Your clients are busy, caught up in the pace of growing their business. They have little down-time to reflect on what value you are bringing them. They may appreciate your deliverables and your results — both very important — but this is an appreciation that is tactical in nature (as in “glad that is done!”).
For your clients to value you for the long-term, for you to become an essential trusted advisor retained to solve problem after problem, to support the company’s next transition and the next, you must embed your value as well as your results into the mind and memory of your client.
Value is rarely specified beyond deliverables. In meetings with the teams you are supporting, no one tends to remember whose idea was pivotal and strategic. Some consultants don’t concern themselves with getting the credit for that leap of judgement that moved the team to the solution, so long as the solution gets implemented. Your client may not even be in these meetings to witness your expertise. And most folks will miss the subtleties of your contributions, even though these are very clear to you.
So it is important to blow your own horn a bit. And you can be subtle in its delivery. The entire team doesn’t need to applaud you, or even recognize your contribution. But the person who signs your check and offers you the next consulting project needs to be aware of your contributions and your value, so you need to tell him or her.
One way to handle this is a simple, old-fashioned concept: write a regular report on the work you have accomplished to the person who controls your contract and payment. Even if it is not expected or requested. Many consultants, particularly those embedded in a team for part of their time, skip this step, as the team moves forward together. But you are an outsider, and you are vulnerable to a shift in priorities or a new hire on the executive team, or a downward trend in revenues. You will likely be the first to be terminated, before any employee.
The report can be a simple set of bullets identifying what you have accomplished and contributed in the last month, set against the goals of your contract. In this format you can assert that you offered that strategic leap, and how that led the team to its next level. You can remind your client of all the activities you commit to reach those goals. Also, these reports will stand to defend you against any internal political hassles and external law suits, and will gain you the appreciation of the executive who must justify your fees to the compliance authorities.
Your client may appreciate your efforts and your presence. But appreciation is not the same as a deep understanding of the value that you offer (and can continue to offer) to the team and the company. And that value is the basis of your ongoing engagement with the client and the company.