Look for Improvements – Your relationship is based on trust and your ability to find and create solutions. Help your client identify needs they might not be aware of by looking past the immediate pain and find the root cause. Propose solutions or further research with the goal of developing alternatives.
The best consultants do not stop at being great listeners, they are also great detectives. Not only do they hear what the customer is asking for, they discover the motives behind the request. By habit,they look for solutions after building context surrounding the request, by exploring a number of the following questions;
· Who really owns the problem and have they agreed to the solution?
· Has the customer described the issue or simply the solution they have designed?
· What other comments has the consultant heard regarding the issue while working with the customer’s team?
· If the relationship is long standing, does the solution “fit” what you know about the customer and its culture?
· How has the consultant helped others fix comparable problems?
Often the customer struggles to be objective as they confuse the symptoms of a problem with the root cause. It is difficult when day to day duties don’tallow the customer to see clearly “the forest for the trees”. Our ability to put “fresh eyes” on the issue in a more relaxed state can allow us to find additional influencing factors. This is where our added value becomes apparent. By guiding the customer through a proper analysis, we can help them confidently fix the cause and bypass the quick fixes for symptoms which will most likely have to be revisited in the future.
Even better, the astute consultant will suggest improvements on issues for which the customer never discusses with the consultant. If the consultant is always listening, she will hear complaints masked as factual statements. “Our shipping costs are killing our margins”may really be a problem of required overnight shipping of parts because inventory levels are not managed well. Or “We need to expand our credit line” may point to problems with inconsistent collection of receivables, or payables are going out before the terms require they are paid.