Saturday, February 12, 2011

Find a Good Starting Point

I was involved in a conversation recently with the leader of the sales team of a company.  As we talked about his experience with outside trainers and consultants, he said something to this effect:  “Too often these folks come in with their product and want you to buy it whether it fits your organization or not.”   In other words, they start with their needs rather than the client’s needs.

What’s wrong with this strategy? First, this approach does not take into account the uniqueness of the client.  Whether it is a consultant working with an organization or a life coach working with an individual, the service provider must start by getting to know the person or organization with whom they will be working.  This requires more listening that talking.  Only then will the resource person knows the special needs and capabilities of the one being service.  In Getting Naked, Patrick Lencioni models a consulting approach where the consultant begins his or her relationship with a company with an open display of curiosity or even ignorance.  The consultant asks questions, listens, and learns before suggesting any actions. 

Second, this approach often reflects the limited expertise of the coach or consultant.  Someone said, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  If you only have one product to sell, you sell it.  Whatever the client’s need, your product will meet the need.  This was the approach that religious denominations pursued in the past.  “You want to reach more people?  Then you need a bus ministry (or Evangelism Explosion or direct mail).” This might be a short-term fix, but there are rarely lasting results because the program doesn’t really fit the church.

Third, most clients today know that they have a choice. They can use the “off the rack” coaching or consultant model, or they can work together with the service provider to develop the strategy that will be most effective in their situation.  This is the contrast between Wal-Mart and the boutique or the mass production model versus craftsmanship.  The former option will meet your short-term need but the latter approach is much more useful to you in the long run.  The client makes the decision and pays the price (in money, time, or effort).

When it comes to providing help, the provider must always offer assistance in the way that the recipient can best incorporate it.  Otherwise, the effort is wasted.  Being conscious of the other person or group’s individuality will pay off in long term changes and benefits.

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