Are you a consultant or interested in working for a consulting company? If so, you’re in luck because knowing the business language is a key to success in this field. Like every industry, consulting has its own language – a set of vocabulary and buzzwords that can help speed up productivity and convey large ideas using a few simple words.
But don’t worry, if you’re new to consulting or just starting to interview for a job – it’s perfectly okay to ask for an explanation. However, wouldn’t it be great to be one of those people who are in-the-know and impress your colleagues and clients with your knowledge of consulting jargon?
Becoming familiar with consulting buzzwords and phrases will not only make you look great, but it will also give you valuable insight into the work of a consultant. In this article, we’ve handpicked the most useful consulting buzzwords and phrases that often trip people up to help you define them and up your consulting game.
While consulting buzzwords may seem like a foreign language at first, they are actually the secret code to effective communication in the consulting industry. These phrases are like verbal shortcuts, allowing consultants to convey complex concepts in just a few words. Mastering these consulting buzzwords is essential for anyone looking to succeed in consulting or advance their career in the business world. In this article, we’ll guide you through the most important consulting buzzwords and show you how to use them to your advantage.
We’ve listed for you 24 of the most used & common consulting buzzwords and business terms that are often a part of consultant jargon:
An action plan is a detailed, step-by-step blueprint for carrying out a certain activity, objective, or task. Consultants collaborate with their clients to develop an action plan. For instance, if the client needs to increase their clientele by the end of the quarter, they may want to develop an action plan to achieve this.
- “Our website traffic has been declining lately. Let’s set up a meeting next week to create an action plan for increasing our online presence.”
- “The project deadline is coming up fast. We need to start action planning to make sure everything is completed on time.”
AOB stands for “any other business,” which is an acronym that companies commonly use on meeting agendas. It signals to attendees when they can bring up topics not related to the main discussion. This is typically the last item on the agenda.
A consultant who is “beach” is one who is not actively involved in any assignments. This indicates that the consultant isn’t putting in any billable hours.
- “Samantha has been on the beach for a month now, waiting for a new project to start.”
- “I heard that James is still on the beach. We need to find a new assignment for him soon.”
Blanks are physical drafts of slideshow presentations that high-level executives create for lower-level employees to turn into finished electronic presentations. When a supervisor wants a slideshow about a particular topic, such as the company’s annual revenue, they may first sketch out or draw the general layout and content of the presentation on paper. This blank is then passed on to a lower-level employee who can refine, edit, and complete the presentation based on the supervisor’s initial vision. This process helps ensure that the final electronic slideshow accurately represent the supervisor’s ideas and goals.
- “Here are the blanks. I need the actual presentation by 3 p.m.”
- “Please make sure to include all the necessary blanks in the presentation template.”
“Boil the ocean” is a common phrase used in the business world to describe a difficult or time-consuming task that ultimately yields little results. It’s similar to the idea of “spinning your wheels” or “going in circles.” For instance, if you’re spending countless hours on a project that isn’t essential to your company’s goals, you might be accused of boiling the ocean. This term is often used to encourage individuals to focus their time and energy on tasks that will have a more significant impact on their work. Remember, time is a valuable resource, so it’s crucial to use it wisely and efficiently.
- “Stephanie, don’t boil the ocean to figure out the exact number. Just give an estimate and move on.”
- “John has a habit of boiling the ocean when he fills out those reviews. He should just write a sentence or two.”
Consultants are experts at breaking down big problems into smaller ones to make them more manageable. They do this by identifying key “buckets” that underlie the larger issue. Buckets are essentially categories, segments, or groups that help simplify complex information. For example, if a consultant needs to analyze a large amount of research data or test results, they might ask someone to “bucket” the information in order to make it more easily readable. So, the next time you hear a consultant use the term “buckets”, you’ll know they’re referring to a way of categorizing information to make it more understandable.
- “Can you bucket these expenses by department?”
- “We need to bucket these market trends to identify the key areas for growth.”
CAGR stands for “compound annual growth rate”. The CAGR is similar to the internal rate of return usually used in finance. It describes the rate growth for investment or market over the course of a year.
- “If you’re going to invest now, what will the CAGR look like?”
- “The boss has been looking at the numbers, and he is unsatisfied of the CAGR.”
8. Circle back
To “circle back” in a discussion means to temporarily put a topic aside and come back to it at a later time when it’s more relevant or appropriate. For instance, if you’re discussing a project budget and someone brings up a possible partnership, someone else may suggest circling back to the partnership topic later. This means that the partnership is an important topic, but it’s not the focus of the current conversation. You can resume the conversation about it at a later point when it’s more relevant or when you have more information to discuss.
- “I think we should circle back to the issue of branding once we’ve finished discussing the budget.”
- “Let’s circle back to the marketing campaign once we’ve covered the updates on the sales report.”
A “critical path” is like a roadmap that outlines the most essential steps to achieve a specific goal or complete a project successfully. It’s a crucial part of the planning process because it helps you stay focused on what really matters. For instance, if you want to attract new customers, the critical path might involve reaching out to them directly and making a personalized pitch instead of relying solely on broad marketing tactics.
- “Let’s come back to that later.” This is a simple and straightforward way to suggest that a topic needs further discussion but isn’t a priority at the moment.
- “I see your point, but let’s focus on this first.” This expression acknowledges someone’s input while redirecting the conversation back to the main topic at hand.
When consultants talk about a “deck,” they’re usually referring to a slideshow presentation that’s designed to convey information or ideas visually. The term “deck” is often used in business settings, such as meetings or pitches, where it’s important to communicate complex concepts in a clear and concise way. For example, if someone asks “Do you have a deck for this meeting?” they’re likely asking if you have a presentation ready to share with the group.
- “Let’s take a look at the deck”
- “Do you have a deck for this meeting?”
When consultants talk about “deliverables,” they’re usually referring to the tangible products or outcomes that they provide to their clients at the end of a project or assignment. These can take many forms, such as research documents, presentations, spreadsheets, or other types of deliverables that are tailored to the client’s needs. For example, if someone asks “How are the deliverables coming along?” they’re likely asking about the progress of the project and when they can expect to receive the final products.
In more informal settings, we might use other expressions to refer to deliverables. For instance, we might say “Here are all the materials we’ve prepared for you” or “I’ve put together a package of results and recommendations for you.” These expressions convey the same idea as “deliverables” but in a more conversational tone.
- “I’m excited to see the deliverables for this project. Can you give me an update on when they’ll be ready?”
- “We’ve completed all the deliverables for this phase of the project, and I think they turned out really well.”
When consultants use the phrase “drill-down,” they’re usually referring to a deeper dive into the details of a project or idea. This phrase is often used when someone wants to explore a particular aspect of a project in more depth after a high-level summary has been provided. For instance, if a consultant pitches a project to increase a company’s online presence, a coworker might want to drill-down and figure out how it’s going to work in practice.
In more casual conversations, we might use other expressions to convey the same idea as “drill-down.” For example, we might say “Let’s take a closer look at that” or “Can you walk me through the details?” These expressions signal a desire to explore a topic in more depth and gain a better understanding of how it works.
- “Great overview! I’m curious to learn more about the specifics. Can we drill-down and explore the details?” This expression acknowledges the value of the summary while also expressing a desire to explore the topic in more depth.
- “I’m excited about this project! Let’s start drilling-down and figuring out how we can make it happen.” This expression conveys enthusiasm and a desire to take action by exploring the details of the project further.
When people talk about an “elevator pitch,” they’re usually referring to a brief and concise statement that summarizes an entire idea or project. The term comes from the idea that you should be able to deliver your pitch in the time it takes to ride an elevator with someone. This is often used in business settings, where it’s important to be able to communicate your ideas quickly and effectively. For example, if you have a great idea for how to increase business, your boss might ask you for the “elevator pitch.”
In more casual conversations, we might use other expressions to convey the same idea as “elevator pitch.” For instance, we might say “Can you sum that up in a sentence or two?” or “What’s your main point?” These expressions signal a desire for a concise and clear explanation of an idea or project.
- “I’m interested in hearing more about your idea, but can you give me the elevator pitch first?” This expression acknowledges the value of the idea while also requesting a brief and concise summary before delving into the details.
- “I’m short on time, but I’m still curious to hear your pitch. Can you give me the elevator version?” This expression conveys a sense of urgency while still expressing interest in hearing the idea in a concise and clear format.
When people use the acronym “EOD,” they’re usually referring to the end of the business day, which is typically around 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. This term is often used in professional settings, such as in emails or other written communication, to indicate a deadline for completing a task or project. However, when speaking out loud, people often prefer to use the full phrase “end of day” to avoid confusion.
In more casual conversations, we might use other expressions to convey the same idea as “EOD.” For example, we might say “By the end of the workday” or “Before you leave today.” These expressions signal a deadline for completing a task or project without relying on professional jargon.
- “I need those reports by the end of day so that we can move forward with the project tomorrow.” This expression conveys a sense of urgency while also providing a clear deadline for completing the task.
- “If we don’t finish this by the end of day, let’s plan to pick it up first thing tomorrow morning.” This expression acknowledges the importance of completing the task while also suggesting a backup plan in case the deadline is not met.
When people talk about “FaceTime”, they’re usually referring to the act of being physically present in the office to demonstrate their productivity and build relationships with coworkers and superiors. This term is often used in professional settings, where it’s important to establish a visible presence and maintain a positive reputation. Even if a consultant doesn’t need to be present for their work, they might still decide to show up to the office to put in some “FaceTime.”
In more casual conversations, we might use other expressions to convey the same idea as “FaceTime.” For instance, we might say “I’m going to stop by the office for a bit” or “I want to touch base with some people in person.” These expressions signal a desire to be present and visible in the workplace.
- “I was thinking of stopping by the office tomorrow to get some facetime in and catch up with some colleagues.” This expression conveys a desire to build relationships and maintain a visible presence in the workplace, even if it’s not strictly necessary for the work being done.
- “I don’t have any pressing work to do, but I feel like I could use some facetime with the boss. Maybe I’ll swing by the office for a bit.” This expression acknowledges that there might not be a specific reason to be in the office, but suggests that building relationships and maintaining a positive reputation are still important factors to consider.
Feedback is a critique given to improve a document, task, or action. It can be given in writing or verbally.
- “Can I offer you some feedback to help you improve?”
- “I received some useful feedback on my presentation, even though they said it was strong.”
When consultants use the term “greenfield,” they’re usually referring to a new and exciting opportunity for a company that has the potential to be highly beneficial in the long term. This term is often used when a consultant identifies a new client or project that they believe could be a game-changer for the company. For example, a consultant might describe hiring a brand-new client as a “greenfield” opportunity.
- “I’m really excited about this greenfield opportunity and I think it could be a major turning point for our business.”
- “We don’t want to miss out on this greenfield opportunity, so let’s move quickly and make sure we’re well-positioned to take advantage of it.”
When consultants use the term “hard stop,” they’re typically referring to a fixed and non-negotiable end time for a meeting or other work-related task. This term is frequently used when someone has a scheduling conflict or other pressing commitment that requires them to end the meeting at a specific time. For example, if someone has another meeting scheduled immediately after the current one, they might request a “hard stop” at a specific time to ensure that they can make it to the next meeting on time.
- “Just a heads up, I have a hard stop at 3 p.m. for another meeting, so let’s make sure we cover everything we need to before then.”
- “This meeting has a hard stop at 4 p.m. today so we can beat the traffic home.”
Consultants use the term “leverage” to describe the practice of using one thing to gain another, often in the context of persuasion or negotiation. For instance, a consultant may mention their new accounting specialist to impress potential clients seeking a strong financial advisor for their company. In casual conversation, we might use phrases such as “I’ll use my connections to get this job” or “I’ll play my trump card if I need to” to convey the idea of using available resources or advantages to achieve a desired outcome.
- “That fancy dinner was just a clever way to leverage our connections and win new clients for our business.”
- “We’re going to use our secret weapon as leverage to win this contract and make a name for ourselves in the industry.”
The “pipeline” is a term used by consultants and businesses to describe the upcoming projects that are on the horizon. If a consultant is seeking work, they might inquire if anything exciting is in the works.
- “Hey there, is there anything interesting brewing in the pipeline?”
- “I heard a rumor that there’s something in the pipeline for us. Can you confirm?”
“Push back” is the art of respectfully voicing your inability to complete a task within an unrealistic timeframe. For instance, if your manager requests you to create a massive presentation within an hour, you may need to push back and inform them that the task cannot be completed in such a short time frame.
- “My supervisor gave me a ton of work to do in an unrealistic timeframe. I had to push back a little.”
- “Kassi pushed back a bit today, but she was right. She required more time to complete the task.”
The “smell test” is the process of ensuring something makes sense before accepting it as the truth. For example, if a consultant is uncertain about the findings of a study, they may request that the study is conducted again before accepting it as the truth.
- “These results do not pass the smell test. Let’s run the study again.”
- “I’m skeptical about that. It does not pass the smell test.”
“Weeds” are the minute details of a situation, project or objective. Though similar to “drilling down,” “weeds” refers to diving into the details before the overarching summary. For example, if your consulting firm executes multiple comparable projects, you might skip the summary and dive straight into the details, or “weeds.”
- “Let’s bypass the summary and jump straight into the weeds.”
- “We have done this before. We can skip the summary and dive straight into the weeds.”
“White space” refers to unexplored areas of a business that could result in additional revenue or business growth. For example, a company might be unaware that its services could benefit a market it has not yet tested, resulting in an exciting and lucrative opportunity.
- “This new concept could explore a significant amount of white space.”
- “I never considered this white space before. It could be an excellent opportunity.”