How to Speak Like a Consultant

Consultants are chameleons when it comes to adapting to the company, industry, technology or team dynamic that they are thrown into when engaging with a new client. And this nature or skillset isn’t limited to the confines of a client’s employee handbook or project charter.  The consultant might wear jeans and cowboy boots for a kickoff meeting with an Oil and Gas client, a suit and tie for a Joint Application Design workshop with a team of accountants and investors at a Financial Banking customer, or she may show up in a maxi skirt,  carrying a kombucha into a User Acceptance Testing session at a Digital Advertising group. Consultants are constantly acclimating to blend into the new world of the client, even when it comes to expressing their own fashion sense, so long as it meshes with a given client’s corporate culture.

Using a universal language

Not only does the consultant need to adapt to a new calendaring system and way of life at each new client, but there is a new language that might include new buzzwords and acronyms that they should learn. There is however, a “Romance Language” that can carry the consultant from client to client: the universal language of Consultingese.  This is a language that can be used to bridge the worlds of the locals, who until now may have thought of themselves as worlds apart. If you’re looking to join the consulting world, familiarize yourself with our “RoStatêra Stone” of Consultingese.

 

Consultingese Dictionary:

20,000-foot view

An arbitrary amount that refers to the summary of a situation. Instead of “getting into the weeds” (*other definition below), 20,000 feet up is a visual indicator of “high-level.” This is typically used when teams of client and/or consultant resources are discussing minute details and need to take a step back to see the big picture first.

Synonyms: Big picture, “the forest” (as opposed to “the trees”), executive summary.

 

Bandwidth

The amount of mental capacity available to deal with a situation. Typically used in a sentence from a salesperson or your boss, “Do you have the bandwidth to take on Project A?”

Synonyms: Space, capacity, availability

 

Bench

A consultant who is not actively working on a billable project or is in-between projects. Like the basketball player on the sidelines, they are ready to jump into the action! Especially because they are probably working on other certifications and projects for the firm in order to become even more valuable to the next client he or she is assigned to.

Synonyms: On standby, incubation, in-the-queue.

 

C-Suite

Executives with a capital C in front of their title (CEO, CFO, COO). Everyone is constantly trying to win the approval of the C-Suite and these executives are handed 20 business cards daily.

 

Core competencies

Used in every piece of Marketing collateral, this term defines the primary concerns of a company or department or what those companies do better than their competitors.

Synonyms: Differentiators, Areas of expertise, Bread & Butter.

 

Deck

A slide presentation, typically  done in Microsoft PowerPoint.  Considering reports often aren’t thoroughly read (see 20,000-foot view), succinct Decks that get straight to the point are extremely important, not only because they expect a certain level of brevity; but also because they all but require pictures and visuals.  They are also a good way for millennials to look like wizards to more seasoned professionals when they can make a fancy Deck.

 

Deliverables

Similar to ordering a pizza and expecting that pizza to be delivered, within a specific time frame and including the specified toppings,  deliverables are the final products that are given to a client and they must match what was “ordered” (on the signed Statement of Work as opposed to the pizza order slip).

Synonyms:  Requirements Traceability Matrix, Design Document, Test Results Document, Training Deck.

 

Elevator Pitch

The key facts of a project, company, or a Company’s Core Competencies that one could describe to someone within the time and space confines of an elevator ride.  Elevator pitches are extremely beneficial when attempting to get time with the C-Suite, or on a first date when describing your job, wanting to sound important

Synonyms: 100,000-foot view (see also 20,000-foot view).

 

Hard Stop

The time you absolutely cannot run past for a meeting or activity. This term is especially effective when a call is running too long, even if the hard stop is imaginary.

Synonyms:  Back-to-back meetings, bio-break.

 

Leverage

One of the most commonly used words in consulting, “Leverage,” means to utilize what is available and at your disposal: resources, knowledge, materials, time, money, etc. You can leverage any happy hour with important people, the new intern’s bandwidth to complete data entry, or your company’s Core Competencies.

Synonyms:  The carrot, the stick, competitive intelligence, certifications.

 

Low-hanging fruit

Items that are easily accomplished, and are often tackled first. The report, which we see as low-hanging fruit, might not need to be finished before the bigger/more difficult tasks.

Synonyms:  Quick Wins,  pushovers, child’s play.

 

Ping

Pinging someone means to message them or contact them in some way, typically in an unobtrusive way. Most likely stemming from the noise your phone makes when it goes off from a notification. Everyone is unclear on what form of communication that person will use, and it’s a surprise to them when they receive the slack message, skype call, text or email.

Synonyms: Reach out, let me know.

 

Pipe or Pipeline

Not the pipe that floods your office with freezing cold air conditioning, “Pipe” (short for “Pipeline”) describes the upcoming projects the company may have available.

Synonyms: Bandwidth.

 

Rock-star

Not quite as cool as Jon Bon Jovi, “Rock Stars” are the consultants who have worked the hardest, have the most certifications, and tend to have adoring fans at the client site.

 

SME

Instead of googling something you don’t know, you could go to the SME or “Subject Matter Expert” who is the most knowledgeable person on a particular topic.

Synonyms: The AS400 architect, the guy who built the .NET interface, the lady who knows how the ERP system does pricing.

 

Synergy

Typically describes the same idea that comes out of the saying, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Every person or thing can – and often (hopefully) does, have synergy with some other person or thing. Is your team working well together? SYNERGY. Is the product working as intended? SYNERGY. The lunch special is tuna melt? SYNERGISTIC tuna.

Synonyms: Mutually complementary or beneficial, yin-yang.

 

Thank you (insert name)

Not simply thanking someone for their efforts, but when used at the end of a discussion, it signals that the conversation is done and you are dismissed. This is extremely effective when certain chatty coworkers are wanting to continue a conversation , but you need to get back to work.  Also effective in email to not come off as abrasive.

 

Weeds

Typically in the phrase “Getting into the weeds” and means intricate analysis.  Whenever someone is too focused on the details and cannot see the big picture, they need to get pulled out of the weeds, much like your dead plant in the corner of the office.

Synonyms: Low-level, granular, rabbit hole (when it comes to the early stages of a project).

 

Wordsmith

To make small edits to wording of a deliverable, deck, etc. Often-times someone will give a consultant bullet points for what they want and ask the consultant to “wordsmith” it for them to make it sound more professional or because they don’t feel like writing out full sentences.

 

Hopefully these terms will help you in your journey to learn Consultingese. When in doubt, use “Synergy” anywhere in a sentence, and you’ll be alright.

 

 

About Andrea:

Andrea Fitch is a Consultant at Statêra specializing in Contract Lifecycle Management, with a background in Marketing, Business Ethics and Legal Studies, and Business Analytics.  When Andrea isn’t working, she can often be found investigating new restaurants/trendy parts of Denver or planning her next big vacation destination.