So you’ve hired a consulting firm in the hopes that they will leave a very tangible, long lasting, and positive impact on your business’ performance. Congratulations! You have made a wise decision in acquiring external expertise to help you with your current or future challenges.
Having done your homework, you feel fairly comfortable with the choice you made and are now looking forward to seeing some great work being delivered. As a client, there are also some contributions you need to make to make this a successful and beneficial experience for both sides.
Agree on clear deliverables and KPIs right at from out-start
If the proposal you agreed to doesn’t include these already, get them worked out immediately. Both, you and the consultants need to know what outcomes you are entitled to and will expect. You will have something concrete to benchmark your consultants’ work against, and they have a very clear picture and understanding of what it is they will be expected to deliver.
Let your consultants do their work freely
This might come as a surprise to you, but some clients insist on guiding their consultants by dictating how to go about their work. Sometimes to the smallest detail! We’ve seen clients trying to dictate how research is conducted, analysis is made, and strategies and tactics are generated. This is really counter-productive and defeats the purpose.
Communicate frequently with your consultants, and have a bi-weekly update meeting
There’s nothing more deteriorating to a client-consultant relationship than prolonged periods of silence. You could tend to assume the consultants aren’t bust at work, and they could in turn assume that you don’t really care that much about what they are working on. These are bad assumptions at both ends and can be avoided by scheduling weekly or bi-weekly update meetings during which you discuss progress made, challenges faced, and upcoming milestones and deliverables.
Be totally transparent with your consultants
As part of the engagement, a solid non-disclosure agreement should be in place, so you can allow yourself to be fully transparent and open with your consultants. If sales have been dropping for a while and you don’t share this critical piece of information with your consultants, there’s no way their work can become of any real substance or value to you because they won’t be looking in the right direction.
Share everything you’ve got
We’ve seen one or two particular incidents where a client knowingly withheld critical information from us, only to see if we will discover that during research. Well we did, and it wasted a week of our time unnecessarily. If you know something that you suspect might be remotely of interest to your consultants, just share it. If they can’t use the information, they will just archive it.
You don’t owe your consultants any justifications
Quite frequently, consultants come across a client who is compelled to offer excuses and explanations for issues they find during research and point out. Be that a poor product or unsatisfactory customer service, it is not the consultant you need to make amends with, but your customers. And finding ways to accomplish this is exactly why you hired the consultants for, so focus your attention toward truly listening to what they are telling you.
Don’t get offended by what your consultants tell you
Let’s face reality. The reason why you hired consultants is mainly because you are facing a particular challenge. It is the consultants’ job to find out what is causing the issue, and the findings are often frustrating. Yet, we’ve worked with clients who got really offended whenever we told them something they didn’t like, and in some cases insist that we reflect changes we don’t agree with in our reports. Since no self-respecting consultant will agree to that, we sometimes found ourselves in quite a dilemma and uncomfortable situation that prevented us from doing our job effectively.
Don’t expect wonders
Your consultants may come up with one or more solutions that once in the open seem like common sense. You might think to yourself that you could have come up with this yourself and didn’t need to pay a team of consultants for that. Well, that’s not the case. The reason you probably haven’t seen the obvious is that you are too emotionally and otherwise involved, which why bringing in outsiders is a good idea. They are great at seeing the obvious, which insiders often can’t. As long as the solution works and produces results, you should be happy with whatever they recommended, right?
Keep in mind that in most cases, consultants need time to produce results. So for example, if you hired a marketing firm to handle your tactical activities, don’t expect sales to skyrocket during the first few weeks. Going back to setting expectations and KPIs, you should work out a clear timetable as to how soon you can expect sales to pick up, and only then hold your consultants accountable for possible short-fallings.
Last but not least, bring the best out of your consultants. Some clients have the ability to drive their consultants to perform beyond their own wildest expectations, and others simple demotivate the team and make them feel they are trapped in a hopeless engagement. It always pays off to belong to the first group ☺
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
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