4 Steps to a Highly Consultative Relationship
A highly consultative engagement is one that includes strong internal team communication and collaboration -- which is easier said than done. It takes a lot more effort to be highly consultative and adaptable compared to just following a script or prescribing a methodology. But ultimately, being highly consultative and strategic is worth it.
At Lev, we have proved that being highly consultative and strategic is how we're able to retain and grow clients in any project, regardless of technology. Below are four steps we follow with our clients to create a highly consultative relationship.
1. Building the Relationship
We begin to build a relationship with our clients, even before we start the actual engagement, by having a discussion with the team sponsors to learn more about each other, what the working environments are, what the challenges are, and trying to get a lot of those things out of the way and identify risks prior to the project even initiating.
This helps to build a foundation of trust even before you even begin that first dialogue with the rest of the team members. Building a relationship with the client is where we can have an open dialogue for more difficult conversations down the road if needed.
We also become embedded in the client’s organization and what they're doing. We act like new employees and learn about their business and figure out what drives them. To align the work we are doing, we ask them the following questions about their incentives:
- What are you driving to?
- What are you measured on?
- What are your next steps within the company?
- Are you measured on the progress of this project?
- Are you measured on driving revenue and sales?
2. Having a Highly Consultative Mindset
Once the clients have shared valuable information with you, it’s now our job to prioritize it all and put together an action plan that yields results as quickly as possible. It really comes down to simple prioritization. First, tackle the low hanging fruit, or tasks that quickly provide value. If you can start to build upon that foundation and get quick wins, it continues to build trust in the work that we're doing.
It’s also important to always be ready to pivot. If the client gives you actionable feedback, adjust your plan or deliverables. Be prepared to change how you present information, so it meets the client where they are, and it puts that to really good use.
Sharing success stories from similar situations with other clients can build credibility and will lead to other opportunities to stay engaged with the client.
3. Aligning Tightly with Your Internal Consulting Team
As critical as it is to align with your client, the same goes with your internal consulting team. You have to have good relationships with your team members, and you have to have trust in one another to know that you’re going to get the work done. The entire team must be driving strategy first and critical thinking, and not just staying in their own lane.
This starts in aligning with the Project Manager to make sure that everyone is clear on the direction, because they’re setting the tone for the project, and with the team members. The Marketing Consultant role is critical in setting the tone for the work that will be done from the beginning. This role builds excitement and sets the foundation for the requirements as well.
The Statement of Work is also an important guiding light for the project. As consultants, we do the best we can in the sales process to identify what we need to do, but nine times out of ten, things are going to shift. We don't know what we don't know until we dive in deeply. And that means is, a change order is probably going to be created, but change can be great. It’s an opportunity to figure out what the client really needs.
4. Creating Transparency
Clear and open dialogue is crucial to building a relationship with a client. Being direct and clear about things such as the schedule, the requirements, and the deliverables is so important from the beginning to build a strong relationship foundation. If something doesn’t look right or make sense, don’t be afraid to say they do not.
Experiencing a high pressure, stressful event and having hard conversations and coming out on the other side provides invaluable growth for the entire team and learning that you can share honestly without fear of repercussion only benefits the engagement in the long run.