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Jun 27
2016

Qualifying Consulting Clients

Posted by: Steve Marr

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When someone contacts me about the possibility of consulting with a client, I use a process to determine if I should invest time in this person before I make a commitment. I want to ensure that I am able to help the person move forward. I’m not as concerned about earning a consulting fee as I am committed to helping someone in a genuine way. The key questions I must answer are:

 

1. Who are you?

2. What is your number one goal for my involvement?

3. What are your key issues?

4. Why do you think I can help you?

The “who are you” question is partly designed to make sure I’m speaking with the decision maker. On a number of occasions, a staff person contacts me because they want me to present ideas and information to the CEO or other senior management. They hope management will embrace the ideas and move forward to engagement. I’ve learned that unless I’m working directly with the decision maker, it’s a waste of time. Furthermore, I need to get an overall view of the individual, a sense of where they are in business or ministry, understand who they are, how they got there and where they would like to go in the future.

The second question is to understand at a higher level what they perceive my involvement would be. Unless they have some concept of what they want to accomplish, we have no goal by which to measure success. My experience has taught me that unless we have quantifiable goals, we end up drinking more coffee in our consulting sessions than moving toward positive changes. It’s critical that my client be able to communicate the number one goal they would like to accomplish. If I’m unable to clarify this upfront, I back off.

The third question about “other issues” helps uncover secondary goals. This tells me whether the client has a good understanding of what may be holding them back. A good prospective client would be able to identify their number one goal and 3-5 things they see as problems to be addressed.

Finally I circle back with the question: “Why do you think I can help you?” If the person is unable to identify why I am the right person to assist them through these issues, I know they are fishing for a magic solution to their problems which I am not likely able to deliver.

A blind man came to Jesus and before the Lord acted he asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see." (Mark 10:51, NIV) While it might have been obvious that the person wanted sight, it’s also possible there was a different need. A number of times what I see from my experience in business, may be different from what a prospective client sees. If I determine we are in two different universes, I know that my involvement would be a waste of time and their money.

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