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#695: A Good Question Beats a Good Answer

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 11, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2011
Given that clients look for creative - and fast - answers these days, how much tolerance do they have for diagnostic, exploratory tasks that traditionally kick off most engagements?

Much of our value as consultants is to stimulate ideas and solutions clients are unlikely to reach on their own. How you go about this varies by engagement. However, some ways of managing your engagement create solutions faster than others. Specifically, clients are less tolerant of consultants starting off with reading client documents, gathering data and interviewing staff. They want to engage quickly and use the consultant's insight to ask the right questions, not have the client presume to deliver the answers independently. The best way to do this is to ask penetrating, and provocative, questions:
  • Why would people leave your competitor for your company?
  • What would you have to provide a recently departed customer to get them back?
  • How can we preserve our culture while we grow so rapidly?
  • Who would you pick from among current staff to repalce you?
  • How would you create a new product service if it had to be on the market in six months?
  • How can we build our core values into our brand as seen by our customers?
  • What recent strategic mistake can we reverse?
Note that these questions aren't answered with a yes or no. Instead, they start honest, insightful, and perhaps difficult conversations. Engaging a client in the solution makes you far more valuable than just delivering your own solution.

Tip: Your role does not end with the initial question. The questions above are a fine start but do not provide the unique value you are capable of providing. The series of follow up questions that dig deeper may be the foundation for a new direction for a company. Mutual exploration using your insights and your client's mission and motivation creates unbeatable value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  customer understanding  facilitation  guidance  learning  your consulting practice 

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