of starting the project, I had a DevOps template working, along with technical configurations for containerizing AI projects. I was then able to share these with other groups in the organization which may find it valuable. Sharing your work with others increases the value added dramatically.
When I send these, I also welcome people to reach out with other needs they have, offer to adapt what I’ve created for their use cases, or even include a short Loom video explaining the intent of what I’m sharing and how it might help. I also make sure to include anyone who had or might have a hand in my opportunity to work with the client. This is a great uptick in value creation over our previously mentioned 2-month MTTV.
This cycle of creating approachable packages of knowledge, offering help to and connecting with others, and circulating your creations across stakeholders and groups increases the value you provide as a consultant dramatically. Think of the countless hours I saved current and future project teams who no longer have to figure this out the next time around. Not to mention the actual monetary value of that time and effort saved for the business.
The beauty of this framework is you can apply it whether or not you are consulting, in almost every environment you find yourself. This works especially well in larger organizations. It can also be used as a tool in smaller organizations that are very siloed to connect teams in more meaningful ways.
Walking the graph and the Partnership Model. 👊
Another key to providing evergreen value is to embrace the Partnership Model. The Partnership Model means you’re focused on building a trusting and lasting relationship with your clients, continually learning their business, identifying opportunities for them, and delivering tangible results consistently. It means instead of being there for a few days or weeks, you might be there for several months… maybe even years! This is opposed to quick, turn and burn projects where a consultant is only engaged for the duration of the project and leaves as soon as it’s completed.
I believe contracts based on the Partnership Model are far more valuable for both the client and consultants. The client has the benefit of engaging with an expert on a regular basis who is exposed to many different businesses, experiences, and sources of knowledge. A consultant functions as a deep well of quality and curated outside knowledge that they may otherwise lack internally. Since the relationship is evergreen, the consultant can curate the best insights based on their knowledge of the customer’s business. This deep knowledge usually only comes from being engaged with a client over a longer period of time. Likewise, the consultant benefits from ever-increasing quality context, which enables them to provide better outcomes for each project.
You may have heard the saying “What got us here, won’t get us there.” I believe this is especially true for consultants who desire to bring more value to their clients. When I “land” at a new client, I make it a point to connect with a few new people a week in various business units. These connections help me understand the business, discover more opportunities for projects, and expand my influence and effectiveness throughout the company. This “landing and expanding” or “walking the graph” of the organization is incredibly important.
Whenever I visit a client’s office for some work or a meeting, I try not to waste an opportunity to connect with someone or learn something new about the business. Striking up a conversation with almost anyone about what they are working on, their personal career journey, or what they’ve been reading has proven incredibly valuable. I find these conversations create sparks of new ideas, fresh energy around initiatives, and help me build additional context for guiding the organization forward. The more you become known by people within your client’s organizations, the more context, influence, and notoriety you will have. The more of these you have, the easier it is to find new opportunities, add value, and keep helping your customer!
Keeping an awareness of Mean Time to Value, curating and sharing your insights, establishing partnerships, and walking the graph are all great ways to create more value for your clients. At the end of the day, what good is a consultant who doesn’t know and believe in your business, your people, or your values? Establishing lasting and trusting relationships are more than just great business practice; they’re essential for a life well lived.