Hey, it’s Samantha Hartley of the Profitable Joyful Consulting Podcast. This season we have been talking about performance and metrics. One of the questions that I get very often in my business from new clients, especially, is what makes a transformational engagement transformative? What am I really looking to do? What’s my version of a transformational engagement? They’re always wondering, if I were to do that, what would that look like?
Most consultants, as you might know, are doing project based work. They come in, they work for three months or six months, and they solve a discrete problem. Meaning a problem that has a beginning, middle and an end. Truthfully, I would say that we probably solve a smaller problem, that it could then lead on to discovery of new problems.
That is how a lot of consultants will get ongoing work with a single client—they come in for one thing and the client is like, “Well you’ve solved that problem here, let’s go do that same kind of thing, but in a different department, or now that you’ve done this and we trust you, let’s do longer term work.” That’s how things can look a lot.
Now that’s different from one offs. We don’t want to do one offs. That’s a thing that you go in and you do that and never really come back. What you’re looking for in a one-off is: what’s the longer term relationship that’s possible? In transformational engagements, we really want to look at, I don’t want to solve a small problem. What I want to do is zoom out and look at what’s the client’s larger problem behind this problem?
For example, if you have a situation in which a certain department finds that they’re constantly missing their sales targets. We can come in and we can work with the sales team and figure out how to plan better and figure out what their sales challenges are. That’s going to be a big deal for the client.
We come away from that with, let’s say, a new sales plan or we’ve done training and we’ve given them some new techniques and skills and tools that they can use and that may or may not solve that problem. Maybe they start hitting their sales targets, which would be a great thing.
In my experience, though, any kind of short term fix will usually break over time. It can break in any number of ways. Either the people who started doing a new thing fall off the wagon. Meaning they forget that new skill and it was a little harder because it’s easier to backslide into old habits.
Or here’s what will likely happen, those people get promoted or go on to new jobs. So sometimes it’s hard to get those changes that we make to stick. This is one of the reasons that I’ve been so adamant about doing transformational engagements in the first place.
In the beginning of my career, I did a number of these project-based engagements where everybody was super happy with the work. But when I checked back with them about things like, How has your business changed? They couldn’t give me the results based testimonials that I was looking for. Or case studies even, I couldn’t tell a story of the beginning, middle, or end benefit that lasted because they didn’t last.
That was incredibly frustrating to me because I’m not just in this for the money, like I really, really want to solve problems. I really want to see changes in my clients. That led me to say, what if we worked with the clients for longer? In the beginning, actually, I would still be in that same sort of beginning, middle and short term engagement, whether it was 3 to 6 months.
The difference was I would stick around, available to the client as part of this engagement for 12 months. I would make sure that I could come in, they could call on me and that I could come in and check on them and be like, “Aha, it’s month seven and somebody here has fallen off the wagon, or they’ve got a new person in this role and the new way of doing things didn’t cascade to that person.”
I’ve found that part of the reason I work this way is that it takes at least a year to change people and put in place behaviors that stick. We love the training workshops, we love that workshop high, but all of us know that about a week and a half later, all of the things that we learned in the workshop have been forgotten and we’ve gone back to our old habits.
Habits are hard to change. So often I think of these engagements, they’re looking to change too many things in too short a time. We can’t introduce five new behaviors and expect those things to stick.
When we’re thinking about transformational engagements, the thing that I want you to be thinking of is what is the lasting change that you can get for an organization? This is the defining aspect of a transformational engagement, is what is the transformation that the client is looking for?
I like the word transformation because it’s not just a change. This is like a behavior is going to be completely different when this is done.
For organizations, the organization’s behavior means multiple people across multiple departments are going to be doing – behaving differently. When we change the behavior of adults, they have ingrained habits. They have their way of doing things. They wouldn’t have been doing it that way if it hadn’t worked for them.
So we’re coming in and saying, the way that you’ve been doing things has to be different because that way either isn’t sustainable or isn’t working. Or we have a new piece of software that we’re bringing in here, or we have a whole new methodology that we’re doing or we’re merging cultures. Think of all of the ways that change happens inside organizations.
For me, what I’m asking us as consultants to do is figure out what is the change that we want to have happen in an adult’s behavior. Now, I don’t know if you thought when you went into consulting that you were going to end up in change management. Maybe you’re a specialist in change management like some of my clients are, or that we were going to be in the business of adult learning and adult behavior change, which I never thought I was going to be. But so often what I see is that my work with my clients is to help them to change long standing, usually behaviors.
How do you make adult behavior change in your clients? This, to me, is the heart of transformational engagements. You’re coming in with a process, a system, a methodology, something that you have worked out already, that you’ve learned over the years in your work with other clients. You’re going to take a group of people in your client’s employ and you are going to change their behavior. That, to me, is worth a lot of money. I think it’s very valuable to clients.
I’m going to back this up and talk about what we’re doing. Behavior takes at least a year to change and stick. Sustainable change takes at least a year. That’s why transformational engagements last for no less than a year. Don’t sell in anything that is less than a year.
The second piece of this is there’s almost no problem of this magnitude that is worth less to one of your organizations than X amount of money. So let’s think about what the cost of a problem like this is. When you’re looking to develop your transformational engagement or what you’re going to be helping your clients with, I want you to think about who has a problem that is a $1,000,000 problem or more.
There’s almost no business that is in business right now if you’re B2B corporate. Even small businesses of $10 million, if they could add 10% sales, then that’s a $1,000,000 challenge, not necessarily a problem. A lot of companies are losing people, just all kinds of quitting, disengaging, all kinds of people behaviors.
To me ‘people problems’ are necessarily expensive ones. You multiply any single number of people by any salary and it’s easy to get to $1,000,000. I say million dollars because if you’re solving a $1,000,000 problem, then you should be compensated for that at least 10%. So at least $100K for those engagements.
I like for transformational engagements to be at least a year in duration valued at at least $100K because seriously there’s nothing valuable that you’re doing for them that should be valued at less than $100K to pay you. I want them to change behavior. I want them to make a measurable, visible difference in the organization.
Some of the transformational engagements that my clients have done. Well, I’ll start with me. The things that I will do is put in place sales and marketing systems to where we come in and we help the client identify what their brand identity is going to be, what their messaging is going to be, and then cascade that through the organization so that anybody selling on behalf of the company, anybody marketing or writing, everybody knows the messaging and is able to express that.
Now my clients will very often increase their sales. A lot of them doubled their sales and that can be $100K or more. So my transformational engagements are not necessarily $100K engagements because I work with a smaller size company. Some of my clients usually top out around $2 million. Yours probably begin around $2 million. That means if mine are in the $50,000 range for transformational engagements, yours should be again a minimum of $100K.
Don’t be shy about pricing. Part of the transformation that happens when a company engages you is, they think, “Oh, wow, this is actually more expensive than we expected.” That’s a great thing. They’re going to take it seriously.
If you think about the gym that costs $5 a month versus the one that I had that was $140 a month. Which one do you think I went to more often? I’ve never gone to the $5 a month one ever, maybe like twice. The $140 a month one, I went 3 to 5 times a week. So that investment will get and signify commitment. So don’t be shy in the pricing of this.
I have an IT client. A lot of my IT clients are helping clients to utilize software, but it isn’t just like, Yeah, I get to use the software and I get to be more fluent with it. What does that software do? It pays people on time. It saves them the time that they were spending doing something manually or trying to figure something out so that they have more time for themselves. They can go home, have a life, be with their family. The work that we’re doing, even if it’s about software, is actually about people, isn’t it? So systems and processes.
My clients who work in the efficiency of manufacturing and warehouses, it’s about helping the people who are working there to hate their jobs less and to take pleasure in them because things work in an expected way. They’re making the most of their time. They’re actually being valued as a resource in the organization.
My clients who work with nonprofits are helping them to fundraise, bringing in millions more dollars. That kind of transformation is super valuable and look at the impact of it. The organization makes more money and then their constituents, the people that they serve, make more money. Very valuable. If you feel like nonprofits don’t pay any money, you might want to check again. Lately I’m seeing a lot more people getting transformational engagements, working with nonprofits, so a little unexpected. We’re starting to shake up the paradigm.
Here’s another paradigm that we shake up: HR, you may think HR doesn’t have any buying power, HR doesn’t have any budgetary responsibilities. Not true anymore. A lot of my clients will come in through the HR function and then implement leadership development programs. Why is this important? Because traditionally HR was doing compliance and maybe hiring and things like that.
Nowadays HR is way, way more involved in developing people handling engagement, making sure that people are excited about their jobs and that they have a workplace that is a desired place to work. When my clients come in and work on that, why is it transformational? Because the behavior change that is happening in these organizations means that the leaders are nicer people to work for.
They say people don’t quit companies, they quit crappy leaders. I know I quit one. So when you’re making these leaders better people to work for, you’re creating a happier workforce and you’re making better places to work for those people who choose to work in jobs.
I’d love for everyone to be self employed, but I think actually there’s plenty of people who get to go work for companies where they feel their contribution is valued. That is super important to me. That’s why I like to work with my clients who are working with organizations like that.
There are all kinds of ways that you can do transformational engagements. The core of transformational engagements is changing behavior of the people who work in those places. That’s going to be incredibly valuable to them because it’s going to help them to solve multi-million dollar problems.
Your question for yourself is, what’s my transformational engagement? Who do I get results for? What kind of behavior do I change in organizations? What does that mean is possible for those organizations after I have done it? Most importantly, who has a $1M problem (or more) that you can help solve?
I hope these ideas have been helpful and expansive for you. If you’d like to talk about more ideas like this, then I urge you to get in touch with me. I help consultants to dramatically increase their revenues by working with perfect clients on transformational engagements, just like the ones we’ve been talking about today.
With that, I am wishing you a Profitable and Joyful Consulting business.