Why is it that when I ask for a waiter’s recommendation, they suggest one of the most expensive things on the menu? I suppose it’s possible that the most expensive items are the best. It’s basic supply and demand economics. But I always suspect that they’re more interested in jacking up the bill – and in turn, their tip – than in finding me the ideal meal. Their conflicting priorities are obvious.
What is your priority?
Every once in a while, I get a waiter who replies with a question like “What types of food do you like?” or, “What are you in the mood for?”
Once they get an idea for my tastes, they can still come back with the most expensive item. But I’ve had good waiters who recommend a couple of items that span a few price ranges. This lets me know that he’s more interested in finding something I want rather than simply trying to increase the bottom line on the check.
Unless you’re a regular at a particular restaurant, most waiter-diner relationships are so short-term it’s hard to establish a deep trust. I may not trust a new waiter’s recommendation and he may not trust that I’ll tip for great service rather than just on percentage.
The difficulty with developing trust is convincing the other person that you have their best interests in mind when you have conflicting priorities. My priority is to get a good meal. I assume the waiter’s priority is to make as much in tips as possible.
But let’s discuss longer-term relationships. When you decide to get married you’ve, in part, decided that you trust the other person enough to commit yourself to him or her. That person has proven to you that your priorities are the same – or close enough. How many break-ups have you seen where trust was broken? One party in the relationship realized that their mate’s priorities were different than their own.
Developing a long-term relationship
In the importance spectrum, somewhere between dining and marrying, is consulting. Consultants develop longer-term relationships than a most diners do with waiters and usually don’t last as long as non-Kardashian marriages.
But it’s often best for both parties to have a long-term relationship. This is only possible when there is a strong level of trust on both sides.
If the client continually strong-arms a consulting firm into lower and lower rates, at some point, a good firm will find clients more interested in their value.
A paying client will normally hire a firm that they know has the client’s best interests in mind. Does the firm always suggest the highest priced solution (most expensive item on the menu)? Or do they try to understand the client’s business challenges and find a solution that’s right for the client rather than the firm’s sales quota?
Sometimes the most expensive item on the menu is the best option for a reason. If the waiter explains that they fly that salmon immediately after it’s caught in order to insure freshness, I might see the value in that and order it at the premium price.
Certainly, the consulting firm is in business to make money. But a good firm understands that they will make more money in the long run by developing good relationships with their clients and providing value. The firm will ultimately spend less on sales and marketing and may be able to charge higher fees because their clients will be more willing to work with them.
If the value is there, people are willing to pay extra. But there has to be trust.
How have you dealt with conflicting priorities with clients or consultants?
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
What do you do to instill trust in your clients?