“Selling” the consulting engagement
From the first time you engage a prospect, your goal is to “sell” the engagement. You look for clues from the customer that might tell you their overall interest level in what you have to offer, the amount of money they might be willing to spend on an engagement, and how committed they are to moving forward with the project. This information can help you determine how to sell yourself to win the consulting engagement. Any visual or audible signs that they have concerns about a specific area are your cue to bolster that area and alleviate those concerns when it comes time to bid the project.
If you manage to bring this potential client on as a client, the communication process doesn’t get any easier. You must put your communications skills to work identifying the most detailed requirements possible — with the help of the customer. Requirements are the lifeblood of any project and poorly communicated and documented requirements will nearly always result in a failed project and a dissatisfied customer and end users. Good communication during the requirements definition and planning phase is critical to getting the project off on the right foot and on the path toward success.
Providing status updates
Our clients want to be informed and feel confident that we’re on top of things; if you don’t provide frequent status updates, you’re going to have an unhappy customer. You should establish a status meeting (I prefer weekly status meetings) and a status update schedule at the beginning of the engagement. When clients don’t see or hear from you, they start to get the feeling that nothing is happening — regardless of how hard you’re working. When you’re a good communicator, you can be more effective at keeping customers’ confidence level in the project high.