How do I get off the treadmill of trading time for dollars?  

How do I scale my impact?  

How do I grow my business without bringing on a bunch of employees or contractors?

Asked a number of different ways, this may be the most common question I hear from established consultants and trainers: How do I make a bigger impact?

As I touched upon in The 4-phases of growing a consulting firm, there’s a mental shift required for consultant and client alike in moving from a relationship where you’re selling your time, competence or reputation to one where you’re selling impact.  And if you can do that – if you can make the shift to selling impact, you’re able to have greater impact (and revenue), as your value (and compensation) is no longer linked to hours worked.

So, tactically speaking, how do you make that shift?  How do you help your client see you in a different light?

The most effective – and oft underutilized – vehicle for shifting how your client thinks about you (from “she’s an exceptional trainer” to “our investments in her produce some of the best ROI we have”) is the lowly Program Debrief Meeting.  That is, of course, if you leverage it effectively.  

We’ve been coaching consultants on how to more effectively leverage the program debrief meeting for the better part of a decade, and have codified what works best into a simple format:

We’ve created a comprehensive worksheet that breaks down each step in the debrief meeting and includes a script you can use in the meeting to ensure you’re maximizing your time with your buyer. Grab the free worksheet HERE.


The program debrief is a 60 minute discussion between you and your buyer (and ideally, other key stakeholders) to review the program’s efficacy compared to the statement of work. This discussion provides an opportunity to highlight impact, key learnings and areas of opportunity for the client moving forward.


Every. Single. Program.  I’m shocked by the percentage of consultants who don’t have this as a standard part of their programs. It should be built into the statement of work and scheduled as far out as is feasible.

It should also happen before the program has concluded (75-80% of the way through).  This timing surprises most people. Shouldn’t the debrief be after the program has concluded?

The way we see it, this initial debrief is the first stage of a new sales process.  


-your program has been focused on helping the client achieve a certain outcome (hopefully it has), and 

-you’ve been collecting impact data along the way (hopefully you have!) 

Then you’re likely sitting on a treasure trove of insight, and we want to share it before the program is over, so (a) you still have time to implement any changes based on their takeaways from the discussion, and (b) you want a fully justified reason to have a second debrief meeting (more on that in a minute).


Original buyer and key sponsor(s), if applicable. You want to get all decision makers and people with a vested interest in the programs’ success to the table for this.


Why should key sponsors attend the meeting?

If we’re asking for busy people’s time, we need to give them a reason to at the meeting. We want to frame it as something along the lines of “A meeting to discuss the strategic impact of {Your program}”.  

The key point here is that this is not a post-mortem, where we’re looking backwards, nor is it a read out of activity.  

This meeting is an opportunity to elevate your position in their minds from “deliverer of excellent training” to “strategic partner in achieving our objectives”. Particularly for sponsors who might not know you as well as your buyer, this is an opportunity to make a mark.

In everything from the way you write the email to how you title the calendar invite, we want to position this meeting as a strategic discussion, reviewing key metrics around their people (and their people’s ability to execute on the company’s strategic priorities)


What to cover in the debrief

Again, the purpose of the meeting is to link the impact of your program to the clients’ strategic priorities. So, you’ll need a couple things coming into this meeting:

-An understanding of the client’s strategic priorities (hopefully you captured those in your Discovery)

-Data around program impact.  Actionable gives you ready made strategic reports, but short of that, you can also use evaluation forms, 360s and pulse survey data; whatever you have that tells the story around how your participants have applied what they learned from your program.

You’re going to tell that data story in three parts: trends, bright spots and areas of opportunity. For each, the goal is to validate (do they agree?), value (how much do they care?) and visualize (what comes next?)

Trends (succinct)

Goal is to validate (increase trust in using you again)

Bright spots (specific, packaged as neatly as possible)

Specific cohorts/people (Surprise and delight through additional value add) and approaches (for consideration in other programs)

Areas of Opportunity

Revisit content that didn’t land and/or gain traction the way they might have wanted.

Specific groups that are behind on the adoption curve.

Insights from ongoing feedback that they might consider for future programs.

End the meeting with open loops.  The benefit of having this meeting before the program concludes is that there’s “still time” for (a) application of any takeaways from the debrief discussion, and (b) more data to come.  So, before you leave the meeting, secure a commitment for a followup conversation a couple weeks after the program wraps.

We’ve created a comprehensive worksheet that breaks down each step in the debrief meeting and includes a script you can use in the meeting to ensure you’re maximizing your time with your buyer. Grab the free worksheet HERE.

Hopefully, at this point, you’ve whetted their appetite for more information, and helped them see your program in an elevated light. The next meeting will be the one to explore how you can help on the next phase of their journey.