There was a question in one of my LinkedIn Groups recently. It was about how to protect clients from Black Sheep Consultants who were giving other consultants in their industries a bad reputation.
The basic idea was that the Black Sheep were unscrupulous and slick salespeople who sold their clients on having them do the consulting – with little or no intention of delivering what they promised.
It got me thinking.
Yes, the Black Sheep Consultant is an issue.
I think another common issue – perhaps more common than the deliberately unscrupulous – is consultants who are very experienced at delivering the service, but who are inexperienced or uncomfortable in the discovery conversation or proposal process.
With the best of intentions, these consultants can create weak expectations and permeable boundaries. Because of this the consultant ends up being unclear, scope of work documents are not specific, and clients are left with inappropriate expectations of what can be accomplished.
It’s one of the top mistakes consultants make. Even with the best of intentions they create a singularly negative experience for their client.
Could You Be Creating a Bad Reputation – Without Realizing It?
So how does this well-intentioned process look from the consultant’s side? During the course of the discovery and selling conversation:
- The consultant may believe he is clear.
- He may hope he is clear.
- He may be reluctant to set clear expectations and strong boundaries for fear of not being liked and/or losing the business.
- He may think he has the business sewed up and doesn’t want to rock the boat.
Any of these events can lead to inappropriate client expectations and, ultimately, a negative client experience.
Are you unintentionally giving your profession a bad reputation? Want to make sure you don’t?
Take Action Now – Make This Your Own
Having clear and mutually respectful prospect (selling) conversations is a skill that can be learned, like so many other skills a strong consultant has in his or her tool belt. If these skills are anywhere near as strong as the consulting skills, life is simple and dramatically more remunerative for the consultant, and all consultants benefit from stronger reputation as a class of service providers.
So, have you been unintentionally giving your profession a bad reputation? Start getting clear on it – ask yourself these questions:
- How often are you afraid to say ‘no’ to a prospective client when you aren’t a good fit for each other?
- How often are you vague in your answers when an explicit answer might turn the prospect away?
- Are there questions you hope the prospect does not ask?
- Is your discovery conversation focused on specific criteria the prospective client has to meet in order to work with you?
- How often are you having difficult conversations with angry, disappointed or unreasonable clients?
If any of these events are part of your world, please take a good look at your early prospect conversations and the conversations including terms and conditions and scope of work. It’s the best way to avoid one of the top mistakes consultants make.
So ask yourself the tough question: "What do I need to change so I enhance my own reputation and that of my profession?"
You can also check out these related posts:
Are You Being Too Nice? How’s That Working for Your Business?
“The Customer’s Always Right – Oh, Yeah?” 4 Tips for Handling Difficult Customers
Are Prospects Mistaking You for a Non-Profit? How to Stand Your Ground and Demonstrate Value
Share a comment: have you had an experience with a Black Sheep consultant?