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#483: Dealing With Your Client on Conflicting Approaches

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Consultants can occasionally run into a situation in which the client and consultant have differing views on the correct approach. What can (should) the consultant do?

There are two core rules about consultant-client relations. Rule One: "The client is always right." Rule Two: "The client hires you for your expertise, independence and objectivity." Both are applicable but you still need to use your judgment about which rule takes precedence. Well, that doesn't help much does it?

Say you want the client to use your suggested approach. The client wants to do it their way. The client has a strong rationale for doing it their way, and you have an equally strong rationale for approaching the problem our way. Who is right? Who is wrong? Don't fall for this mental "trap."
  1. Never personalize an approach or point of view with the words "my" and "your". There are usually advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Taking away the indications of ownership sometimes helps all parties to view the issues and options more clearly.
  2. There may not be a "right” or "wrong” approach, but more likely a "better” or "even better” one. Spread out your offered solutions to find alternatives along a continuum.
  3. Explore the key decision factors for each option, such as risk, timeliness, cost and impact. Dominating the decision in the short run may not be in the client’s best interest in the long run.
Tip: Never personalize or use the descriptors "right” or "wrong”. Always look for better ways to do things for your client and closely examine the criteria and parameters behind evaluating an approach and use those factors in the evaluation of each of the proposed approaches.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  presentations  recommendations 

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Michael E. Cohen CMC MBA says...
Posted Thursday, January 20, 2011
You have presented a very important and complex issue. I agree with your suggestions for dealing with this issue. I would add, based on painful experiences, to try and tilt toward the client's approaches. The clinet people that you work with may not the same people who selected you for the project. As long as you are not violating stndards of ethichal behavior, tilt toward the client's views on approaches. I can't say more than that.
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