A Partnership to Achieve Business Results
- Don’t be an order-taker
- Take training in being a credible consultant
- Build your confidence – learn your client business
- Learn the art of asking “sequential questions”
- Help client discover solution to achieve business results
- If training is a solution, make sure training is aligned to goals
- Don’t forget performance metrics
Finally, know the secret to your success as performance consultant.
What is Performance Consulting? I see it as a partnership between client [internal or external] and training partner to enhance workplace performance to achieve business goals. It is a proactive role vs. the reactive role assumed by most trainers. This has to happen at the strategic and tactical level.
DETAILS ON THE 7 TIPS TO BECOME PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT
TIP 1. Don’t Be Order-Takers: Trainers teach others how to be good consultants. However, the same trainers fail to practice what they preach and settle comfortably into order taking. If they receive a call from a client requesting training, they are ready to schedule the dates. They don’t see it as a golden opportunity to put consulting into practice and partner with client to achieve business goals. Most often training is considered ineffective, because business goals are not met.
TIP 2. Take Training in Being a Credible Consultant: Most training in Performance Consulting falls short – does not prepare trainers to be consultants. It is not reasonable to expect trainers to become consultants overnight, since most often they lack hands-on business experience. They have not led Marketing, Finance, Operations, Sales and other corporate disciplines to speak the language of their clients and earn their trust.
TIP 3. Learn Your Client Business: Trainers themselves need training in understanding client business [market insights], and also in consulting before they try to engage with business leaders. My fifteen years in market intelligence and strategic planning convinces me of the importance of knowing your client business before partnering with them.
TIP 4. Sequential Questions: Don’t tell clients what to do. By your questioning technique, help client discover IF, and WHAT training would help them achieve their business goals.
Here is a personal example of being a Consultant vs. Trainer: A sample CLIENT SCENARIO to demonstrate the remaining TIPS
My client’s training coordinator called me with a request for a class in Negotiation for a client facing team of 50 people in their Insurance Practice. She said the VP of the Practice had made the urgent request. I expressed my gratitude for the request and asked her what prompted the VP to ask for Negotiation class. She said he did not give any reasons. I did not argue, instead asked her for a meeting with VP to customize the class.
My meeting with the VP
I prepared for the meeting by checking out VP’s LinkedIn profile, researched his business, problems he confronts and his leadership style.
I started the meeting by explaining to the VP: My programs are designed to help you achieve your business goals. I know the insurance business is going through turmoil now. But, you are the expert in your business. It will help me immensely if I know your top two business Goals for 201X.
The VP responded: The 2 goals are – Increase business with existing clients by X% and Achieve on time delivery of products, at least 90% of the time. I asked him what his expectations were of achieving the goals and what were the barriers to achieving the goals?
The VP was not sure of achieving the second goal. Probing further, I uncovered that resource allocation and lack of critical software tool were problems. The other two barriers were of relevance to me:  VP’s team was not assertive, they don’t push back when clients keep changing requirements and scope; and  the client perceives them as order-takers, so I have to do all the negotiation.
[I am thinking: OK, VP, how is my Negotiation class going to make your team assertive and consultative? If the team is afraid to say NO to clients, how can they negotiate? The team needs both business knowledge and confidence to lead win-win negotiations, where they offer alternatives rather than saying, NO or YES].
TIP 5. Discovering the real problems: By the sequence of questioning, the VP was directed to discover the problem.
TIP 6. Align Training to Goals: Now we know the problem, it is time to identify the solution to the problem. The solution to achieve the goals. Now, going back to the meeting with the VP.
I wrap up the conversation with the VP as follows: From your input, is it safe to conclude that we need to focus on Behavior – training in cultural communication and assertiveness and then, Knowledge and Skills – client relations / consulting? Then, go into negotiation? Are we in agreement? I don’t do Assertiveness training, but Cultural Awareness, Consultative Solutions for Clients© and Negotiation are within my scope.
What do I mean by Consultative Solutions for Clients©? I think this training is a must for all client-facing professionals – even trainers – it covers topics such as understanding of client business, market insights, client relations, art of asking questions and approach to consulting.
TIP 7. Metrics: Ask client what performance metrics would measure success of the training? [Of course, the other barriers to achieving VP’s goals, not directly relevant to this training, such as fixing the process and giving right tools have to be fixed too].
This approach is proven to gain credibility as a partner with clients. At a strategic level, training partners have to sit down with their clients to go through this process annually or semi-annually, before they are approached for training by clients. The case given above is at a tactical level after they are approached for specific training.
THE SECRET TO SUCCESS IN CONSULTING: By your sequential questioning skills, you as a performance consultant need to let the VP [i.e. your client] discover the solution to the problem to achieve business results. You cannot tell client what to do.