It is probably safe to say that the consultancy meeting is the baseline tool for work of a consultant. This is because it is in these meetings, in conversations with stakeholders - executives, supervisors, coordinators, etc. - that the consultant will collect the information that will allow him to perform his function properly.
At these meetings, he has access to data and information, but also to points of view, expectations, apprehensions and concerns that are not available in any formal document, report or policy. It is the most complete and - perhaps the fastest - way to update yourself on the practices of an organization that the consultant has not yet mastered.
But speaking of domain, would you know what are the best techniques and behaviors for that moment? We will therefore know how to conduct a consultative meeting.
Prepare in advance
Before the meeting, study a little about the company you will be attending, as well as the person - or people - you will be talking to. Consider the organization's possible goals or the problems it may be facing. So, prepare a kind of checklist of the information you have - and what you need to get.
As for the person, understand what their role is in the company. Observe your level of authority, your specialization, your area of expertise and direct team. In this way, you can even estimate the chances of her having the necessary knowledge to answer the questions you come to ask.
Conduct the meeting
This is especially relevant when it is the first time that a company is hiring a consulting service. Because it is very common that your “interviewee” does not know where to start. So, you need to give it a go, taking the opportunity to demonstrate security, knowledge and experience.
But don't confuse driving with selling yourself. You must inspire confidence in your client through your mastery of the situation, not parading a resume with everything you've done in life, when and for whom.
Driving is introducing yourself, talking about the company, asking about your interlocutor - what does he do, what are his responsibilities in the company, etc. In short, ask questions that promote the loquacity of the other party, listen carefully, clarify ambiguities and take notes.
Hear more, speak less
Contrary to what many people think, it is easier to gain the trust of a customer when you talk less. Because you exhibit balance and self-confidence. And the customer feels heard and understood. You seem genuinely interested in offer a solution and not just closing a sale.
Therein lies the importance of preparing for the consultative meeting with the right questions. Insightful questions attest to your own competence and allow your interlocutor to release the verb. In the meantime, you nod, take notes, and interrupt only if clarification is needed.
By dedicating your time to listen to him, in addition to building a positive relationship with your customer, you reduce the risk of setbacks during the process. Because you will have more clarity about the company's pains and, therefore, a complete diagnosis the situation.
Ask open questions
We just highlighted the importance of asking the right questions, to get your customer to speak. For this to be achieved, you need to avoid the issues of yes ou not. So, what you need are open questions.
Those that need explanation, contextualization, opinion. It is through these responses that you acquire the necessary information. Here are some examples of open-ended questions that can be used in a consulting meeting:
- Why do you think we are talking today?
- How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
- What are your department's top priorities for this period (month, semester, year)?
- What happened that made you think, "I need to do something about it"?
- What is the problem and where did it originate?
- What is already being done to solve the problem?
- What situation needs change?
- If we could do that, what would it mean for your business?
- How ready is the organization for this change?
- What are the main challenges that are acting as barriers to success?
- What actions should we take?
- What timeframe do you suggest we work with?
- If you were in charge, what would you do?
- Who else do you think I should talk to?
- Who will make the decisions?
- If you could accomplish just one thing by the end of this meeting, what would it be?
- Have you worked with someone like me before?
- Is there anything else I should ask you?
Make a summary at the end of the meeting
During the meeting, you took notes of all the important information for your consulting project. Then, at the end of the conversation, confirm your client's impressions.
That is, take your notes and paraphrase, briefly, everything that your interlocutor told you, to make sure that you understand your point of view, your needs and expectations. With your confirmation, you can end the meeting.
Send an e-mail
Your email will be a kind of thank you note. It is a courtesy, a way of showing gratitude for the time that the employee spent with you and for your willingness to set aside your responsibilities to serve you, in order to help with the smooth running of your project.
But be careful with the printout of that email. Your text must be personal. That is, your email cannot look like a file that is already saved and you simply copy and paste it for the next customer. You need to sound professional and respectful, but not mechanical and inattentive.