Your client has lots of things to think about. They have likely had both good and bad experiences with consultants, and you are new, an unknown entity. Some of the questions that may not be verbalized but are likely rolling around in your client’s mind include:
- Will this consultant show me up?
- Will this consultant be acceptable to other people in my organization?
- Is the consultant working to understand my situation or just billing?
- Will the consultant keep to my pace?
- Will this consultant push me too hard too quickly?
- What will this consultant deliver?
- If I speak openly, will this consultant respect what I say?
- How confidential is this conversation?
- Will I be able to control this consultant?
- Will my boss ask why I am not doing this project?
- Will this consultant say no to anything I ask him or her to do?
- What will I do when this consultant is gone?
- How much of a threat is there to me by working with this consultant?
- Will the proposed solution be practical?
- What is this going to cost?
- How long is all of this going to take?
- How good are this consultant’s technical skills?
- How much money can we save?
- What is in this for me?
and that’s just in the first 5 minutes….
I have hired hundreds of consultants for projects I have led. Even being in the business, you still ask the same types of questions. You have done a review of the résumé, had an initial phone call, perhaps a face to face meeting, checked some references and here they are… day 1. The client/consultant relationship starts.
Let me give you some real life examples of what not to do on your first few days.
You have been hired onto a very large, very long term project in a mid-western US city. You are provided with a client-provided corporate apartment as part of the package. You fly into the city, rent a car and go to the corporate apartment. Arrangements have been made to leave you a set of apartment keys with the landlord, but something has not been communicated and the keys are not available. You do which of the following actions:
- drive to local hotel and check-in for the night and get the problem addressed tomorrow
- find another project team member and borrow a sofa for the night.
- kick the door to the apartment in and say “well where else was I going to sleep?”
Yes Action (3) is the incorrect one and yes done by a consultant I had hired. It was the first time that I actually fired someone before they showed up for the first day at work.
You have joined a project team and it will grow from 20 people to over 500. The project is changing locations to another much larger building. You are moving in as renovations on the building are taking place to accommodate the larger team. As it is mid-renovation the washroom facilities are not yet renovated and are in disrepair. You do which of the following actions:
- Use the facilities in the 4 star Hotel next door. (60 seconds away)
- Bring it to the attention of your consultant team lead to see if the work can be prioritized
- Call the local health department officials yourself to get them to inspect it and force closure of the office until renovations are complete 4 weeks later.
Yes Action (3) is the incorrect one and yes done by a consultant I had hired.
So yes, your client may be thinking of all sorts of things. Experiences both good and bad that they have had with consultants. Your job day 1 is to put them at ease, and convince them that their worst fears will not be realized. How do you do that?
The answer is not in what you are going to do but how you are going to do it. It’s the how they care about the most, the what they will assume you can do.
Can we talk for a few minutes about how I work and how best we can work together on this. I want to make sure that I meet your expectations and work with you in a manner that you enjoy. First of all let me say that as my client, my responsibility is to you. I will never communicate anything above you in the organization without your express permission. We are currently estimating that phase 1 will take 8 weeks, but I would like your feedback on frequency and the agenda of the checkpoints as we move along. That way we can be assured that you and I are always 100% in-sync. ….. etc.