By: Nerissa Mendoza, CMC®
The lynchpins of consultancy are relationship and suitable solutions. A key competence expected of a professional or certified consultant is being able to manage personal behaviour and interpersonal relationships. The technical side of delivering consulting work is anchored on the functional, process and industry expertise of the consultant. Seasoned practitioners and even the neophyte but aggressive practitioners can confirm this – any consulting engagement links to and logically touches or influences people.
People interaction means listening well, confirming needs, seeking to be understood, analysing, synthesizing, adopting to the vocabulary and terminology of the client, understanding organizational pain points, providing timely guidance, instructions and assistance, facilitating issue and conflict resolution, recognition of work contributions, managing diversity and nurturing inclusiveness and neutrality. They are behavioural toolkits that should equip the consultant.
Let us look at specific stages in the consulting value chain and discover what relationship or behaviour management entails.
1. In client sourcing activities or when anticipating an engagement win, a consultant in a first encounter with potential clients does early assessment of a likely relationship he or she can seal with the prospect. Where met by a number in the prospective client organization, an outright classification or preliminary evaluation of the role of each can be mentally pictured as:
- The economic buyer of the service- by the reaction of this role, the consultant should pick up cues when being asked of indicative cost of the envisioned or described consulting service. He or she may be the final decision maker in the buying process. The consultant’s fee negotiation skills could be put to test.
- The technical buyer – by the questions being raised by this role, the consultant may get the feel of being scrutinised, if he/she has done a good job on a similar engagement, the approach and tools to be used, the timetable to complete the work, secured client post engagement feedback. This role may not be a friendly one as unknowingly to the consultant, it is his/her function that will drive or directly get involved in the contemplated consulting work.
- The coach- this could be the person insider or outsider to the organization who endorsed the consultant and his/her expertise to the organization. A good source of critical if not sensitive information and other advantage giving inputs to the consultant. Articulation of a high-performance bar can also come from this person to give the impression the most suitable and responsive consultant has been selected.
Given the above roles each one can give or limit details in expressing his/her own expectations about the contemplated consulting work. The consultant must envision early on how to meet the wish list in their buckets.
2. Once the engagement commences and consulting work progresses, relationship building and interactions become a routine dynamics between the consultant and the client’s a) engagement point person, b) the technical and expectations review body, c ) the personnel who the consultant has to deal with on matters of process or information gathering, analysis, validation and synthesis. The consultant has to impress on the client that:
- They have a stake in the solutions being evolved more particularly in the final product, process, position and action. The misconception that the consultant solely provides or owns the expected engagement outputs must be cleared at the outset
- Implementing the solutions involving the consultant is a client option. Unless agreed upon or part of the solution package sealed between the consultant and the client, it must not be assumed implementation is to be driven by the consultant.
- Periodic reviews of interim outputs including their pass off points are to be confirmed by the client in order to proceed smoothly to the planned next steps of the engagement.
3. As the engagement reaches its close, it is a must to revisit of the terms and conditions of the sealed contract or approved proposal in order to reconfirm objectives and scope work, the defined work approach or methodology has been used, the confirmed deliverables were as desired and to set quality and to time and to agreed upon professional fees and expenses. It is ideal the consultant convinces the client to:
- A joint celebration of completion, recognition of all parties involved and recalling moments of challenge and victories during the engagement.
- Open an avenue for feedback by way of sharing of learning lessons and rooms for improvement as inputs to a next likely partnership with the consultant.
The consultant who seeks first to define relationships, identifies what can go wrong, how to move on until engagement completion and confirms all deliverables at work end will feel good and accomplished. The claim is valid, he/she has done well on a journey of relationship and expectations management with a client.
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On Nery Mendoza’credentials.
She is Certified Management Consultant and is a practicing Business Adviser, Executive, Career and Community Coach. She has facilitated 20 Comprehensive Consulting Courses for CMC Philippines. She carries no less than 35 years management consulting experience in the banking, insurance and other financial services sector, in the health and pharmaceutical sector, in government, development funding organizations, civil society organizations and not for profit organizations, in the telecommunications, energy, utilities, shipping and transport sector and in the consumer and industrial products manufacturing and distribution sector, in educational institutions, membership associations, food service and the hospitality sector. Her coaching practice is focused on Executives, Career Professionals and Entrepreneurs. She can also coach consultants who are starting a practice and those seeking to be certified but still short of the requisite experience. She is also a Certified Management Accountant, a Certified Executive Coach, a Certified Specialist in Risk and Controls Self Assessment and Certified in Total Rewards at Professional level. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org