Sergie is a mechanic that I trust with my cars. When I take it in for a problem, he’ll suggest an inexpensive adjustment to see if that solves the problem. If that doesn’t work, he’ll try something more. I know that he has my best interests in mind rather than thinking about how much money he’ll make in the deal.
It made me realize that he was really my auto repair consultant. What if every consultant followed the six steps that Sergie does with me?
Explain the impact
After Sergie runs an analysis on my car, he gives me a call and explains what is wrong with it. He knows that I don’t know an overhead cam from a drive shaft. Instead of taking advantage of that, he explains how it impacts the car’s performance. That helps me make a decision on what to do.
When a consultant identifies a problem, it is important to explain, not just the business or IT problem, but how it has potential to impact the business in the short and long terms. When the client understands how it impacts the business, they can seek the most effective solutions.
Understand client’s priorities
Sergie has asked me how much longer we plan to keep an automobile. He’s asked how many miles we usually drive a car to work. That helps him understand how much and how we use our cars. That helps him give informed advice that will be most helpful for us to get the right solution.
A consultant should understand the client’s strategy. He should know the clients priorities and goals in order to help achieve them. By knowing where the client is going, the consultant can give advice that leads them down the right path.
For more information, see Client Relations for Consultants
Provide options with pros and cons
When Sergie calls after I drop off a car, I know how the conversation is going to go. He’ll explain what is wrong in language that I can understand. Then he’ll list out a number of options. Some are simple stop-gap resolutions. Some are a lot more expensive. For each option, he explains the advantages and disadvantages. He’ll explain how the fix could affect the resale value and how long the solution is expected to last.
Consultants are paid to come up with solutions. They should provide clients with multiple options and explain the pros and cons of each one. Each option should be presented in a way that is clear and understandable for the client.
Make a recommendation
Once he explains all of the options and the pros and cons of each, Sergie often has painted a picture of a no-brainer. I’ll usually state what sounds like the right option and he usually agrees.
Sometimes, it’s not a clear solution. If he sees me struggling to decide, he’ll make a recommendation based on his knowledge of how we use our cars. He’ll explain why he thinks that’s a good solution. Then he patiently answers all of my questions and waits for my decision.
No matter how decisive a client is, or how well he knows his business, decisions can be complex. A consultant who knows the client’s strategy can best make a recommendation and explain why it’s the best decision. The client will most likely have questions. The consultant should be well-informed to be able to answer each question.
Implement according to the customer’s preferences
Once I make a decision on my car, my loyal mechanic implements the solution according to my directions. I’ve never gone against his recommendation. But if I did, I have confidence that he would do what I think is best rather than what he believes.
A consultant has to do the same. Clients often agree with the consultant. Sometimes they agree after some minor modifications. Other times, they may disagree completely for a variety of reasons.
The consultant may disagree. He may voice that disagreement. But the client’s wishes trump the consultant’s opinion. Solutions need to be implemented according to the client’s wishes.
How do you help clients make decisions?
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
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