Ask any competent consultant their first step in any project implementation, the answer is to understand the context. The more you know about the prospect or client, the better the advice you are likely to give as you can customize it to meet the unique circumstances.
It is not about the consultant’s content – the tools, systems, data, or information – a consultant brings to the client. That is an internal focus. It is about the consultant’s awareness of the client which delivers magic. Whoever knows a lot more about their clients has an edge in adding value to them.
For that reason, more qualifications do not usually translate into consulting firepower or competence. Many consultants are process experts NOT content experts. You do not have to be an engineer to help an engineering company win or a medical doctor to consult for a hospital. However, hospitals need great leadership, operational efficiency, strategy, and happy people working as a team. That is what great consultants bring to the table. Many clients already have great content experts. They only need a great expert to hold the team together.
When it comes to establishing rapport or breaking the ice with a prospect, context comes in handy. It provides the consultant with insights to break the ice. Sometime in late 2016, before Coronavirus had hit the world, I was invited for a business meeting with one of the top CEOs in Kenya. I arrived 20 minutes early for the meeting. I was ushered into the CEO’s waiting room, which was decorated with lots of family photos, and of course golf photos. Given my understanding of the regional golf landscape, I had a talking point.
When the private secretary of the CEO asked me in, my first question was: is xx junior also a great golfer like Dad?
The CEO sat down and was so relaxed and spoke about how their son hates golf. The boy is into music. He has a studio at home. He showed me the boy’s music escapades and how his talent is taking him places. I went on to ask about his other children how they were doing and had a great discussion.
I got the business.
When you have context, you can engage the prospect and offer only the relevant content. To win, context is better than content.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa. 2021.