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#333: How Well Do You Really Know Your Client?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I learned something recently from a colleague that I think your readers would benefit from. It is a great way to demonstrate that you really understand the full context of your work for a client.

Most consulting engagements run along a variation of a standard path: scoping, internal/external scans, diagnosis, refinement, recommendations, implementation, evaluation. Depending on how well we know the client or industry and the scope of our work, this is pretty much how it goes (notwithstanding the howls of protest from purists that each engagement is unique and that they use a "proven" technique that differs from the above).

However, how can you know from initial discussions, especially with a new client, that you "get" where they are coming from and where they are going? One way is for you to prepare a one page business plan for your client to confirm or refute your understanding of his or her business.

This does not mean that you sit down with the corporate strategic planning documents and create your own version of their plan. It does mean that you sit down with a blank sheet of paper and, based on only your acquired knowledge of the client, lay out a brief vision, mission, objectives (5-10), strategies (also 5-10), major implementation steps in the coming year or two, and up to 5 key performance metrics. Try to do this in less than 15 minutes.

Your client may be surprised by how much you know about the organization. They may also be thrilled by your objectives or strategies they had not thought of. The downside, of course, is that you may demonstrate a fundamental lack of knowledge about your client.

Tip: Draft your one page plan in private and vet it with client documents and staff before presenting it to your client. The advantage of having such a discussion is that it makes unambiguous your common understanding of the concepts and language of where the organization is going and how it will get there.

P.S. Consider using an existing powerful and proven methodology for this one page planning developed by longtime IMC member Jim Horan. His One Page Business Plan approach creates the ability to develop a simple, easy to understand and transparent plan that any manager can use to deliver results for a company, division or project.  See

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consultant role  consulting process  customer understanding  learning  presentations 

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