in Organizations

How clients choose

More notes from Managing the Professional Service Firm

So far How clients choose has been one of the most eye-opening chapters of the book. If were we to apply user-centered design principles to clients, we’d end up with this chapter.

From the consultant’s point of view, there are two main stages to getting clients: marketing (speaking to the entire market) and selling (speaking to one particular prospect). From the buyer’s point of view, these two stages are qualification (determining who has the technical skills to do the job) and selection (who do I like enough to do the job). The first is a technical evaluation, the second is much more personal. This is because of how the buyer feels during this process…

  • Insecure about decision
  • Intellectually threatened
  • Risk losing control
  • Impatient to fix problem
  • Exposed about work secrets (both advantages and embarrassments)
  • Concerned you won’t give me enough attention

As a result, the buyer looks for these qualities in a consultant…

  • Preparation and initiative
  • Discussion of their situation, not your impressive abilities
  • Not discussing their problem until they trust you
  • New, relevant, valuable information and education
  • Low pressure sales
  • Not claiming to know more about their industry than they do, you should post knowledge in the form of questions and then listen
  • Sensitive to their position in the organization
  • Stops to answer their questions, well
  • Gives them options, not just the usual approach
  • Doesn’t just lecture or present, but engages in conversation