Emotional Intelligence in Winning Consulting Contracts

The weekly brief: quick tips & tools to apply in your work

In his book Flawless Consulting: A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used, Peter Block says that success as a consultant depends greatly on your ability to be authentic with clients.

Successful consulting relationships require trust and open communication—that’s where emotional intelligence comes into play. A recent Harvard Business Review article speaks to this need:

“People starting out their careers tend to think that finding answers is the most important part of the job. But while we are in the solutions business, finding the right solution is often not what holds us back. Experience has taught me that if a client tells me the problem, we will always come up with a thoughtful response. The real challenge is getting the client to tell you the problem.” – James Runde

The next time you’re engaged in the initial contracting phase, try out the following techniques to lay a foundation for your consulting relationship.

1. Be empathetic to your client.

Keep in mind that no matter how common the challenge, each and every client has their own set of concerns and needs. Your most important task is to listen. Cast away all your assumptions about a given situation and take note of your clients’ specific pain points and frustrations. Then, use this insight to tailor solutions to their individual needs.

2. Ask questions to define your client’s problem.

Often clients have a solution in mind before a consultant walks through the door, but they are skipping a very important step. To develop effective solutions, you have to accurately define the problem, and it is your job to ask the questions to uncover it. Through an open dialogue, you can help your clients see their challenge in a new way, which can lead to solutions they may not have considered.

3. Invite discussion.

Once you’ve worked through the discovery, present the problem as you understand it and invite discussion. Open communication helps to clear up misunderstandings early on while continuing to build trust and buy-in.

4. Be open to resistance.

Expect it, and don’t take it personally. This, again, is when your authenticity can pay dividends. By recognizing and discussing the resistance with your client, you can address the concerns and overcome the roadblocks on your path to a solution.

A fruitful partnership is built on trust. And if you're honest and straightforward in your interactions from the outset, you're more likely to establish the rapport needed to help your clients identify their challenges and find effective solutions.   

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