Wrong moves can mean unrecoverable losses for you. This is especially true for consultants since the competition is tight in your industry. You have to know what clients expect from you, and you must give them the best possible version of that. If not, your rivals are just around the corner, waiting to snap up the dissatisfied customers. However, you’re not a psychic, nor do you have a magic crystal ball. Therefore, you have to go with the magicless way of knowing your clients: client discovery.
Client discovery is a get-to-know-you process for consultants and their customers. During the discovery phase, management consultants gather information about the clients, their wants, needs, goals, and the things important to them. Because people can have massive differences, your formula that worked for someone may be a flop for another. The consulting business is not about you. It’s about your clients and their needs that need you.
When people ask for your help, you are carrying a big chunk of their burden for them. But, you are not without worries of your own. While consultants are being paid for that job description, worrying about a lot of things can take a toll on anyone. Problems are getting harder as your clients live more complicated lives with complex interactions. It is harder to create a helpful client profile that can cover all angles. A cookie-cutter approach is obsolete in your line of work. Everyone needs tailored solutions in real-time.
Add to that, more people are attracted to the industry, which means more competitors to watch out for. Websites recommend the business as something everyone should try at least once in their life. Since 2012, more and more are working as management consultants in the US, with the numbers reaching 684,470 just in 2018. This number includes people from financial advisors to strategy consultants. The visibility issue is becoming a problem, because how do you differentiate yourself from 684,469 others? This barrier is especially hard to penetrate when you’re just starting.
Where does that leave us? A competitive market with clients with complicated problems who will pay others to worry for them. We have to bring our A-game to the table and be among the top choices when a customer needs help. Gathering relevant customer information and client data is crucial in delivering results that meet the clients’ expectations. Therefore, you should be able to compile a good client and company profile from that point and maintain a professional relationship with the person.
Before anything, you have to remember that the job is about delivering what your clients want. Therefore, your brand should be about giving them business solutions more than a self-centered sales pitch. Your client doesn’t need to know who you are but what you can do for him or her. When dealing with a customer, focus on what he or she wants to get out of this consultation. Frame the solution to suit your client’s needs.
Measure success by ripples
Market your brand based on the impact you made on the clients and companies you helped. Your impact depends on how effective your solutions are. Identify the issues that have been bugging your customers and deliver the needed help. When you have good reviews, people will seek your expertise. Visibility will come with the impact you generated since customers look for capable and dependable consultants.
Expand your connections
It is wise to sustain a network of clients and consultants. Interact with other people in the industry, too. Keep your connection open. It is part of establishing your name in the business. Attend networking events and seminars. Keep the interactions smooth and light when asking people if they know anyone who would benefit from your services. You wouldn’t want to give people you’re interacting with a bad experience by pressuring them into helping you expand.
Actually make the call
The possibility of rejection will always be there. If you are always going to let that fear control you always, you will not go far in the industry. It takes guts to start looking for clients the first time. After a while, it will come naturally to you. You can read all the self-help books on consulting but that knowledge wouldn’t be of use if you let it stagnate in your head. Start making those calls and emails.
The following are client discovery forms and templates that you can use during the discovery phase. There are prepared questionnaires and worksheets that will make your job faster.
When you are influential in a company’s big decisions, there is no room for guesswork. Justify your proposals and suggestions with reliable and informed advice tailored for a specific client. Therefore, successful client discovery is a vital part of any client management plan.
Discover what your clients want you to resolve or accomplish. It is possible that they are confused with what they want, so instead of accepting the surface value of what they said, ask more questions to bare the real issue. You can only find the best solution when you know the problem. Otherwise, you would just be slapping on bandages to a bullet wound. Client discovery form with prepared questions is a great way to collect client data during the discovery session.
After you have talked with your clients, consider looking into different data sources as well. There might be issues that your clients overlooked. You may need a SWOT analysis of the company, internal affairs evaluation, market research about your client’s industry, or website analysis. Depending on what was agreed upon, you can also do interviews of people working closely with your clients like the employees. You will need background information to make a proposal relevant to your client’s concerns.
Getting to know your clients doesn’t end in one discovery session. Keep your communication lines open and the relationship professional. Know how your clients want to be contacted: phone, personal, or email. Consider keeping a checklist of the information you think will help you provide custom-made solutions for your clients.
Define how you will determine if your solution has helped your clients. Your success benchmarks will also help you quantify your impact on the clients and their business. Your role in making the lives of those who come to you easier will improve your name and will make you the obvious choice in similar conundrums.
At the end of the discovery phase, you will have to present to your client an outline proposal of the strategy that you think is best suited for his or her concern. As a consultant, you specialized on specific issues in different industries. You bring fresh ideas to a company and organization. That’s why different people come to you with different problems. Therefore, generic solutions have no power here.