Proven Consulting Process: 4 Steps To Successful Projects (2023)

Do you have a reliable consulting process?

In this post, you’ll learn how to develop a consulting process that makes your projects smooth, successful, stress-free — and create greater results for your clients.

If your current consulting process feels messy or disorganized, you’ll learn how to deliver your consulting services with more structure and confidence.

(Watch the video version of this post below or read the transcript below, where I’ve included additional details, examples, and best practices)

Three Benefits Of Having A Consulting Process

First, this 4-step consulting process makes your life easier.


Because it makes it easier for you to…

  • Organize how you deliver projects
  • Make a list of the tasks you must complete
  • Determine who is responsible for what
  • Start to delegate aspects of the project

With a repeatable consulting process, you’ll have a lot more clarity during projects. You’ll know when to do what, and when. You’ll work through each project in a logical progression.

Second, the more you develop and run your process, you’ll discover ways to make it more efficient.

It opens up the opportunity for you to scale your consulting business by scaling your delivery methods.

EXAMPLE: Instead of offering a customized consulting service for each client, you create a productized discovery offer that predictably and reliably creates your client’s desired result.

Using a step-by-step consulting process allows you to run your business in a more efficient, profitable manner.

The third reason is that clients like to see that you have a process. It’s a powerful method for building trust.

They want to know you’re not doing things “off the seat of your pants.”

If they know you’re using a process that has delivered the results they want, they’ll feel much less risk investing in your services.

(Video) Proven 4 Stage Consulting Project Process

Now, let’s dive into the four steps of the consulting process.

Proven Consulting Process: 4 Steps To Successful Projects (1)

Step 1. Assess/Discovery

Step one is what we call “Assess.”

In this phase, you are assessing the client’s situation and current condition. This is also commonly referred to as a discovery offer.

This first step helps you understand…

  • What is going on in your client’s organization
  • What opportunities there are
  • What threat/problems exist
  • What can be done to improve their condition

This step gives you clarity on how to progress through the rest of the consulting process.

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The outcome — the deliverable from this — is that you are going to put together a high-level plan. This plan includes your recommendations.

Your clients love this because they get a sense of where things are at and how best to move forward.

NOTE: Use meaningful questions to go deeper into the client’s situation. Use this step to identify the underlying problems and potential opportunities.

When you sell this phase as a stand-alone project — a “discovery offer” — there are major benefits for both you and the client.

You’re NOT saying: “Hey, this is going to be a $100,000 project. We’re going together into it right away, and we’ll figure things out as we start the engagement.”

(Video) 4 Steps to Scale Your Consulting Business

Instead, in this step, you’re saying: “Here’s what I see, and here are the next steps.”

Unlike the former, the latter statement is all about assessment.

Assessing the client’s situation gives you clarity which helps you prepare recommendations for the client.

From there, you adjust the rest of your service delivery based on your assessment.

This step ensures that the rest of the process is more efficient, effective, and creates better results.

Remember: each part of this consulting process can be sold individually.

EXAMPLE: Let’s say your buyer comes in. They start with you at step 1: the assessment phase.

If for some reason they decide they don’t want to move on to step 2, that’s okay.

Give them that choice. Most clients will want to continue working with you through the remaining steps. They won’t get all the benefits and their desired result unless they go through every stage of the process.

But giving them that ability to say, “Hey, let’s take a break,” or “I don’t want to move forward,” helps with risk reversal.

They have a lot less hesitation because they feel like they have much more control over the process. And they can, because they get to choose whether or not to move forward.

Step 2. Plan

The second phase of the consulting process here is what we call “Plan.”

You might be saying, “You just said plan in the 1st step. What’s the difference?”

The difference is that the second step is a much more detailed plan.

Instead of a high-level plan, think strategic recommendations. Think step-by-step.

In “Assess” you’re giving high-level recommendations and a high-level plan of what should come next.

(Video) Proven Practices and Tools to Start and Grow Your Consulting Business

In “Plan” you say, “Okay. We’ve done the initial assessment. Here’s what we know we need to do. Here’s what has to happen for this project to succeed.”

EXAMPLE: Let’s say you’re a marketing consultant who works with accounting firms looking to get more clients.

In step 1, you assessed their marketing materials: their website, content, paid advertising, and social media. You provided them with a high-level assessment of what is wrong with their marketing and the opportunity for improvement.

In step 2, you will provide them with a specific, detailed, and tactical plan for how you’ll improve their marketing materials.

During “Plan,” you get into developing the specific, strategic, step-by-step plan of what’s going to happen during the next step: the implementation.

Step 3. Implementation

Next is what we call “Implementation” or “Implement.”

This is where you implement the strategic recommendations from step 2.

Continuing with our example.

In this step, you’ll implement the plan to improve your client’s marketing.


  • Adjusting their positioning
  • Improving their SEO
  • Re-designing their marketing materials

Depending on how you structure your service offer, you may or may not be the person doing the implementation.

If you’re like most consultants, you’ll be guiding or advising the team responsible for implementation.

However, you don’t just implement a project and then you’re finished forever.

There are always going to be ways to refine, improve, and optimize the client’s situation.

That’s what the next phase, “Optimization,” is all about.

Step 4. Optimization

The final phase is one that many consultants don’t think about. It’s the “Optimization” phase, and it’s powerful.

(Video) Steps in Project Evaluation that every Consultant should know

If you’re trying to improve something (like a client’s business), you don’t just do a single improvement and think that you’re done.

There are always ways to refine, improve, and optimize. That’s what this step is about.

By now in the consulting process, you’ve implemented your plan. Now that you’ve implemented it, you’ll get some feedback and data.

You’ll learn what levels of success you’ve created and what can be improved further.

There’s still going to be more work to do if you want to continue improving your client’s condition — or if you want to maintain that level of improvement.

That’s when you’ll begin optimization.

In this step, the output is ongoing implementation.

You’ll deliver services like:

  • Ongoing coaching
  • Training
  • Mentorship
  • Working with or leading teams

There’s a lot of different ways that you can deliver value to your clients during optimization. It’s usually ongoing or for a set period of time. Retainer agreements are perfect for this phase.

During the optimization phase, you may find that you’re going back again and working on the early parts of the process. That’s OK. As long as you’re continually providing value to your client, they’ll continually invest in your services.

Imperfect Action: Plan Your Consulting Process

We’ve gone over the four steps of the consulting process that you’ll use to deliver value to your clients:

  • Assess
  • Plan
  • Implement
  • Optimize

There are variations to the process. Some consultants might have five or six steps. But these 4 steps give you a solid foundation on which to build.

Now it’s your turn.

Using these 4 steps, map the consulting process for your consulting business:

  • How will you assess the client’s situation?
  • What will your plan look like to help them reach their goals?
  • How will you go about implementing your plan?
  • Once the project is done, how can you optimize and continually improve the client’s results?

By answering these questions, you’ll build your solid consulting process — and create better results for your clients.

(Video) 4 Proven Ways to Earn Higher Fees With Every Consulting Proposal

What’s your current consulting process look like?

Where do you feel you could make the most improvements?

Join the discussion and leave a comment below.


What are the 4 stages of consultation? ›

  • Phase 1: Evaluating the consultation process.
  • Phase 2: Planning post-consultation matters: ...
  • Phase 3: Reducing involvement and following up.
  • Phase 4: Terminating.

What is the process of consulting? ›

Process consulting means the analysis & improvement of company processes by a 3rd party expert. By making processes more efficient, process consultants help to reduce time spent in meetings, resolve conflicts, and improve efficiency. Coaching is the universal language of change and learning.

What is one of the four stages of consulting quizlet? ›

Stage one: entry, stage two: diagnosis, stage three: implementation, stage four: disengagement. The consultant enters the organization and/or enters into relationships with consultees.

What are the three steps consultation process? ›

This article provides details of the three steps that should be included in the initial consultation: establish a rapport, analyze the situation, and develop the solution.

What is the 5 stage consulting process? ›

Contact, Discussion, Negotiation, Implementation and Evaluation, these are the active stages of the consulting process as I experience it.

What are the 5 steps of the consulting process? ›

Page 1
  • Gather Important Information. • Complete client questionnaire. ...
  • Establish Goals and Objectives. • Understand what is important to you. ...
  • Analyze Data. • Determine if goals can be achieved. ...
  • Discuss plan and how to implement it. • Educate client about strategy and recommended. ...
  • Ongoing consultation, education and evaluation. •

Why consulting is a process? ›

“Process consulting is an iterative form of humble inquiry and guidance in which the consultant works alongside the client to co-create solutions. A process consultant's purpose is not to provide ready-made solutions but to advance the client's growth and learning through an authentic discovery process.”

What is the core of consulting? ›

Problem-solving is a core part of consulting. It's what you do for a living: applying your skills and expertise to a particular problem that your clients have and help them achieve their desired result.

What are three main types of consulting? ›

Typically, consulting roles can fit into one of five main categories: strategy consulting, operations consulting, financial consulting, information technology consulting and human resources consulting.

What are the three rules of consulting? ›

One of the best or at least most accessible theoretical frameworks I found was Gerald Weinburgers “secrets of consulting” which presents his three laws:
  • There's always a problem.
  • It's always a people problem.
  • Never forget they're paying you by the hour.
Jul 19, 2019

What are the 3 key components used to determine a consultation visit? ›

The appropriate level of service for a consultation (e.g., 99243 vs. 99244) will be determined by the three key components of history, exam and medical decision making, in most cases.

What are the principles of consultation? ›

The governing principle is proportionality of the type and scale of consultation to the potential impacts of the proposal or decision being taken, and thought should be given to achieving real engagement rather than following bureaucratic process.

What is consultation process and why is it important? ›

Consultation involves employers actively seeking and then taking account the views of workers before making a decision. It involves two-way communication with employers providing information and workers taking on the responsibility of actively participating in the process.

What are the big 4 consulting? ›

They are Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG). Aside from auditing services, the Big Four offer tax, strategy and management consulting, valuation, market research, assurance, and legal advisory services.

What is one of the four roles of consulting? ›

Consultant Roles and Responsibilities

Collect and analyze data. Provide industry-specific coaching. Brainstorm strategies. Organize meetings.

What is a Big Four consultant? ›

The Big 4 firms in management consulting are Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (Deloitte), KPMG International (KPMG), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and Ernst & Young (EY). As of 2020, they are the four largest consulting firms in terms of revenue.

What are the 5 C's of consultation? ›

Recently, the 5Cs of Consultation model (Contact, Communicate, Core Question, Collaborate, and Close the Loop) has been studied in Emergency Medicine residents using simulated consultation scenarios.

What is the first step of the consultation process? ›

Establishing a Relationship with the Client

The first step in the consultation process is establishing a relationship with one's client.

What are the six steps that will be taken during the consultation step? ›

These six steps are necessary for a successful consultation: To find the problem, identify the proper person, give them the relevant information, withhold your opinion unless asked, listen to what they have to say, and then implement the advice given.

What is the lifecycle of a consulting project? ›

The life cycle of a consulting project will vary depending on the scope of work but can be categorised in three phases: Build and Procure, Develop and Deliver, and Disseminate and Explore.

What makes a successful consultant? ›

However, no matter what type of consulting area a person would like to enter or what firm they would want to work for, there are several key characteristics that every successful consultant should possess: Having self-confidence, be a good listener, be a team player, easily cultivate and gain client trust, exhibit ...

How can I make my consulting successful? ›

How to Build a Successful Consulting Practice
  1. Balance your activities. Understand from the beginning that consulting is multiple jobs. ...
  2. Relationships are everything. ...
  3. Keep stakeholders informed. ...
  4. Know your niche. ...
  5. Never stop learning. ...
  6. Track everything and show results. ...
  7. Optimize billing and forecasting. ...
  8. Automate your tasks.

What is the most important thing in consulting? ›

Perhaps the number one consulting skill, then, is critical thinking. Your client will expect you to tackle complex problems plaguing their business. It's possible they've started the pre-work and have a direction in mind. Or, they may rely on you to jumpstart the discussion.

What is process consultation in simple words? ›

“Process consultation (PC) is the creation of a relationship with the client that permits the client to perceive, understand and act on the process events that occur in the client's internal and external environment in order to improve the situation as defined by the client” (Schein, 1999, p.

Why is consulting so important? ›

Consultants can provide expertise and an objective eye to help guide a business, with different consultants specializing in various industries and areas, including strategy and management, operations, human resources, finances, funding opportunities, IT, and sales and marketing.

What is the Big 3 consulting? ›

MBB is a shorthand way to refer to the “Big 3” strategy consulting firms, McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company. These firms are the most prestigious management consulting firms because they hire top graduates of highly competitive undergraduate and M.B.A.

What are top consulting skills? ›

8 examples of key consulting skills
  • Creative thinking.
  • Thinking conceptually and practically.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Communicating clearly and empathetically.
  • Collaboration with all job levels.
  • Organization and time management.
  • Curiosity.
  • Credibility.
Nov 9, 2022

What are the elements of consulting? ›

Seven Key Elements of an Effective Consulting Agreement
  • Scope of Services. The core purpose of any agreement is to facilitate what one party will be doing for the other. ...
  • Obligations. ...
  • Fees and Expenses. ...
  • Timeframe. ...
  • Proprietary Rights and Confidentiality. ...
  • Warranty. ...
  • General Terms.
May 4, 2017

What are the two basic approaches to consulting? ›

The Four Basic Consultative Approaches:
  • Expert Approach.
  • Medical (Doctor-Patient) Approach.
  • Process Approach.
  • Emergent Approach (Emergent Organizational Development And Change.
Jun 13, 2012

What is the best consulting? ›

  1. MCKINSEY. Prestige. McKinsey is the world leader in consulting prestige. ...
  3. BAIN & COMPANY. Prestige. ...
  4. ACCENTURE. Prestige. ...
  5. OLIVER WYMAN. Prestige. ...
  6. BOOZ ALLEN HAMILTON. Prestige. ...
  7. DELOITTE CONSULTING. Prestige. ...

What is the most important rule or skill in consulting? ›

Problem-Solving Skills

A solution-oriented mindset is the biggest asset of a consultant. At the time you arrive at your first meeting, your clients have likely thought of all the most obvious ways that their issues could be solved (and of course, none of them worked, which is why they hired you.)

What are the 3 R's for consultation? ›

The three “R's” of consultation codes: request, render and reply.

What are the five phases of consulting? ›

Contact, Discussion, Negotiation, Implementation and Evaluation, these are the active stages of the consulting process as I experience it.

What are the three types of consultation? ›

Consultation Models
  • Triadic-Dependent.
  • Collaborative-Dependent.
  • Collaborative-Interdependent.

What are the principles of effective consultation? ›

In 1983, Goldman and colleagues1 established guidelines for medical consultation, dubbed “Ten Commandments for Effective Consultations.” These commandments are to determine the question asked, establish the urgency of the consultation, gather primary data, communicate as briefly as appropriate, make specific ...

What makes effective consultation? ›

What is effective consultation? Consultation is a two-way process between you and your workers where you: - talk to each other about health and safety matters - listen to their concerns and raise your concerns - seek and share views and information, and - consider what your workers say before you make decisions.

What are 3 methods an Organisation can implement to ensure consultation occurs? ›

Other arrangements for consultation on health and safety matters could be through:
  • regular scheduled meetings.
  • team meetings (where work health and safety is always an agenda item)
  • one-off meetings.
  • tool box talks.
  • face to face discussions.
  • briefing sessions.

What are consultation codes? ›

Consultations for Medicare patients are reported with new patient (99201–99205) or established patient (99212–99215) Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes. For non-Medicare patients (unless otherwise instructed by a payor), office or other outpatient consultations are reported with codes 99241– 99245.

What is the Big 4 Management Consulting? ›

The big four consulting firms – Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC – have grown and influence way beyond their accounting and tax origins. The professionals at these firms now provide advice to all levels of government and business about their operations and often carry out the work on behalf on these clients.

What is a consultation model? ›

Consultation models provide a structure for the complex interactions that occur between patients and clinicians. An unstructured consultation can lead to failure to recognise the real issues raised by the patient and may also lead to an unclear shared management plan with the patient.


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