For a Good Consultant, It’s All About Communication

Broadway Producer David Belasco worked with many playwrights in the 1920s and 1930s, but he is perhaps best known for having said, “If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea.” This is as true in consulting as it is in writing for stage, screen, newspaper, or term paper.

A business or individual brings in a consultant to help them with any one of a myriad of tasks – manage change, reorganize a department, rewrite a policy guideline, even fire a group of employees when business is bad. In most cases, the consultant is there to accomplish something the busy managers do not have time to do themselves. The last thing they want to do is listen to a consultant’s lengthy explanations of how they plan to approach the work or read through a 100-page report on what was accomplished. OK – they may be willing to have a long report if it’s a complex topic. But, they want a short executive summary so they can get the main points quickly and decide whether to read specific chapters in more detail.

In every step of a consulting business, good communication is essential.

�Designing materials that explain what you (or your firm) do. Your marketing materials speak for you before you do.
Be specific about your areas of expertise (accounting system development, not accounting).

âÂ?¢Responding to another company’s request for proposal to undertake a specific project. You want to include concise information on why you can do this work, including past projects and the expertise of those who will work on this project. If those who review your proposal have to slug through 100 pages when the essential material could have been said in 50, the reviewers will become impatient with your proposal and may (intentionally or unintentionally) rate you lower than your competitors.

âÂ?¢Preparing a visual presentation. Having to reduce your material to the 20-30 words (max) that will be readable on a PowerPoint slide introduces discipline to your creation. If it’s hard to edit the information to brief points of substance, rethink your material.

�Writing the final report. Some clients are happy with a verbal presentation and the slides that accompany it, while others want a more formal report. Done well, the report becomes not only a cogent presentation of your findings but a good marketing tool.

Your expertise may be in thermodynamics or fabric design. Who cares if a comma is in the wrong place or it takes two paragraphs to say what one would accomplish? Your clients. Hire a good writer or editor to work with you, either as a staff member or on a temporary basis. You can use your local newspaper’s classified ads, or you can go to some of the many web sites that have information on available freelance writers (such as www.freelancewriting.com or even www.craigslist.org). In many cases, the best reference is a colleague who has used freelancers previously.

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