To succeed as a consultant, you have to electrocute yourself. Okay, that may not be exactly correct… though I did fool around with the insides of an electric radio when I was a kid and gave myself one heck of a shock. Correction: To succeed as a consultant, you have to attach yourself to a particular power source— the decision maker at the client. More importantly, you have to connect to that power source even when all sorts of inconvenient people clog the way. I’ll show you how.
Consultants often talk about gatekeepers. There is actually a panoply of characters who can shut down your prospective project. Let’s cover them quickly using the power/circuit metaphor.
Decision Maker – This is your power source. S/he’s the only person who can say, “Yes” and inject the juice (a.k.a. money) necessary to get your project running.
Gatekeepers – Can’t say “No” to a project, but can prevent you from reaching the decision maker.
Breakers – Only can say “No” or “Okay.” In other words, they have the veto power to bust your circuit, but they can’t light it up.
Resistors – Anyone at any level who is resistant to your project. They can’t outright veto it, but they have influence and make your prospects dimmer.
Amplifiers – Your champion(s) inside the organization. They can boost your power insight the organization and brighten your future. Ironically, a resistor you convert to your cause will often become your loudest amplifier.
Transformers – Have little influence on whether or not you win a project, but can significantly impact the scope, terms or other parameters.
Your goal is to make your way through all the interference and connect with the power source so you win an electrifying new project.
There are three strategies for dealing with interference between you and the decision maker: Ignore, Co-Opt and Squash. Whenever you can, use the ignore strategy. Go directly to the decision maker unless it will cause lasting harm or undue resistance from other people in the organization.
Best practices for all three strategies are shown below.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.