You’re a professional consultant. You’re an expert in your problem domain and great at learning more about a client’s challenges and proposing solutions.
But, you know how some clients propose their own solutions without even talking about the problems they’re wanting to solve? Maybe they’re not used to working with experienced consultants, or maybe they’re just so busy they haven’t had time to even think.
Whatever the reason, it can be hard to turn these conversations back around into a fruitful relationship.
Imagine you get an email like this from a client or lead:
Hi Consultant, I'd love to work with you, but give me a while to think up how you can help us and write up a scope-of-work. Signed, The Client
First, that client is creating unnecessary work for themselves–after all, you’re here to make their job easier, not harder.
Second, you’ll never here from them again. Why is that? As important as you are to them, you will never be number one on their todo list. Don’t forget that their most attractive alternative to “solve this problem” is “do nothing.”
The Focusing Email
Imagine instead if you had The Focusing Email:
Hey Client, Yep, many of my clients have similar challenges. To save you some time and effort, let's approach this from a different angle. Why don't you and I discuss your current challenges and headaches, and I'll come up with potential solutions, SoWs, and pricing? That'll save you a ton of work, since all you have to think about is what's frustrating you. After all, why hire a consultant if they're just going to create more work for you? :) How does your schedule look for a meeting on $day? Thanks, You
What a relief! A breath of fresh air! This client just had a weight lifted from their shoulders: all they have to do is tell you their problems, and you will come up solutions for them to consider? Sign me up!
The reason this approach works is because it focuses the conversation back on the only thing that matters: the client’s problem. It lets the client know that you understand their concerns and are here to make their job easier, not create more work for them.
It really works, too:
Like many consultants, I often work with clients who request that I get pigeon-holed into one of their employee roles as some “standard procedure.” Which usually means they need to go back and figure out which role I fall under, or worse spend the effort to create a new role for me. In the past, I’ve usually lost control of the relationship at this point and been forced to either walk away, or continue in a relationship that’s not ideal for either party. However, using Mike’s email, I have been able to turn these conversations around almost immediately. Keeping the relationship with the client healthy and beneficial for everyone. It also works great if you’re on a call with a lead and this comes up! - Justin Bergen, Five3Apps