How to Help Clients Identify What Type of Problems They Need Your Help to Solve
Clients are Overwhelmed by Change Right Now
All of your existing and potential clients are going through tremendous change right now. For many of them, they are so overwhelmed that they can’t figure out or articulate exactly what their problems are, or what they need your help with to change. They may be just focused on one challenge and not see clearly what other changes need to happen to achieve their goals.
What You Can Do to Help Them Manage that Change
This is where having an in-depth knowledge of change management can make you more valuable to them, show them how helpful you can be, and make them feel so relieved that they say yes to hiring you faster.
What is change management? It is the process, tools, and techniques to manage change and achieve the outcomes your client wants.
One key change management concept that is important now more than ever is distinguishing between technical and adaptive challenges.
Technical challenges are challenges for which the problem and solution are clear and straightforward. The challenges may not be easy, but at least what has to be done is known and clear.
Adaptive changes are much less clear and complex. What needs to be done is not automatically known. Helping clients with adaptive challenges require new knowledge, creativity, and new ways of addressing problems.
And here’s the trick: most issues clients have are a mix of both technical and adaptive changes. Even seemingly straightforward technical challenges often have adaptive challenges lurking beneath the surface or have adaptive aspects that clients might not know they have to address.
Think of the emergence of remote working brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are a slew of technical problems to be solved, which are pretty straightforward. They need technology systems that enable remote working. They have to make sure people have the right equipment and WiFi. They need to train people how to use those systems. That is all necessary but not sufficient. Employees and teams who now have to operate 100% remotely have to adapt to new ways of working. They have to figure out how to work in teams when they can’t be in the same room, facilitate meetings or train people by video, stay focused and be productive, and so much more. That’s all adaptive change that does not happen automatically when a client makes technical changes. If your clients only address the technical challenges, they aren’t going to get out of it what they need to get out of it.
How to Help Clients Recognize that They Need Your Help
That is only one among many challenges that clients have to deal with now as well as in the foreseeable future. Right now, companies and organizations are dealing with a waterfall of multiple, intertwined technical and adaptive challenges. And that’s why they need consultants to help them! The problem is that they may not know they need help or may be too overwhelmed to figure out precisely what help they need from you.
When you are first talking with an existing or potential client, ask them questions that will help them identify and surface what technical and adaptive challenges they are facing and what the interplay among those types of challenges are. You will likely have to ask probing questions to tease out what they are struggling with and what they can’t solve themselves. For technical challenges, ask questions to see if they need additional expertise or an extra hand to get them solved quickly. Probe for any adaptive challenges that often accompany technical challenges.
With adaptive challenges, ask questions to understand if they need new knowledge and skills and/or help with making decisions, especially because they likely will have to make imperfect decisions that are often inherent in addressing adaptive challenges. Ask questions to see if they need training, coaching, facilitation, and anything else that can help them and their employees adapt quickly and effectively.
Being skilled at exploring and unearthing their technical and adaptive challenges will create richer conversations with clients. It will help you hone in on precisely what you can do to help them. Plus they will more likely see the abundant value you bring to the table and that will increase your chances of you getting a contract to help them.