Impress, Listen & Ask Questions!

By Crystal Koh

I highly recommend everyone to read Chapter 7 of the book “Consulting for Dummies”. It provides a good summary about things to take note of before working on a consultancy report. Here’s a quote from the book that explains the processes of a consultancy report.

Every business process has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The consulting process is no different. It begins with defining the problem, moves through the stages of collecting and analyzing data and making recommendations, and then ends with implementation. Because the first step — defining the problem — sets the stage for all the other steps that follow, it is particularly critical.

As we all know, first impressions count. Though not essential to meet face-to-face with a client, it is still highly recommended. It is like setting yourself up for a blind-date. Just take a moment and imagine this:

  • You are a 50-year-old male/female in hope of looking for a companion
  • You head onto an online dating site
  • Found someone interesting
  • Emailed, chatted online and after a few emails, you decided that it is time to arrange a face-to-face date

Placed in such a situation, would you back off in fear of being rejected? Or would you rather meet face-to face to see for yourself how “real” this person is, with also the intention of impressing him/her, and hopefully to be impressed?

Now, back to the real topic. Before meeting a client, it is important to dress appropriately and it is also important to be able to portray yourself as a confident individual. Remember that it is also your clients’ first time meeting you and he too would want to give you the best impression, in hope of helpping him solve whatever issue that is affecting his company. Hence, first try to make small talk, get to know your client a little and

Assess your client’s personality type and adjust your style accordingly. If your client has an assertive, take-charge style, you want to get to the business at hand sooner than if the client is more social and personable. With the latter style, the client may need to be comfortable with you personally before he can devote full attention to your abilities.

On the other hand, try not to get too comfortable with your client as you may either head off track with the “real” business discussion, and you may appear to be “trying too hard”/ deperate for his job offer. Remember that it is not all aboout you, but it is about the business problem that the client has?

Listen carefully to the needs of your client and never be afraid to ask questions, as this would make your client feel important and hence provides him with the sense of assurance that the task will be done. Time management and efficient communication with your client is essential!

Besides impressing, listening and asking questions, are thare any other essensential points that might help client and consultant to work efficiently together?

From the view of a client:

Reference:

Bob N and Economy P. 2008. Consulting for Dummies, 2nd Edition. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc. (Part 3: The Short Course in Consulting.) http://catalogue.library.uwa.edu.au/search/?searchscope=1&searchtype=t&search arg=consulting+for+dummies&searchscope=1

Toos, Andrew. ( n.d). It’s important that I see eye-to-eye with any consultants we bring in [image]. Retrieved April 7th, 2011 from http://www.cartoonstock.com/cartoonview.asp?start=1&search=main&catref=aton278&MA_Artist=&MA_Category=&ANDkeyword=management+consultancy&ORkeyword=&TITLEkeyword=&NEGATIVEkeyword=.

 

 

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6 comments so far

  1. Steven on

    Interesting post, Crystal.
    While I was reading all that, I couldn’t help but relate it to interviews with prospective employees and such since most of us are at that stage of university. I guess those points that you made are applicable to the professional industry in general – dressing appropriately, being confident and establishing rapport etc.

    In relation to impressing the client, the consultant has to remain honest and realistic in their abilities. I can imagine in order to impress a client, it is possible that the consultant may get carried away and propose things that they may not be able to follow through with which would work against the relationship in the long run.

    I think another important point that one could consider in improving the efficiency of client and consultant work is to remember to keep expectations realistic with both parties from the very start. By outlining each parties expectations, there will be a clear and mutual understanding of what the client and consultant expect from each other, hence decreasing the possibility of future discrepancies.

    Steven Chew

    • cgak05 on

      Thank you for your comment Steven. You have made a very important point that in order for a client to work efficiently with the consultant, it is important to keep expectations realistic with both parties from the start.

      Also, great point about laying out the expectations from the start in order to decrease the possibility of future discrepancie.

  2. Christine on

    Hi Crystal,

    Your blog post is timely, as we’ll all be starting on our consultancy projects soon 🙂

    In order to ensure a strong working relationship between the consultants and clients, we need to earn the trust of our clients as consultants.

    To do this, we need to show a genuine and sincere interest in the client. We need to prioritise their needs and gain a clear understanding of what they’d like to achieve. We also need to ensure regular follow-ups and be accountable to them in that, whatever we say we will do, we must do (within achievable goals like Steven mentioned).

    In the event that we are unable to achieve a goal, then we need to be transparent and explain to them why things did not work out and offer an alternative route or plan to achieve the goal.

    I think open communication is the best way to earn the trust of clients and can build and strengthen the working relationship between consultant and client.

    Cheers,
    Christine

    • cgak05 on

      Thanks for the feedback Christine.

      I guess as everyone has commented, the main points are:

      1. Dress appropriately
      2. Be realistic
      3. Be honest
      4. Listen
      5. Ask questions
      6. Communicate communicate communicate!

      Communcation is the key, but everything else should lay in place to develop a professional relationship with the client.

  3. broganmicallef on

    Hi Crystal,

    Thanks for a very timely and interesting blog! You definitely spurred me on to read the relevant chapter.

    I agree with your post (and the previous comments) with regards to first impressions and being genuine. Making a good first impression and being ‘real’ are crucial for success. Although common sense, it is easy to forget these basic points when we are nervous or ‘new to the game.’

    Your reference to online dating was very true and raises an interesting point – we seem to put a lot of effort into personal relationships, but at times can forget even the basics when we try to develop professional ones!

    Thanks again,

    Brogan

    • cgak05 on

      Thanks for the feedback Brogan.

      Glad to know that you got the idea about the online dating thing. I was afraid that no one would understand it. You have made an absolutely good point that we can forget the basics of developing a professional one. Hence, it is important to remember the basics of it, and I guess practice would make perfect. We may not rememebr the basics of it, but over time, it would just be “in” us, and professionalism will take place!


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