Monday, November 17, 2008

Your role as a consultant

As a consultant the first rule to remember is that your opinion does not matter never had, never will. It is not and never should be about making you look of feel good it is all about the client and what value you bring to them.

You should listen to what they are doing now, what they want to do and then find a solution that bridges that gap. If they are looking for a solution to their cabling trying to sell them candy is a waste of time and at best will only annoy them. Now that said if you help them solve their problem with the cable and in the process see that they have a lot of children that come in and them having candy for the children available would be nice, now you have something.

Communication in this day and time is a lost art. Listening and being non judgmental, which is why so many people go into and back out of business – why truly were not satisfying a need or listening to clients, they actually believed they were in business to make money and learned the hard way that if no one will do business with you there is no business.

So what is the secret? It is simple – all business is personal because you deal with people, their issues, their problems and their challenges. They do no go away once they start work they bring them with them. Your job is to listen to all of their problems until you get to the one’s that you can help resolve. When you hear them it is not your job to point out what they did wrong and how stupid they are – quickest way to loose a client. Once I was so caught up in what I knew and so insecure I actually thought that was what makes a great consultant and learned it makes a bad one the hard way, I lost that client. Your job is simple, listen and help. Help them accomplish their goal and help them see what they need to do to help themselves. Answer the value proposition – let them know what is in it for them and how this benefits them both now and in the future and often when you are real good you will have them fully buy in to the idea because they understand how it will make what they do better and more cost effective. Money is a tool and it represent the time people spend so they are hesitant to part with it unless they see the value of what they are investing in because just like your employees, your clients are an investment, in fact all relationships are an investment and you are the commodity manager – your job is to help that investment grow.

Ok, great words but how – step by step it is easy – the hard part is first getting the client – that is a whole other topic so am going to deal with once you have made contact and developed initial relationship

1) Listen to client as they tell you what they want

2) Do a site assessment to see what they need and can support

3) Do a GAP analysis to see where there is a difference between what they want, what they need and what you think they need

4) Create a unique solution to address their concerns

5) Make sure the solution integrates the KISS approach

6) Determine dependencies required for this solution

7) Report to client the custom solution proposal which addresses the want they mentioned while taking care of a known need and making provisions for scalability

8) Listen to client’s input which will be either proceed or revise

9) Repeat steps 2-7 until approved.

Sounds simple enough – right – wrong. See so many people hear what they want to hear instead of what the person is saying – this is a bad thing. Never forget you cannot separate people from the equation – ever. Never forget that your loyalty is to them and no they are not always right and they know that –which is why they are doing business with you or considering it, so telling them there is a problem – stupid – offering a value-added solution to protect asset, increase productivity, increase gross revenue or decrease expense – now we are talking something worthwhile. My final piece of advice is honest, admit your own shortcomings – that is not a sign of weakness rather one of integrity and strength which shows the character of your firm.

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