The initial few minutes of every client meeting present your consulting firm with a unique opportunity. Will you let it slip by unnoticed, or create a regular, business-building habit to maximize that time?
Let’s say that next Tuesday you’re scheduled to deliver a regular, periodic project update to your consulting firm’s client, Gridlock Enterprises. You’re joined for the half-hour Zoom meeting every month by Gridlock’s Chief Obstruction Officer, Philip A. Buster.
Typically, you dive into an update of the progress you’ve made on your consulting project for Gridlock, note the next steps, solicit feedback Phil may have heard from his team, then confirm the next month’s call before signing off.
For your next meeting with Phil, though, you’ll kick off the meeting differently. Better. You’ll use two simple and powerful techniques:
The Right-Side Up Meeting Intro
Start your meeting with the following, Right-Side Up question:
“First things first, what would make this meeting most valuable and helpful for you?”
Use this intro question every time, even though you already have an agenda for your meeting with Phil (and every other client your consulting firm meets with), and even though you believe you’re clear on the purpose of your meetings.
Most of the time, Phil’s answers align perfectly to what you had already prepared for the meeting.
Occasionally, though, Phil’s fixated on something other than your regular update. And if you don’t find out, you proceed along your pre-baked flight path without realizing you could have led a much more valuable conversation.
The Connection Carveout
Having established the Right-Side Up purpose for your session, you’re going to briefly hijack your own meeting by saying, “Before we dive in…” then continuing with some variation of the following question:
“…do you mind me asking how Gridlock is faring this quarter? I recall last quarter was a tough one.”
You can ask anything that connects you to Phil in a broader context than your current consulting project. For instance, some variations include:
“…would you mind telling me how our project connects to Gridlocks big initiative for the year?”
“…I’d love to hear just a minute or two on Gridlock’s overall strategy. Are you willing to share?”
“…could you explain the difference between the Red Tape division and the Red Light division at Gridlock?”
“…that looks like a tasty cake. Could you shoot me the website of the baker?”
Connection Carveout questions create space for you to transcend the typical, in-the-weeds discussions with your client.
Together, these two techniques serve multiple purposes. They:
- Validate Alignment – Ensuring your consulting firm is always totally in sync with your client’s needs increases the likelihood that your work delights your client.
- Enhance Client Experience – Connecting with your client upgrades the perceived value of your consulting firm’s work and boosts your reputation.
- Strengthen Relationships – A stronger bond between your consulting firm and your client staves off competition and improves your odds of winning future engagements.
- Provide Forewarning – Raising your vision above your current consulting projects gives you visibility of potential speedbumps well in advance of when they’d typically pop up.
- Surface Opportunities – Talking with your client about higher level, broader topics surfaces new opportunities for your consulting firm and your client to collaborate (a.k.a. follow-on business).
Have you tried the Right-Side Up Meeting Intro, the Connection Carveout or something similar at the start of your meetings? If so, share your experience of what’s worked (or not worked) for you.
Text and images are © 2021 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.