Guerrilla Tip Send a Welcome Package

It may sound old school, but some consultants send clients a welcome package at the beginning of projects. The package includes some details previously described, such as the names and contact information for the consulting team members, but it can also include invitations to upcoming events, new research the firm has published, and a letter thanking clients for their business.

Building consultant-client relationships is a mutual process. All parties must understand one another's personalities, approaches, skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Some relationships immediately move forward, whereas others never get off the starting block. Sprint to make the intangible tangible for your clients.

> Rule 2: Results Rule

In his Harvard Business Review article, "How to Buy/Sell Professional Services," Warren J. Wittreich points out, "Any selling involved in a professional service has just begun when the contract is signed. All that has been sold up to that time is a promise. The major 'sale' comes in delivering on that promise."3

Clients seek relationships with consultants for one reason: results. As repeatedly stressed in this book, the prerequisite for long-term, profitable client relationships is flawless delivery of every benefit and value you promise in your proposals or confirmation letters. Clients place great trust in consultants, and the fastest way to lose that trust is to perform poorly on a project.

Flawless delivery means that you:

► Start and end the project on time.

► Keep disruption to the client's organization to an agreed-on minimum.

► Avoid surprises (if the proposal states that you need five people to complete the work, don't request five more people two weeks later).

► Ensure success by helping the client use what the project develops. Seek clients' advice on how project results can be made most valuable to them.

Use the project work as a hands-on opportunity to show clients what you and your firm can do, prove that you are always thinking about their problems, and demonstrate how you work closely with their team. Producing results is not just about achievements at the end of the project, but also about each day's incremental accomplishments.

Delivering excellent results provides value that clients can quantify and exponentially increases the potential for your client relationships to bring more work your way.

► Rule 3: Expect a Cast of Characters

Walking into a client environment can be like landing on an alien planet. You don't speak the language, and often you can't interpret what you see and hear. Attempting to build rapport with clients you encounter is delicate work. It requires well-developed interpersonal skills to identify the roles, influence, and characteristics of people in the organization and to figure out their needs.

It's dangerous to generalize about people because their motivations are complex, but here are a few examples of characters you might identify from their behavior: supporters, detractors, and the disengaged.

For the most part, it's unlikely that a client will walk up to you and say, "Hi, I'm your worst enemy here." Listen and think about what you observe. If someone says, "I don't care what the team decides, just tell me what you want me to do," there's probably a good reason that person is disengaged. Try to discover what it is.

Consultants who are conducting client-level marketing should be wary of clients who are takers—they can milk relationships dry. They may feel entitled to and press for discounted services just because of the volume of work they've given you. These requests can be costly, so carefully evaluate what you stand to gain or lose on each client request. Think about surprising them before they ask by providing them with occasional free extras. Just be sure you understand that they may continually demand or feel entitled to such bonuses.

Long-term clients can be suspicious of your motives. When you bring them something valuable, they may think you're angling to sell—even if what you offer is free. Don't let it dissuade you. Keep offering clients ideas, understand their sensitivity, and try not to blatantly sell. Clear thinkers will recognize and appreciate the perspectives you consistently offer.

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