Do They Really Know What They Need?

Sometimes clients are confident creatures, certain of what they want and need and ready to explain it to us – the hired consultants – as soon as we walk through the door. While that sounds great, it’s generally not. Why? Because what they want and their proposed solution may not always line up.

Presenting Business PlanOne client brought me in to help get a couple of failing projects back on track. I came in and managed the project schedule, the outside clients, the internal project staff and delivered. But I also identified the underlying issues that were causing the problems in the first place. Correcting them became the true basis of my consulting engagement.

The Customer’s Perspective

It all starts with a customer coming to you with a project. Sometimes they believe they know what they want, how they want it and what technology they want to use for the solution. They may even say they know how much it’s going to cost and how long it’s going to take. To them, everything seems straightforward.

The Consultant’s Perspective

But it’s different from the consultant’s point of view. We’re busy, and suddenly this new project comes in. The customer’s got everything planned out in advance. It seems simple: The requirements work and analysis have already been done. Since it’s the customer’s money being spent and they know what they want, who are we to tell them where their money should go? If it all goes down in flames, it’ll be their fault because you’re simply doing what they asked. Right?

Wrong. That’s not how the real world works. It would be incredibly easy to just do what the customer wants so that at the end of the day, you can put the blame on them. But when the dust clears and your customer is left with a bunch of frustrated end users because you rolled out a solution that they asked for — but not the one they needed — it will be your head on the chopping block. Remember, it’s always the consultant who has the target on their back. Don’t kid yourself that an unhappy customer will accept responsibility for a project gone wrong. It’s up to you to look at their issues upfront and ask the right questions. You have to find out what they really need. It’s not your job to just placate them.

Next week, we’ll look at four steps you can and should take to listen to the client, get their perspective of the need and dig in deep to ensure that you’ll ultimately deliver what the client truly requires — not just what they think they need on the surface.

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