Guerrilla Tactic Get Mutual Agreement

Don't consider writing a proposal for a client until the opportunity is well qualified and there's mutual agreement between the consultant and the client decision maker(s) on objectives, scope, schedule, and expected outcomes for the project. In the end, this will ensure that the proposal is faster to complete and is aligned with the client's needs.

relationship with the client. Consulting expert Andrew Sobel calls this going "the extra mile" for the client.1 It's a great practice to follow. Just be careful not to shut down the discovery process by leading the client to believe that you already have a solution in mind before you've considered all the facts.

► The Results of Discovery

Make sure you get the following findings from the discovery step in the qualification sequence:

► Clear and concise statement of the project objectives, including a quantified value for the expected benefits of the project

► Description of the desired end state the client wants to achieve when the project is finished and the consultant is gone

► Project budget and assurance that the project is approved

► Names of the project decision makers, especially those who are authorized to approve changes and expenditures

► Agreement in principle on all aspects of the consulting approach, scope, and schedule

► Assessment of potential risks of the project

► Conviction that the project truly addresses the client's problem

► Desire to work for this particular client

► Trust that the consultant selection process will be fair and honest

► A good picture of the competitive situation

> What Clients Want

Discovery is a mutual evaluation by clients and consultants, and clients have their own agendas for meetings during this period. Anticipate what clients want from discovery and help them get the facts they need to select a consultant and to make decisions about the project.

Clients are justifiably cautious about hiring consultants. After all, they may be investing big money, implementing a risky new system, or disrupting their operations. Plus, they have legitimate concerns about working with outsiders and perhaps jeopardizing their own careers.

Clients may not initially trust you; you must earn that trust one step at a time. The first discovery meeting is like a job interview: The client is considering hiring you, and you are assessing whether you want the job. That's a perfect time to get trust issues out in the open and address unspoken client concerns.

Does the Consultant Look the Part?

First impressions are powerful and long-lasting. Initially dress one level higher than the client, but don't show off. Find out about the client's culture and look professional. Your appearance in the first meeting often drives the remainder of the discovery and proposal process. If you don't know clients, it's helpful to briefly go by their offices in advance of meetings to get a sense of the people, how they behave and dress.

Is the Consultant Prepared?

During the first meeting, don't put on a dog-and-pony show. Instead, demonstrate that you understand the issues facing the client and that you have the background to address those issues. According to a study by the analysis firm, Ross McManus, the number one dissatisfaction clients have with consultants is that they don't fully understand clients' businesses.2 If clients have to waste time bringing you up to speed on information you should already know, they'll wonder how much your lack of preparation will hamper your ability to complete the project.

Can These People Deliver?

Prepare, question, listen, and think creatively to show that you are credible and highly qualified to complete the proposed assignment. How you communicate, gather, and analyze information and suggest next steps will tell clients how you will perform on the project. It's not uncommon for consultants to have great meetings with clients

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