This post is on a topic of how a management consultant can provide maximum value by becoming a trusted advisor. I have always felt that there is a continuum that exists for management consulting services with a defined product on one end and a highly trusted advisor on the other.
On one hand you have a vendor with a product which has certain characteristics that are well defined – what it does, price, who it applies to, who can take advantage of it, what value can it add to a client, what problems can it solve, etc. It is the buyer’s and vendor’s sales person’s job to identify the fit with the buyer’s needs and the decision to purchase can be made on that basis. Once the decision to purchase is made, the product is provided and the value is received by the buyer.
On the other hand, there is another scenario where the management consultant becomes a trusted adviser and is very close to the where the core strategy of the company is set. The consultant does provide a service in a sense. At the same time due to the nature of the service provided, the consultant has the opportunity to become a key member of the executive team engaged in formulating strategy for the company. The better the service the management consultant provides over time, the more they can be trusted to suggest strategies to pursue, other products and services to acquire in order to further the mission of the company.
It seems to me that the maximum possible value that a consultant can provide comes when their service is not treated as a standard product with well defined characteristics. Why? Because the well defined nature of the product can in fact be limiting in the value provided. The more the consultant can be trusted, the closer they can be to the strategy setting process (based on mission and point in time needs) and if they are really good at what they can do, the more impact they can have on the company.
My goal with my clients is always to get as close as I can to the strategy setting process while providing a certain identified, customized product for a price. At this level, I am able to contribute the maximum possible value that I can instead of being just a commodity input into the production process.