Consultants and clients often have a contentious relationship. Clients resent the high hourly fees the consultants charge. They view consultants as a necessary evil. Consultants tire of the constant demands the client places on them, while pressuring them to lower their fees on an almost constant basis.
Consultants don’t understand that it is up to them to provide such high quality service that the client becomes happily dependent upon them. By following these tips, the consultant can get the client to love them almost unconditionally.
1) Focus on solving the client’s issues
Consultants are business people. They are in business to make money. But if making money is a consultant’s primary focus, the client will soon become wise to it.
Instead, focus on being the client’s expert. Provide solid advice. If you don’t know the answer to their question, find out for them. If you focus on solving their problems consistently, they will turn to you with new business by default. You may not even have to compete with other firms for the work.
By focusing on the client, the money will eventually come.
2) Be responsive
When a client – or potential client – requests information, you may or may not know the answer. If you need to do research, how do you respond? Many consultants would wait until they’ve done the appropriate research to provide some answers. Meanwhile, the client wonders if the consultant even received the request.
The best way to handle this situation is to reply immediately explaining that you need to do some further research. Ask the client when she needs the information. Then reply in the appropriate time.
Often, consultants would prefer to make a client wait rather than say “I don’t know.” The client doesn’t expect a consultant to know everything about everything. He does expect the consultant to have access to information and be able to solve a problem within a reasonable amount of time.
For more information, see Client Relations for Consultants
3) Disagree diplomatically
Consultants are expected to be experts. Sometimes, they actually are. A consultant may review decisions made by the client in the past or decisions that the client is presently considering.
A good consultant knows how to veer the client in a different way without embarrassing him by pointing out foolish reasoning. Using diplomacy, a consultant may ask, “Did you consider this…?” Or the consultant may suggest, “There are many options, each with advantages and disadvantages.” He may then proceed to list the benefits and concerns of the decision the client is considering. And then offer some other options, listing advantages and disadvantages of each.
This allows the client to change his mind with another option that he can claim as his own.
4) Be a partner
Skilled consultants are neither subservient nor condescending. A good consultant becomes a trusted advisor to the client. He wants the client to know that he won’t agree with every decision the client makes just to win his favor. He will push back to help the client make the right decision. Still, he is respectful of the client and supports his decisions regardless of whether he agrees.
5) Develop a relationship
Chances are, if you have done items 1-4, this item is done for you. If you are honest and ethical in your dealings with your client, and focus on solving the client’s business issues, you will become the client’s trusted advisor.
By becoming the client’s trusted advisor, you will have a strong, long term relationship. All other things will fall into place for a win-win situation for both you and the client.
What have you done to become your clients’ trusted advisor?
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
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