As you are talking to prospective and existing clients, you are likely seeing them struggling to deal with all the sudden changes due to the current crisis or maybe even just hunkering down waiting and hoping that everything goes back to normal. But as most folks are coming to realize, our past normal not likely going to be our future normal. The former reality of almost everyone has been disrupted in some way, and we can expect it will be for quite a while. Even as we move past this immediate crisis, there will likely be ongoing and new disruptions that arise.
The reality is that you can’t shut down most of the world and expect that we can go back to the way things were.
Embrace Your Clients’ New Realities First
As a consultant, you have to embrace the reality that normal isn’t going to be normal anymore before you can help them. Even if you have been in your field and have been helping clients for many years, you need to embrace that things are different now and will be in the future. Everything you knew before and are used to doing with clients isn’t useless.
But, you will need to refresh your view of your market or industry and examine your assumptions about the new realities in which your clients operate before you can help them. If you just hunker down and wait for a return to the way things were so you can keep doing what you’ve been doing, then you will not be prepared to ask the right questions and help your clients in the best way possible.
Then Help Consulting Clients Embrace Reality…and Shape It
Once you accept that there will be a new normal, you need to help prospective and existing clients embrace that themselves. Why? Because they may stay stuck and become increasingly unprepared for their future. They may get lost in anxiety and feelings of overwhelm and not be able to make decisions to forge a thriving future for themselves. And they won’t necessarily know that they need your help now more than ever.
The other problem is, even if they understand that they have to prepare for a new normal, they may not have had the time, bandwidth, or emotional capacity to think through what they need, let alone imagine a future they can shape. That’s understandable given the magnitude and uncertainty of the current crisis. It’s also an opportunity for you to demonstrate your value by helping them imagine a new, stronger future.
Using Scenarios to Help Consulting Clients Figure Out What They Need
When I reach out to prospective and existing clients to identify how I can help them, one strategy I have employed successfully is to use illustrative scenarios that start with the past normal—that is, how they operated before—and then examine every step of that process to demonstrate what is disrupted now and, therefore, what has to be solved for or reimagined. Obviously, you will not be able to tackle every aspect of the way they worked before. So pick one or two slices of how they previously operated and use those to examine what has or could happen and identify where they need help.
For example, if they produce products, pick one and walk through one aspect of their production process, such as their supply chain. Lay out the steps in their process and then examine with them what was disrupted internally or externally. Are they dependent on a supplier for materials? Can they depend on that supplier now? Is that supplier likely going to survive in the future? Are they going to be able to produce and deliver what they need at previous levels and in the timeframes they have previously expected?
If the answers to these and your other questions are “No” or “We’re not sure,” then that reveals that a new normal has to be envisioned and shaped.
This can be a powerful process for clients. It helps them gain some clarity on the reality of their situation and assists them in starting to imagine that there are ways to solve their challenges and create a future. It also clarifies what they most need you to help them with.
Moreover, it gives them a direct experience of how valuable it is to have you at their side.