We have pretty good relationships with our clients, many of whom we have been with for years. As consulting moves steadily away from a relationship business (although many people claim it still is one) to a problem solving one, how do we assure that clients can see beyond just the next engagement?
This is an increasing concern of consultants. Consulting relationships that used to last as long as decades are increasingly being affected by a client attitude of best value for the immediate engagement. Part of this is the increasing speed of business and an emphasis on making every dollar count, which means getting the best consultants for each job, not using who you know. This is amplified by the increasing rate of turnover among client managers and consultants. All of this weakens the personal relationship between client and consultant. A concerted effort is needed, as it never was in the past, to offset these many factors that weaken your ties to a client.
Probably the most important first step is to make sure that the client is clear (assuming you are) about your corporate and personal values. It might surprise you to ask your client "What do you think I (my firm) stand(s) for? What are our basic principles by which we operate?" and get a blank state. Historically, we have rarely made this explicit with our clients. We just assume that because they hired us, and continue to hire us, that they must agree with our values. Tip:
In the future we will all have to sharpen our pencils to show exactly what value we bring to a client for each engagement, but we can tip the scale in our favor if we make sure that the client understands the intangibles we bring to the relationship. It has to be more specific and authentic than "we have integrity" or "we put our client first." Your values can be a powerful discussion with your client about how you make decisions under uncertainty (or duress) and what you would give up if you had to make a choice. Your client likely has had to think about this for his or her business and a discussion about your values will likely resonate. © 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA