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#123: Does Your Client Understand You?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 2, 2009
In most of my engagements, I deliver a lot of work product. Much of this is analysis findings, recommendations and implementation protocols. How do I know I am getting through to my clients with all this content?

This is a question all consultants should ask. The assumption is that clients ask for advice, the consultant delivers it, and the clients understand and integrate it into their operations and culture. If we stop to think about it, the client often asks for our advice because we have expertise they don't. Why should we assume that our findings and recommendations are immediately and fully understandable to a client?

Your effectiveness as an advisor depends your advice being understood. If your clients don't appreciate the nuances of what you advise and trust its usefulness enough to make good use of it, you are not providing full value. If you give a presentation and your client thanks you, says “excellent work” and neither questions nor challenges you, how do you know you got through? You would do well to make sure you can confirm that your client understands and takes ownership of your work products. Part of doing so is keeping clients in the loop during the engagement but you can also make sure that you don't lose them in the final delivery.

Tip: Design your final delivery to include an in-person briefing and assure that you have plenty of time. Watch your client's expression to see whether you have them or not. Ask questions so you are comfortable that they can describe both your approach and your findings. Ask them how they intend to staff and resource implementation. How will they deal with implementation constraints and hiccups? Who is accountable for what? You are done when you feel comfortable that your client "owns" your deliverables.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  communication  meetings 

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Mary Adams CMC says...
Posted Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Quite a few years ago, we started adding a discussion on information preferences as part of our contracting phase. We explain that we are going to produce a lot of data and ask our sponsor about their communication preferences and those of their organization.

This was after some painful lessons that some people/organizations want to read a detailed report, some want to see distilled data in a PowerPoint presentation and others want the presentation with an executive summary document. We usually let them see the pricing implications of the different approaches and let them choose.

You're right Mark--the important thing is for the client organization to internalize the data. They have to read it first. So give it to them in a form that works for their norms.
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