Let me explain what it means to me.
To begin with we need to look at the word ‘Consultant’ – what’s one of them?
It seems like everyone is a Consultant of some sort today, fighting it out with the digital gurus and social media experts in the latest job title challenge over on linked-in.
A consultant diagnoses a client’s problem and then prescribes a solution but only once they are sure of their diagnoses. In our world they charge for this solution. And quite often (it should be) that charge is based in some way according to the potential value of the solution and not based on hourly charges. It’s a highly valued solution and charged accordingly.
I won’t define reluctant you can do that just fine.
So what is a Reluctant Consultant? When a Reluctant Consultant is with a prospect and they are struggling to remain in the diagnosis phase, the first phase (where you ask question about their business problems) and instead skip ahead to be prescriptive phase the final phase. Because that is easier. Often they actually prescribe / sell a box standard solution, the thing they always sell (strange that) in the same way everyone else sells it – then they are being a Reluctant Consultant.
The are being reluctant to advise wisely and are bailing out on their role of being consultative and instead are prescribing before diagnosis which is malpractice. Will this result in repeat business?
The Reluctant Consultant agrees to do whatever the prospective client asks of them. He would rather not challenge the prospects thinking. I’m not advising you to be being abrasive in fact many consultants could do with working on their bed side manner. Humiliate a prospect at your own peril. You’re supposed to be smart that’s why they invited you in, which actually makes them quite smart, right? You don’t need to arrive with ego too.
However, to challenge the thinking of a prospect in their own interest is another thing entirely. “I can sit here and agree with you Mr Prospect but my worry is two-fold, one I see things slightly differently and if I do simply agree with you won’t you make the same mistakes as last time, can’t we discuss it a little further?” “I can see you are keen to get a proposal or a price but I think you’re rushing ahead.”
Consultants need to overcome their reluctance to consult.
That’s why I love the phrase ‘Reluctant Consultant’, it reminds me that there is huge value in the prospect seeing the truth and that is found by being thorough in the diagnostic phase at the beginning of a meeting.
To be truly consultative you can’t be reluctant to say what you really believe about a business situation and often there simply isn’t enough information to make a good diagnosis. If you don’t know say that – “I don’t know.” Add “Yet” onto that sentence if it makes your ego feel batter.
Maybe (it happens rarely) the prospect has done the perfect self diagnosis on their business. And if they have they don’t need you, do they? Now you are just an executor of their plan and you’ll be paid hourly (after some heavy negotiations, you’re not exactly in short supply are you, ring any bells agency owners) and not based on your true value in relation to the solution in the bigger picture.