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  • Writer's pictureDeb Zahn

Consulting Clients’ Most and Least Favorite Things Consultants Do

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

In this blog, you get to see into the minds of clients and get a better understanding of what they like and don’t like. Understanding their likes and dislikes will help you increase the number of clients you get and increase the likelihood of them hiring you over and over again.

Over the last decade, many clients have shared their stories of the bad, good, and great things that consultants do. It helped me learn how to be a better consultant. I learned how best to approach and engage prospective clients. I learned—and am still learning—how to improve how I interact with them and help them accomplish their goals.

Even though I have heard a lot, I wanted to get a fresh and direct perspective for this blog. So I conducted a (very unscientific) poll of people I know who hire consultants and asked them what their favorite things consultants do and their least favorite things. Here are the unfiltered things they told me.

Favorite Things Consultants Do

  • Take the time to cultivate the relationship well before the engagement commences 

  • Learn as much as they can about the client’s organization

  • Being well prepared by asking many questions and reading as much as possible about the potential client

  • Bring a lot of knowledge about the problem the client is trying to solve

  • Bring knowledge of the external environment into processes and discussions to inform clients about what they need to pay attention to

  • Listen to what the client wants but also translates that into what the client needs, which isn’t always the same thing

  • Listen to the "vibe" of the client to discern what is at the heart of the engagement, such as is the client looking for political cover?  Is the client looking to gain cover in change management or organizational redesign?  What is the motivation of the client? 

  • Communicate with as many members of the client team as possible to get to know the "personality" of the management team

  • Expand on the client’s vision with best practice models and strategies that help us get there

  • Bring insights based on having been on the client-side so they can appreciate the perspective without imposing their experience on the client

  • Balance their own bias against the client's needs

  • Bring a unique perspective and cleverness

  • Help without upselling

  • Use point-relevant data

  • Are strong writers

  • Deliver promised deliverables on time

  • Invest the time and effort to produce a product will be used by the client while appreciating that it is not entirely in the consultant's control

  • Produce and deliver on both that which is promised as well as conveying observations that are derived from the work and engagement

  • Adjust style to different groups

  • Have above-average facilitation skills and know when to press the client beyond process to decision making

Least Favorite Things Consultants Do

  • Overselling but underdelivering

  • Demonstrate that the engagement they are doing with a client is just a one-and-done drop in their consulting business

  • Push the use of a standardized framework even when it clearly doesn’t make sense  

  • Show a lack of authenticity and have a smell of marketing

  • Act like they know it all and do not adjust to their audience

  • Being unprepared

  • Fail to follow up

  • Being late to meetings

  • Being too removed from the daily realities of the client’s operations

  • Not thinking creatively

  • Not communicating delays in deliverables

  • Impose their perspective on the client

  • Not maintaining the confidence of the client

  • Not being able to exude a certain confidence because they do not have command of the issues and can’t add value to the client's approach

  • Not soliciting feedback from the client to determine if the work is going according to expectations

  • Not managing hours and price or price the engagement correctly

While these lists represent the points of view of a handful of clients, they match what clients have told me previously about what they like and what bugs them. You can use this information to make decisions about how you want to present with prospective and existing clients or any changes you want to make to avoid these no-nos!

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