5 Shifts to Instantly Increase Your Consulting Business Success and ImpactFeb 25, 2020
The cold, hard facts about the consulting profession is that most change efforts fail. The failure has little to do with the quality of our project plans or recommended message points. Failure has everything do with ineffective change leadership at the top.
It's for this reason, the number predictor of the sustainability and impact of our work is the commitment of the leader that we are supporting, who is ultimately responsible for the change's success.
If you want to make a greater difference with your consulting, it begins with shifting your perspective on what your role is ultimately about. It's not about delivering a methodology. It's about supporting a leader through what are often their defining moments.
And Then Make These 5 Shifts
1. The focus of your service isn't a company; it's a leader within a company.
Your clients are not simply buyers representing an organization. They are people first who happen to work at an organization. They are people with private lives, hopes, fears, insecurities. Your first task if you want to develop meaningful client relationships is to demonstrate that their passions and priorities are also yours. Like all customers, they want to be known and understood.
2. You don't sell methodologies; you offer problem-solving support that transforms those problems into catalysts for growth.
Seasoned leaders will hit situations and challenges that go beyond the regular ebbs and flows. These challenges are those spikes that define a leader's true potential. How they handle these defining moments can be their finest hour.
Challenges that are big enough to call in a consultant or coach are the ones that hold out the possibility for good leader to become truly a great one as long as you deeply appreciate the real value of problems:
- Catalysts for leadership and organizational growth
- Chance for the leader to grow in their character, effectiveness and challenge false realities
- Chance to re-prioritize what’s important to them as people and as leaders
- Chance to improve their problem solving abilities
- Chance to see things from a new perspective
- Problems move leaders to a new level of 1) knowledge, 2) responsibility and 3) authority
Related: Is Your Client Ready to Lead Change?
3. You don't have to give a client exactly what they ask for to land the work; understanding why they ask for what they ask for is the more important.
While it's necessary to listen deeply to what a client wants, it's not sufficient. You need to probe your client so you both understand what they need.
They will often bring you in with a clearly defined "ask" for a particular methodology because it feels safer to them than admitting they, as a seasoned leader, have a problem that they don't know the solution to. Therefore, normalize this for them by helping them get a wider perspective on their challenges so that they can put an more accurate frame on the size and scope of what they are dealing with.
4. Your assessment isn't just what you formally do with surveys and focus groups. It also includes observing the data of how your client (the leader in charge) behaves.
The leaders will want the problems that they are bringing you in to solve to be about everybody else and anything else than their leadership. It's the processes that are broken, it's the conflict between their two direct reports that's the issue. Everything but them.
And 99% of the time it is them. Therefore, every interaction you have with your client is a part of your assessment process.
5. While you want a long-term client engagement, you have to go into a client system with a planned exit
Consultants who do their jobs right work themselves out of a job. They approach their consulting in a way that transfers knowledge and skills to their clients so that:
- They can solve similar problems in the future
- And when they are at another leadership defining moment they will embrace it and ask for help
The Bottom Line
Without the committed sponsorship, your consulting project is going nowhere...fast. Therefore, you have to be vigilant in your marketing and especially your contracting to test that your clients are ready to work with someone like you.
Problems are not something to be avoided. They have incredible value and are the reason that consultants who see themselves as companions and guides at these defining moments are in greater demand.
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