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#42: Don't Make Your Clients Ask You "So What?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 5, 2009
How much detail should I go into when I report my findings and conclusions to a client? On the one hand, I want to provide enough information to help them take action but I don't want to provide mind numbing detail that they don't want or need.

It's a good question that we all ask ourselves. Obviously, having spent time in a focused investigation of a client's operations or market, we know a lot more than the client needs to know. Doing a brain dump can obscure the critical information a client needs. Providing too little information may not take the client anywhere he or she could otherwise have gone. The balance is in looking at each piece of your findings or recommendations and applying a simple test: ask "so what?".

If your answer to the question is a complicated description of data, context and implications, then it is very likely that the statement you are making is not sufficiently clear or directive. If the answer is not clear, then maybe the statement is not important enough to be included. This applies equally to findings and recommendations. A finding of "Sales increased by 4% last quarter." should be followed by the implications of this statement that would answer the "so what?" (e.g., this is significantly lower than the previous three quarters and represents a loss of $230,000 in revenue that is critical to fund a planned investment in technology).

Tip: Group your findings and recommendations into chunks that stand alone and will make it impossible for your client to ask "so what?". Present your written or oral report to a colleague and ask them to tell you if they are not completely clear as to the implications of each point of your presentation. After a while, you will develop a sixth sense of how to write and speak that will make sure you r client always knows why you included each statement of finding or recommendation.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  communication  consulting process 

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