When a client hires a consulting firm, whether it’s a single independent consultant or a full project team from a large firm, they know they are paying a high billing rate for those services. As a result, they have a certain value in mind that they expect to receive in return.
Under promise and over deliver
The value set in the client’s mind is the direct responsibility of the consultant. Many consultants are taught to under promise and over deliver.
That’s a good approach in general, as long as you don’t “lowball” your expectations. Expectations should be set which raise the bar. The client expectation on value should be set high.
Once the expectation is set, a consultant should set his or her sights on figuring out a way to exceed those expectations. That includes staying within the agreed upon number of billable hours. Exceeding performance expectations while also exceeding expectations on billable hours is more like gold-plating, doing more work than asked for and charging the client more.
For more information, see Client Relations for Consultants
Client expectation management
When striving to exceed expectations, it’s also important not to lose sight of the original expectation set for the client. Focusing on the accomplishments other than what was agreed upon and missing on what was promised will do little to impress the client. The client is more likely to see the critical tasks that you didn’t accomplish rather than the extra activities that you decided to focus on.
Finally, if you exceed expectations with everything that you do, the client begins assuming that you are under promising and may be disappointed when you only meet expectations. Expectations should be set to a point where it’s a challenge to meet them. They should be set with the assumption that roadblocks will come in your way. There will be situations where you don’t hit all the roadblocks that might happen. That’s when you have the time and resources to exceed expectations.
Exceeding expectations should be a bonus to the client. It shouldn’t interfere with meeting expectations and doing what you tell them you will do.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.