Helping Our Clients Succeed – The Ultimate Measure of What We Do.
Management consultants only exist to serve the needs of clients. Without clients, we would have to get proper corporate type jobs, or start real businesses for ourselves. Okay, I agree that this is somewhat tongue in cheek, but it is a reminder that we are indeed here to serve and that our highest purpose is to help our clients to succeed. The image below is a summary of what this post is about. I have included summary mind maps throughout this post to allow readers to preview content.
Why We Work As Consultants
Most of us work as consultants for 3 core reasons. Firstly, the work is challenging and it gives us the opportunity to use our knowledge and creativity to help our clients to break through obstacles that are blocking progress. Secondly, many of us are wired in such a way that we like to fix things that are broken or not working optimally. Thirdly, if we are good at what we do, we tend to get well paid for what we deliver. Also, we tend to be good communicators, experienced business people and we have a love for continuous learning that lasts a lifetime. Consulting offers us a vehicle that allows us to express ourselves while delivering outstanding value to our clients.
What Clients Want
While clients are ultimately looking for external expertise and solutions to problems that exist in their businesses, emotional drivers also motivate them. These emotional drivers are internal motivators that depend on how they are wired. When pitching for business, it is critical to understand and to recognize the internal motivators that drive individual clients, just as much as it is to understand the business drivers.
In neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) people are considered to be driven by one of two forces. One force is called “towards”, wherein people are motivated by achievement and consistently operate on the basis of trying to attain goals and objectives. The second force is called “Away From”, wherein their main motivation is to avoid things or prevent them from happening. Most people will have a tendency to lean in one way or the other, although particular circumstances can change the motivation and reaction of individuals to particular circumstances, wherein they behave outside of their normal behavioral preference or pattern.
Coupled with this, individual clients make choices based on business needs but they are influenced by emotional triggers as well. You need to become aware of the fears or frustrations that your client worries and frets about. It is important to remember that products or services are frequently purchased based on emotions rather than for purely practical reasons. For this reason, you need to identify the emotions that your clients are feeling and the things that are causing them emotional pain or frustration. This is particularly important if you are dealing with smaller clients wherein you are pitching to the owner manager, rather than interacting with a sophisticated procurement system, that may have many decision makers or even a selection committee that will ultimately make the decision to run with your proposed solution or not.
What We Deliver
Every project is different and one assignment may involve carrying out a detailed analysis of business operations whereas another could involve implementing a sophisticated new accounting system. The range of possibilities is infinite and we don’t always have the exact skill set needed for every assignment. Most of us do have a network of professionals we can bring into an assignment or the ability to recommend highly competent specialists, should we wish to pass on a project.
As we go through the project assessment process, even before we win the business, we bring the following components to every engagement:
- Unwrapping of the problem
- Identifying and understanding the issues and not just the symptoms
- Unbiased opinion
- Insightful analysis
- Expanded awareness of possibilities
- Presentation of congruent choices
These elements are extremely valuable for our clients and they sew the seeds for client and project success.
How We Deliver It
We help our clients to succeed by bringing our intellects and experience to bear on the problem at hand. What we deliver can be as complex as the problems we are trying to solve. Our toolkit may be multi-dimensional, and we may choose different tools for different projects, but we always bring our hearts and our minds to the assignment.
The following list gives a picture of how many of us approach an assignment. While it contains many of the elements of a typical project, it cannot be completely definitive. Please feel free to suggest things that are missing in the comments section of this blog.
- Using effective analysis frameworks
- High quality questioning
- Reveal one layer at a time
- What, who, why, where, when, how, what else?
- Challenging Project Sponsor
- How long has the problem been there?
- Why has it not been fixed before now?
- How does it impact other parts of the business?
- Identifying project constraints
- Identifying how project success will be measured
- Establishing how much $$ it will save annually if we fix it?
- Enquiry as to whether there is a project budget and if so, how it was determined
- Identification of decision making process or steps client will take to choose consultant
- Identification of project backers/ decision makers
- Getting face time with decision makers
- Active Listening
- Reflecting your understanding back to the sponsor(s)
- Seeking Verifiable Measurement of Problem and its Impact
- How is it measured?
- Is it real/Evidence?
- How much does it cost annually?
- Bringing knowledge and experience to bear on problems
- Being non-judgmental
- Crafting client specific solutions
- Determining the value we can deliver and price we can offer
- Proposal presentation
- Closing the deal
- Collaboration rather than solo run
- Mixed project team
- Structured project management using PM Office & collaborative tools