It is not uncommon in the career of a consultant to find a client who does not understand well what the consulting service is about or who does not know the limits of a consultant's work.
And for that very reason, it's also quite common to have to deal with a client who thinks the consultant can do the work of a psychologist - or a therapist, a counselor, a mentor, even a coach.
Sometimes the client is discouraged in his role or even with the organization of which he is a member and has no idea where to go for his career. And this is when he ends up “confusing” the consultant with a psychologist, seeking guidance or even venting his pain from the craft.
However, the professional support that a psychologist or any other specialist quoted above offers to a worker or a company is not the same type of service provided by a consultant.
And when the client begins to confuse things or wants to “expand” the consultant's performance, the situation must be resolved in order to prevent this “mistake” from compromising the consulting project that is on the horizon.
But then how to deal with a client who wants a psychologist? Note the following tips:
Never forget that your customer knows much less about your business than you do. So try to put yourself in his shoes for just a moment. What does he know? And what do not know?
Seeing the situation from the customer's perspective can help you understand your customer's behavior and understand why they think it is reasonable to divert the plumb from your service. Understanding the other's point of view is the first step toward resolving the confusion.
Apply reflective listening
Have you ever happened to be upset or frustrated and feel better just by telling your situation and realizing that your caller really listened to what you were saying?
Your client is also a human being, and sometimes he just wants to find someone with whom he can share his work problems, knowing that he will be able to understand the situation - and even offer advice.
If this is the case with your client, you may even see the positive side of him being putting you as the person who can do it. Under this circumstance, practice reflective listening. Listen, interpret the words, observe body language.
Then offer feedback that just demonstrates that you understand what he is going through. If you have “nothing to say,” just repeat in other words what the customer just said, showing that you listened.
However, be aware of two very important points:
- Remember that you are neither a psychologist nor a mentor. Do not offer advice in areas that do not concern you. Limit yourself to your role;
- If these "conversations" are recurring, make it clear that you are not the person he needs, that he is confusing specialties. Which brings us to the next items.
Show your side
Once you understand your customer's point of view, you need to guide them to understand yours. The best way to do this is to dedicate yourself to a good communication, clear and assertive, and share information about your work.
Try to explain as simply as possible, to avoid new ambiguities and misunderstandings, what your purpose is at that time in the organization. Rather than informing about the project you will be working on, clarify the role of a consultant.
Make a point to underline that you are there to solve a company-wide problem (for example, to improve or transform a process and also to deploy a new tool) and not particular issues, even if they refer to work.
Also, make it clear that the consultant is there to diagnose the problem, indicate the solution and, if necessary, deploy the solution. But your role will never be to make decisions for customers.
Consider leaving the project
In fact, there are some occasions when the client simply doesn't understand - or doesn't want to understand - that their job is not to meet their particularities, guide their career or listen to their dramas.
In this case, you may not have a project to implement in the company. Or, even if it does, you may not be able to meet it, due to the disturbance of your client.
Therefore, it is necessary to weigh the consequences and evaluate the possibility of losing the customer. If there is no acceptable alternative, you simply have no other choice.
Assess the situation and see if there is still a solution to the impasse. If not, leave the organization. In the end, it is the best way to avoid frustrations, both of you, which will not have a successful outcome or case, and of the customer, who will not have his need, because he is not the appropriate professional.
Then indicate professional help
It's no use: You wouldn't hire an electrician to fix a leaky pipe, right? Each professional has their specialty and this is no different within companies.
If, after assessing the whole situation, you have found that your client really needs some other professional help, be fair to yourself and him and refer someone else.
You do not have to name these people. Just state that at that moment, he does not need a consultant, but a therapist, a coach, or mentor counseling.
This can be very positive for your career in the future, as the impression you will leave with your client is from an ethical, honest professional who helped him when he needed it. If he really needs a consulting service later, then he will probably remember you.