Key Consulting Skill: Shut Up

consulting skill
Key Consulting Skill: Shut Up

The young batter planted his back foot in the dirt of the batter’s box and assumed his stance.  He took a hard swing at the 2-1 pitch, rocketing it between third base and the shortstop.  The shortstop dove hard to his right and knocked the ball down.  Quickly, he picked it up and threw a hard rope to first base.  We all heard the base runner’s foot hit the base a split second before the ball hit the glove to beat out the play.

Then, to everyone’s shock, the umpire bellowed a confident “Out”.

The coach came out and argued for a few minutes but knew he’d lose.  Umpires make mistakes and that was one.  The ump wasn’t going to reverse his call and the coach had made his point.

One dad didn’t have that consulting skill

But one of the team dads in the crowd continued to heckle the umpire.  Yelling sporadic insults after play continued. Even in the next inning when he called another player safe.

“Are you sure about that?” He asked mockingly.  And on it went.

I enjoy watching my kids play in sports. It’s fun to watch when they succeed and it’s a good experience for them when they don’t.  One thing I don’t enjoy is hearing the foolish things some of the parents say.  Umpires and referees make bad calls on occasion.  It’s not good, but they’re not perfect.  They shouldn’t be expected to be.

The example some parents set for their children is embarrassing at times, particularly when they drone on and on well after a call.  I hold my tongue, but there are times I’d like to tell them that they’ve made their point, now move on.

I’m pretty sure it would accomplish nothing.  I’ve spoken to enough umpires to know that the continuing jabs from the crowd do more to hurt your chances on any future close calls than helping them.

Communicating best by not talking

Some people think that the more they talk the more effective they are.  As if production and accomplishments are measured in words

I’ve known Consultants who evidently have that viewpoint. I’ve been part of many client meetings where consultants dominate the conversation, boasting about their experience, peddling their services and downplaying their competition.

They don’t bother to ask the prospective client about the problems they’re experiencing or what they’ve tried in the past to resolve them.  The assumption seems to be that no matter what your problem is, we have the tools, people and processes to solve it.  We don’t even have to know anything about it.

There’s the old saying that you have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you speak.  This couldn’t be truer when talking to clients.

The most effective way to sell consulting services is to take the time to listen.  Most of the talking from consultants should be in the form of questions.

Listening is also communicating

Where are you trying to take the company?  What is limiting your ability to get there?  What have you tried in the past?

Then let them talk.  It’s hard to help someone if you don’t know exactly what their problem is.

See my related post: Consulting Skill: Getting Others to Communicate

Everything you say should have a purpose for the client.  Blowing your own horn about your vast experience, how long your firm has been in business and who your past clients have been is all much more impressive to your firm than it is to your clients. Focusing on solving their problems instead of selling your services will be much more likely to endear the client to you and win their business.

The client is the ultimate umpire.  You may disagree with their call, but you won’t get very far arguing with them either.

When have you wished you had just shut up?

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

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. 

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