Consulting Engagement Cycle | The 5 Essential Steps
There is a looming notion that in order for a consultant to consider his job done is to ensure that the efforts put into have come to fruition such as having established an effective marketing effort, social media presence, and speeches, as well as closing a deal with the client after a series of proposal, negotiation, and re-negotiation. But while these tasks may indeed describe the nature of the work of a professional consultant, it does not necessarily end there.
As a consultant, the company you represent make significant revenue based on your clients which are typically businessmen who are looking for professional advice. You might think that a one-off relationship is a statement of success as a consultant, in reality, a relationship between an entrepreneur and his advisor is more of a partnership than a short-term gig.
Although this does not mean to say keeping your client’s hooked by giving off half-baked pieces of advice, this might imply keeping precious clients on the line for future business transactions. If anything, this is best referred to unofficially as the “Consulting Engagement Cycle.”
Now, this is not necessarily a formula that guarantees a positive result. But it is effective enough to act as a guideline for those which are seeking to engage their client with an excellent quality service possible.
The following are the five steps in the Consulting Engagement Cycle:
1. Building a Winning Partnership
Although part of the success of a retained relationship with a client is a satisfactory output—say, increased revenues through sales—one critical element in establishing a good relationship is rapport. Even when the voice of money is more pressing than the relationship between a client and his consultant itself, a good relationship between parties plays a key role in it.
Good rapport is important given that two parties are meant to be partners in pursuing a particular goal. Like many businesses where two parties are involved, it requires the right qualities in the relationship for everything to work smoothly. Winning over a client based on quality output and winning them due to a good relationship is a win-win scenario in most cases.
Once you have established a good work relationship with a client, the next logical step in the cycle is to do due assessment about the problem at hand. As a problem-solver, you ought to be fully informed about the happening with your client and his company.
From the biggest to the tiniest of detail, every information you can gather during this procedure is critical in painting a full image of the problem with your client’s company. One important reason why you had to build quality trust with your client as an initial step in the process is to fulfill this task without reserve.
But, as a consultant, you are not merely to empathize on your client’s disposition but rather take on an independent view of the issue. This approach is essential given your need to impose genuine change towards the client’s problem.
3. Solution Formulation
Now that you have made your assessment, you should already have gathered all the facts you need to have a full view of the problem. With that in mind, coming up with a solution appropriate to the issue should come as a follow-up step from the previous.
This step may sound so simple enough. But real experienced consultants know that this step requires more brain-squeezing than merely going by the book to every problem. This might imply utilizing every company resource in order to come up with a solution which will truly address the client’s problems.
As a consultant, this is a very critical step in most consulting transactions and is the very reason why this job is considered difficult and not something everybody can handle.
No devised solution, no matter how grand or intricate, is ever as useful as the one actually implemented by its maker. Likewise, your developed solutions according to the perceived problem is only good after having been delivered.
More than anything, this is essentially where the real bread and butter of a consultant boils down into. This is also where its power rests in facilitating change commensurate to the client’s problems.
But, of course, how effective or not your implemented solution will not be known to you immediately until such a time that you proceed to the next and final step in the cycle which is the doing of actual measurements.
5. Measuring the Results
After going through the oftentimes tedious work of analyzing the client’s problems, coming up with a solution pertinent to it, and implementing, many consultants may probably already be pressed to take a back seat from the task at hand. But the implementation part of the process is not the end of it all. Knowing how the solution turned out to be is.
This part is very important not just to your client given his dire need to resolve a company problem, it is also as important to you. For the most part, you will never really know whether the solution you yourself made is working or not unless you have seen the data which suggests it. Oftentimes, the pertinent data you may need involves time to aggregate to form any logical meaning.
But, of course, one of the ultimate reasons why you ought to know how your solution affects your client’s company and its problem is for the concern that you want your client’s business to improve. If not commonly the case, this might imply embedding benchmarking measures to your client’s company’s progress.
To be honest, having to isolate your individual contribution to your client’s company is no simple feat. However, you can track your client/ company’s development and even formulate an evaluation along the way.
Realistically-speaking, not every solution may always come off positive once implemented. Some do not discover an issue with the solution until everything is fully running. It is one of those uncertainties which the client should put into consideration.