For consultants, fostering a strong relationship with clients is the key to long-term success through referrals and repeat assignments. Developing a strong relationship starts with managing expectations at the beginning of the relationship with the contract. When consultants create a contract with their clients, it is important they put the time and effort into creating a strong and flexible contract that can properly navigate the legal concerns that can arise through the course of the relationship (Stroh & Johnson, 2006). It also needs to address the possibility of changes that will arise through the analysis process, because what the client believes is the problem is not always the primary issue needing to be addressed (Stroh & Johnson, 2006). Sometimes it is not until the implementation occurs that a clear picture of the problem emerges (Block, 2011), however sometimes the client insists on addressing issues that are not priority and may even jeopardize progress of the project (Stroh & Johnson, 2006). One option in this case is to end the relationship with the client for the project, however, this doesn’t need to be the end result.
The success of a consultant is measured by impact deliverables (McKnight, 2009), however the relationship with the client is the filter those deliverables are received. Quality deliverables achieved through a confrontational approach may be discounted and even voided (McKnight, 2009). Consulting at its core is a personal relationship (McKnight, 2009), and that should begin with interviews from the outset. Interviews offer opportunities to establish positive relationships built on openness that fosters trust (Stroh & Johnson, 2006). Using interviews will lay the foundation for a caring relationship between the consultant and client (Stroh & Johnson, 2006), and will create flexibility when adjustments need to be made.
Block, P. (2011). Flawless consulting: a guide to getting your expertise used (3rd ed). San Francisco: Pfeiffer.
McKnight, W. (2009). 90 days to success in consulting. Australia ; Boston, MA: Course Technology Cengage Learning.
Stroh, L. K., & Johnson, H. H. (2006). The basic principles of effective consulting. Mahwah, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.