An excerpt from a consultant’s journal on a workday (anon).
8.00 AM Coffee, Emails
9.00 AM Briefs, Delegate
9.30 AM Project Check-Ins
10.00 AM Grind
2.00 PM Lunch Hour
3.00 PM Client Meetings/Zoom
4.30 PM Debriefs and Plan
5.00 PM Evening Venti, Grind
7.00 PM Client or Project Dinner/Zoom
This looks sincere enough. Maybe even mundane. Your work station is organized, you have a cool head, and an open heart. You’re always on the move to learn something new, you regularly check yourself to learn from hindsight. But have you asked yourself ‘How do I get new clients to trust me better?’
McKinsey advises a mindset shift for a successful life in consulting. The two pre-requisite traits:
A healthy obsession for a ‘better way’ to do things
Being open to shifting ideas, approaches, and contexts
Let’s take a step back and see why clients don’t trust consultants even before things kick-off.
You’re an outsider.
People tend to make assumptions about a problem because of what worked for them once or because of a false consensus bias. But the fact that you are an outsider is exactly what the problem needs for a fresh pair of specs. Bonus points if you make yourself available more, build relationships through content and communication. Providing access to information easily to your client becomes more efficient when they know they can trust you.
Ask yourself: Who are they and what do they want from me?
You guys are not on the same page.
While your insights are valuable, people management is equally crucial for a consultant. Getting on the same page happens with simple, clear, and direct communication. You democratize knowledge, show them you’re committed, and they’ll be happy to listen to you. Clarity of purpose is the key here. They know you know why they hired you, fewer assumptions or excuses are made, work happens progressively and you can wrap projects up as planned.
Ask yourself: How can I approach this with connectedness?
People are busy but no work gets done.
Firefighting is common. Distracting. Almost fun to keep doing. But fighting the symptoms is not going to fix the problem. And you can’t fix a problem if you haven’t identified it first. It might take a full week before you define the problem statement. And a full week after that to get your clients to agree with you.
Ask yourself: What is the one thing I need to focus on today and what can wait?
The admission of failure.
Hiring you was a decision that may have come from failure. They tried and now have had to consult your expert opinion. This may not be part of your job but it’s very likely they come back to you if you’ve doubled down on value. Teach them to solve the problem and similar other problems. Or offer a free training program for junior and mid-management in their company so they can rise to the occasion the next time around. Counterintuitively, you’ve just won loyalty by making yourself superfluous.
Ask yourself: How can I double down on value?
They trust someone else.
Maybe there’s a bigger fish than you. Or they’re too familiar with another consultant to hire someone new and give you a shot. In which case, your social media presence, networks, other clients, and peers must do the job for you. It’s a good thing perceived competence works well in business today. Easier to communicate with sincerity, leverage your online presence, and stay on top of their minds.
Ask yourself: What is one thing in my control that I can change for the better?
When you’ve broken through barriers to communication and connection, there is little you can’t accomplish. After that, it’s mostly doing what you do best: solving problems. This may involve helping implement solutions, building a consensus and commitment around a course of action, facilitating client learning, and permanently improving the effectiveness of their organization.