Yes, you read that right! Don’t give the client what they want!
One of the first things you learn in a marketing 101 is: “The Customer is Always Right”. However, that’s not always true.
The primary reason someone hires a consultant is to find a solution to a challenge that they cannot handle themselves. Either they don’t have the expertise, or they don’t have the right resources.
Sometimes a client will come to you saying that they are facing a problem because of certain reasons. In their mind, they already know the cause of the problem and all they want from you is a solution to fix the cause.
Worse still, they’ve already come up with a solution and they will call you to ask if you can implement the solution that they have come up with.
The client may tell you what he wants, but is it what the client needs?
An important concept that we need to remember is that a consultant is not just a task leader to implement solutions that the client has asked for.
A client pays you for the years of expertise that you have gathered along the way, not your ability to execute tasks in a given time frame.
So, give the client the benefit of your consulting expertise. Give the client what they need, not just what they want or what they think they want. They will thank you in the long run, and you will have found a more permanent solution for their challenge.
An important step in consulting is understanding the challenge with an open mind. An outside perspective can be very insightful.
In fact, let’s take one step back. Defining the challenge is a crucial step in the process. Very often, an open and honest conversation can lead you to a better understanding of what the challenge really is and you can come up with more viable solutions.
However, it’s not always easy telling the customer that they are wrong. Entrepreneurs in particular have a sense of pride and relinquishing control to an outsider is beyond difficult for them.
One client that I dealt with, was convinced that all he needed to fix his business was $200,000. So, he was simply looking for someone who could raise the funds for him. However, when I looked into his business, I realized that just throwing money at the problem was NOT the right solution. There were more fundamental challenges in his company that needed be rectified and he was hiding a lot of information. Raising money would be a temporary fix and would sustain him for the next 6 months. In the long run, his company would still face problems and eventually go bankrupt.
Convincing the client that he needed more than just money to fix his business was an uphill battle.
I was telling the client that he didn’t know what he needed and that did not bode well with him. He just decided to stop talking to me. I was disappointed at first. Not only because, I couldn’t help the client but also because I knew that eventually he would be heading for disaster.
Over time, I’ve come to realize this pattern in clients.
Some clients do know their business well but, they’re confident enough to keep an open mind to ideas. They are willing to let you dive right in to find the best possible solutions that will sustain the business in long run, even if they didn’t come up with the idea themselves.
But, beware of the clients who don’t want to cooperate. These people are arrogant and think that they know better.
People who are rigid only want you to implement certain solutions and will not be open to sharing all their information. Engaging with people like this will only end in disaster. They will never be satisfied with your work and often you will end up implementing a quick fix that won’t really be helping the business.
It’s better to walk away from a client who dictates what they want without any regard for what they need.
Trust your instincts!