Consultants Are Not Magicians; Clients Must Drive Their Own Bus #smbiz

How to Maximize Benefits Working with Consultants

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Of all the companies I’ve worked with almost none of them are truly serious about growing their business. They all THINK they are. I work diligently to show them what it would take to get serious. It rarely works though. It finally comes down to one thing:

Just WHO is driving the bus (their business)
and who SHOULD be doing it?

Many people hire consultants and expect magical results. They are consistently disappointed because they:

  • Can only get out of the consulting relationship what they’re willing to put into it.
  • Have unrealistic expectations.
  • Hate to read.
  • Make their consultants chase them.

Seriously. I hope those who can really use and get benefit from this message will read it; I suspect it is likely to be more popular with the consultants who are worn out from trying to pull answers and information out of their clients.

Maximizing Consulting Results

Do you want to get the most from working with consultants? Here are some sincere tips that will totally change the dynamics of the consulting relationship:

CLIENT RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Take an active role – YOU should be driving the bus (your business) – not expecting a consultant you hired to magically do it without your input. The more you want to control what they accomplish and the more restrictions you put on what they’re doing, the more available you must be or nothing gets accomplished.
  • Make an effort to truly understand EXACTLY what the consultant is going to do for you. Most dissatisfaction arises from unrealistic expectations due to the client’s lack of specific knowledge of what they’ve requested be done.
  • Promptly provide requested information and answer email, voicemail, and other communications from your client. The longer it takes you to respond the less your consultant can do for you and the longer it will take!
  • Make the consulting relationship a priority. Schedule time for meetings. Insist on regular updates and communication and READ THEM.

CONSULTANT RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Do your best to provide structure to the client relationship – in writing – even if you already know they will not read it. Document what information you need, how often you will update them on the progress, provide the best times and methods for contacting you, and – even though they should do it – you may have to be the one to consistently move the project forward.
  • Communicate well: provide updates, be clear in your questions, understand what your client does and does not yet know. Remember that if they knew what you know they could do it themselves! Don’t expect that; expect them to at least try to understand – “the big picture” – not the detail of how to do it – what you are doing on their behalf.
  • Define the project scope carefully and tightly. Scope creep is the largest challenge for every project. No matter how long we work to determine precisely what the client REALLY wants and explain what is involved – even if hours are spent in discovery and you believe you know PRECISELY what that is – expect to find out otherwise.

Avoiding Scope Creep

Scope creep is the major cause of dissatisfaction in a consulting relationship. The primary reason for it is that to the client what you do is simple and won’t take long – no matter how complicated and time consuming it actually is to accomplish.

Here is a brilliant explanation of Scope Creep:

“…scope creep is not only inevitable; it’s natural. As with other natural forces, when we resist it, it seems evil to us. It thwarts us, but scope creep is no more evil than gravity. Scope creep is the pejorative name we give to the natural process by which clients discover what they really want.

This puts our attempts at “requirements gathering” in a different light. Most project managers try their best to discover what clients want at the beginning of the project. They use meetings, questionnaires, personal interviews – and still, the most common experience for developers delivering a final product is customer dissatisfaction. It may come as a slap in the face – “this is no good” – or it may be couched in gentler terms – “you know what would be nice” – but the same message is being delivered: we aren’t giving clients what they want.”

I recommend consultants and those who hire them read the rest of that article on Scope Creep.

How Content Ranks in the SERPs

A disparity of Internet knowledge is a particular challenge for online consultants. Even if your clients use the Internet, recognize that your client may not understand the difference between PPC, SEO and SEM…or organic versus paid search… or local listings versus organic listings and so on.

Many seem to believe if the most influential person writes content for them or it is published on a major site it will auto-magically go to page one at Google. I’m not sure where they get that idea, but it simply does NOT work like that.

Content ranks because it is compelling enough that other people:

  • Share it on social media.
  • Comment on it.
  • Link to it from existing or preferably new content.

Every page on Forbes, Mashable, the NY Times, Problogger or any other site does NOT appear on page one. Every page does not gain PageRank or a high Page Authority.  Don’t take my word for it – go look and prove it to yourself.

Be Clear About What You Expect

Do your best to ensure clients understand the differences and precisely and exactly what you will be doing for them (in writing!). Then realize that it is VERY likely that they still will not “get it” – especially if they are not very Internet and Marketing saavy.

The bottom line is this: the client MUST be willing to learn at least what is necessary to fully understand what they’re asking consultants to do. They MUST communicate.

Don’t make your consultants ask the same questions over and over
and never get an answer. BE INVOLVED. DRIVE THE BUS.

The BUS is YOUR business – not the consultant’s. YOU are the limiting – or growing – factor. No matter how brilliant, talented, or conscientious your consultants, they simply can NOT do their best for you WITHOUT you!

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Gail Gardner

Small Businsss Strategist at GrowMap
Creator and owner of GrowMap.com, Gail is primarily known for mentoring small businesses and encouraging bloggers to join collaborations to share skills and support small business.