My very first manager, Nick, taught me most of what I know today as a consultant. He began my consulting education by teaching me how to “have the war now and the peace later.” He knew that a consultant who could, with confidence, argue a point from the perspective of what was best for the client, even if they didn’t see it at the time, would pay off. He was right.
Be Comfortable When Arguing Your Point
We’d meet a potential client and initiate the small talk in a relaxed easy manner. We would then gracefully lead the conversation to the purpose of why we were meeting. Through that dialogue, Nick and I would uncover all the issues which we would need to neutralize so that we could earn the right to recommend our service. The magic here was Nick’s comfort in the dialogue/argument he facilitated.
There’s a Reason for the Discussion
Often in coaching sales people, private equity executives and account managers who steward large client relationships, I find there is a reticence to bring the argument. When you state the reasoning behind the argument you intend to facilitate, you earn the right to have the argument. Initiating the argument with the phrase, “There’s a reason for this discussion…” puts the correct context to the issue.
The Benefits of Arguing
Many would consider it risky to stage an argument with a client but here are the benefits. You uncover the “core” issues/challenges that need to be vetted and resolved. Your image in enhanced for having the courage/insight to say what needs to be said. And your analysis – quotient is demonstrably lifted.
As you facilitate the argument, it is important to synthesize what’s been said and drive the conversation to the appropriate next step. Synthesizing what the next step is reinforces your control over the entire issue and it’s equitable.
Try it the next time you really need to make a point with a client. Let me know how it goes.