I was listening to a podcast this morning by a consultant who was providing advice to an audience who are looking at becoming consultants. I was shocked by the fact that this consultant not only believed, but advocated the fact that the first rule to consulting was ensuring that you kept your clients happy, as you are only as good as your last job.
If you are one of these consultants who believes this, then I am here to tell you that you are wrong! When someone engages you as a consultant, they are hiring you for your knowledge, experience and expertise to tell them what they need to hear. They are also keen to understand the outcomes and solutions you intend to provide around the challenges they are experiencing. This is not necessarily what they want to hear. It many cases it may be more difficult to take this approach and yes you will get clients who don’t like what they hear. But they will respect you for it.
I have no doubt that it is perspectives like this from “experts” that has stereotyped consultants as being overpriced, keep everyone happy and only in it for the money. Like everything in life, there is an element of getting what you paid for with consultants. Typically the cost of a consultant increases pending on the level of expertise, knowledge and experience and how niche the services are. Accountants for example are everywhere, so they can very easily price themselves out of the market if they don’t specialise and provide additional value to their clients. If your clients do not see the value of your knowledge, or you are not providing them with additional value to justify a premium cost, then they will shop around. If they do see the value, they will be more likely to be able to justify and pay a premium to obtain the additional value that they would not receive from an accountant with less experience and specialised knowledge to assist in driving solutions.
Either way, this does not change the fact that as a consultant you should not be engaged to keep someone happy. Approval driven behaviour is not going to benefit you, the client or the organisation. You are there to provide advice, solutions and outcomes. If you truly believe that you need to modify, restrict, tailor or avoid providing a client with the advice they should be receiving based on your expert opinion, you may be keeping a client happy in the short term but in the longer term, it will damage your credibility, your reputation and relationships.
One of the greatest skills you can learn as a consultant is how to listen well and tell the kind truth without fear or favour. Learn how to deliver advice to your clients so they understand your intent is pure. That is, the reason you are candid is because your respect them and their business so much that you could not possibly not tell them what they need to hear. Whilst this can be challenging at the time, you will be greatly respected and over time I can guarantee they will thank you for it.