Secret 3 solve the real problem

No doubt you have heard the old saying that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The challenge for consultants is to figure out what really needs hammering.

In his 1966 Harvard Business Review article, "How to Buy/Sell Professional Services," Warren J. Wittreich says, ". . . often a client who wishes to purchase a professional service senses that he has a problem, but is uncertain as to what the specific nature of his problem really is. The responsibility of the service firm is to identify that problem and define it in meaningful terms."2

A client may see a puzzle but not know how the pieces fit together. Maybe the client is focused on the wrong problem, or doesn't have a problem at all. Whatever the client's perspective, challenge the client's thinking—and your own—to be sure you are solving the right problem before you try to sell. Too many consulting projects solve symptoms without curing the underlying ailment.

Although guerrilla clients are somewhat cynical about jumping on the latest and greatest technology or management fad, they may be tempted to buy solutions just to avoid being left behind by the competition. And consultants, especially those who have close relationships with vendors, are often too eager to push their products on clients.

Your responsibility is to sell only those solutions that are in the client's long-term best interests. In the end, this approach will also prove to be in your best interests.

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