Every consultant’s been there: You’re ready to present your best recommendations to a client. You’ve got charts, logic, visuals, benefits, a well-thought-out argument, and more. You do your best and put it all out there…and somehow you’re faced with a brick wall. What happened?
It’s critical that you’ve done your homework before you present recommendations: You’ve listened well, and understood the client’s short and long-term needs. You’ve learned as much as you can about their business. You’ve verified their criteria for making a decision, and you’ve made sure that you’re talking to the true decision-maker. Still, so much can go wrong when you present recommendations.
You don’t, of course, have control over every discussion; clients will do clients will do. On the other hand, you will persuade clients much more often when you understand these four key reasons why they may reject your bright ideas—no matter how well you’ve presented them:
- Clients may feel that you are telling them what to do, rather than asking, learning, and collaborating with them.
Any change can be difficult because it’s so unfamiliar. If clients believe that you are telling or forcing them to change or do something new, they’ll automatically resist your ideas—even if they are terrific. Now, of course you won’t really force anybody to change. The issue is that clients often feel that way when consultants present their recommendations. Nobody likes to be told what to do, or to think they’re made wrong for being on their current course—especially by a consultant who doesn’t fully understand the unique situation at hand. The solution? Collaborate with clients to come up with ideas for change together, while leading them with your expertise; that’s being a “Powerful Partner”.
- Clients believe they don’t have options, and they have to do it only one way–your way.
Too many consultants present only one option to their clients, as if it’s the only possible way to go forward. Your recommendation then becomes a “take-it-or-leave-it” proposition, which creates resistance. In our Power of Partnership training, we teach participants to create multiple options with clients so that problem-solving becomes a collaborative process of choosing from among two-to-four options or solutions.
- Clients believe they don’t have a chance to participate in a way that’s meaningful to them.
If your ideas are presented without enough input from clients they are likely to feel that they’re your ideas—and reject them out of hand. Instead, determine ways to get your clients heavily involved in the discovery and assessment phases of a project, as well as pre-determining which options might work to meet pre-selected criteria. Some clients need more participation and some need very little. Gauging the correct level of your clients’ need for participation is one key to your success when it comes time to offer solutions to their problems.
- Your recommendation isn’t presented in a way that the client can hear it.
If you study your clients, you’ll see that each one has his or her own way of doing business. Learn to speak in each client’s “language” and you’ll be more effective. Some clients are very formal and business-like, while others are informal and like to chat before doing business. Some are strategic, while others are very tactical, and some are very focused on results while others want to connect with people. Do your recommendations need to be in a detailed “white paper”, or should they be very informally presented?
These are only a few examples among many client “Operating Systems” that you need to learn. Match your presentations to the clients’ preferred work styles and you’ll get through their defenses much more quickly.
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Authored For S3 Solutions by Marty Friedman
Marty Friedman is one of the architects of the “Power of Partnership”, a training course for consultants and solution sales professionals who want to sell bigger deals and have smoother projects. He has co-presented this training for clients such as HP, Accenture, and Bell Canada as well as many mid-sized companies and start-ups. Find out more at www.PowerofPartnership.net