A consultant is there to solve client problems, but not all problems need solving. “I wish I had a better system to orginize my sales process,” I hear the client say. This is a big company with hundreds of employees and deep pockets for a new system. I though Christmas had come early when I heard the client say that. I got back to the office with ideas in my head on how to solve the problem and briefed my team on what we are going to build for the client. We take action.
We created something that will sovle the problem over the next few weeks. Proudly, I walked into the client’s offices and announced that I have a solution to their current problamatic system. Only to be met by blank faces, not knowing what I am talking about.
Where did I go wrong?
In typical consultant fashion, I tried to solve any problem I come across as quickly as possible. I took action. I heard a client struggling with a problem and immeditately thought that they actually needed to solve it. But it turned out it they did not want it solved. In fact, there was no problem to start with.
What I should have done
Instead of reacting, I should have stopped and asked a few questions first. I should not take action first. What I thought was a problem, was in actual fact only a complaint. Remember that not ALL people will support everything a business impliments. This one manager complained about something nobody else complained about. I then assumed that everyone had this same view of the current system. I was wrong. Assumption is the mother of all stuff-ups.
I did not ask the one important question, “What have you done about it?” I would then have realised that this manager had not taken any action to solve his perceived problem. If I had asked the same question of other managers, I would have realised that it was only a localised complaint and not an orginisation wide opportunity. If the client does not take action then neither should you take action.
I should have confirmed intent
I should have told the complaining manager that I was about to commit time, money and other resources in order to create a solution. Making the manager aware that I am about to splurge thousands on something he complained about, would probably get him to confess that he is only complaining. Whenever you plan to take action and spend money and resources on a hunch, first make sure that it is something the client wants and needs. I had to confirm intent first, because it would have revealed the true situation and possibly saved me a lot of money.
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