Use the popular 80/20 rule and create a dialog where
you are listening to the client 80% of the time and
speaking only 20 percent. You may find this approach
difficult initially, but with practice you will uncover important information, learn more about their needs, and
signal to the client that you value and place great importance on what they have to say.
WHEN BUILDING TRUST, IT IS ESSENTIAL TO PROVIDE
FLEXIBILITY AND SOME ROOM FOR COLLABORATION.
• PROVIDE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS AND OPTIONS when
offering ideas and advice to clients and prospects to
actively engage them in the process. Clients that are
actively engaged often allow a deeper level of interaction and provide more perspective into preferred
or alternative outcomes. By offering alternatives and
providing options, you empower the client to think
about how each offering impacts their business.
Take the time to thoroughly review and discuss each
option from top to bottom. Full disclosure always
helps to formulate a positive impression about you
and your firm.
• INCLUDE AND HIGHLIGHT BOTH ADVANTAGES AND
DISADVANTAGES, demonstrating that you, as their advocate, want them to see all sides before making a decision. Knowing the client’s desired outcome enables
you to make better decisions and develop a proper
plan to achieve success.
Your ideas must be perceived by clients to have their
best interest in mind to be considered in good faith. Providing options that are not in the client’s absolute best
interest are usually quickly discovered, if not by the
client then most certainly by your competitors.
If the client perceives, or worse, determines that you
have placed your own interests before theirs, the trust
you have worked so hard to build will quickly be lost.
The best client solution may not always yield the most
profit or best scenario for you and your firm, but helping a client with the best solution for them opens the
door to additional opportunities later.
A few years ago, our firm was engaged with a client
on a critical business project. After considering several project approaches, we decided to provide two options but strongly recommended one over the other.
The project we recommended was the least expensive
option for the client. The client accepted our recom-
Consulting May 2013
mendation, engaged our firm, and we delivered as
promised. Our client was appreciative of the selfless
nature of our recommendation and it was duly noted.
Later, when another opportunity arose, the client again
engaged our firm.
It was our strong recommendation, made without regard to our own self-interests, which cemented the
client’s trust in our firm. This well placed trust was the
foundation for our client then referring our firm to others. As our relationship has grown, we have continued
to receive additional project engagements, often without
the requirement for a competitive bidding process.
Despite every effort, even the best consultant may
not always be able to obtain the exact outcome their
client had anticipated. Should this situation arise, a
meeting or call needs to be made to the client without
delay to deliver the news and discuss alternatives. Your
status as a trusted advisor is invaluable in these situations and will enable you to work through the difficulties as partners and not adversaries.
Less than ideal news is better received when delivered
from a trusted source. Your role and status as a trusted
advisor often facilitates a more rapid transition to discussing alternatives with the client. While the current outcome may not have been the desired result, consultants
that cultivate strong and trusted client relationships are
in a much better position to retain the client’s business
than those without a similar relationship.
During difficult economic times, consultants that
have built trusted client relationships may also reap
other financial benefits, such as easier contract negotiations and potentially having their statements paid in a
more timely fashion.
AS DISCUSSED EARLIER, THE SINGLE MOST
IMPORTANT REASON WHY PROSPECTS DO NOT
BUY IS LACK OF TRUST.
Building trust is an investment in a process that takes
time and whose ROI is often slow to materialize and
hard to quantify. By putting your client’s needs first
and always remembering “the relationship value is
greater than the engagement value,” you will build trust
more quickly and help to secure clients for the long
term. As your client’s trust builds, your reputation will
grow, your referrals will increase, and your practice
will expand, allowing your firm to flourish even in dif-
ficult economic times.