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#539: Make it Possible to Decide in Contentious Situations

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 7, 2011
Updated: Friday, April 8, 2011
What is a good way to open up a client's reluctance to consider a recommendation that will cause significant disruption in the organization? Regardless of how much my client trusts me, they are resistant to big changes.

Regardless of how confident you are, your objective is to get your client to carefully consider your recommendations. This also applies to client recommendations you consider inappropriate. Your goal is to get the conversation back to a careful, thoughtful review of options. One way to do this is to deflect the confrontation. What if you said, "I might be missing something important here, but . . ."?

Here's how it works for client recommendations. Your client makes a recommendation that, on the surface, you expect will be problematic. If you simply explain why you don't think the approach will work well, you risk causing client defensiveness, disagreement, and possibly hurt feelings and ill-will.

Use "active listening," such as ("Now, if I heard you correctly, what you are saying is x"). Then, try to clearly identify your concern(s) or the aspect regarding your client's proposed approach that is troubling you by stating "I might be missing something important here, but wouldn't that result in [something negative, undesirable or less then optimum]?" Listen carefully to their response and you will most likely find that your client will either:
1. See your point more clearly and reconsider their approach, or
2. Help you to see more clearly where they are coming from and convince you that their approach is valid (with an absence of hurt feelings or defensiveness).

Tip: This may seem simplistic but when you are trying to induce careful consideration, these type of techniques give us all space for careful deliberation. As experienced consultants, we are often times on target with our concerns, but this is certainly not always the case. This method improves trust and respect between both parties and demonstrates a critical skill that all consultants should possess: the ability to listen effectively.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting process  customer understanding  recommendations 

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