Client Engagement Process
For consulting client engagement to be successful requires building and maintaining strong client relationships throughout the consulting process. This involves the consultant putting forth efforts in various ways.
First, the consultant must make initial contact with potential clients. This can be done by phone call or email and conversations resulting from this medium shall prepare the consultant for the first contracting meeting. Block (2011) advised setting up at least one meeting with each person who is part of initiating the project to understand clients’ needs and concerns. This allows the consultant to obtain information on the client’s needs. Next, the consultant conducts a thorough assessment of the client’s requirements, challenges, and goals. Matching consulting services to the client’s needs will help how the consultant presents his/her own skills and services to align with the client’s brand and needs. A successful assessment will allow the consultant to present a detailed proposal to the client, outlining the scope of work, deliverables, timeline, and costs.
After the proposal is presented the consultant and client will negotiate terms in terms of both parties’ wants and offers (Block, 2011), making necessary adjustments to the proposal. After exchanging wants and offers, either an agreement is reached resulting in a contract, or both parties are stuck on wants and offers. If an agreement is reached, the consultant should ask for feedback on control and commitment to ensure a stable, balanced contract is assured (Block, 2011).
If there are no issues with the processes mentioned above, the project can be executed. Once the consulting project begins, the consultant works closely with clients, providing regular updates and ensuring transparency. A consulting engagement may be considered successful if the client is satisfied that the consultant has met expectations and the consultant is satisfied that his or her reputation has been enhanced, with expectations of future revenue streams (McLachlin, 1999). However, if both parties get stuck on wants and offers in the negotiating phase, they must stop and think, and come up with new wants and offers to determine if an agreement can be reached. Feedback is important, and consultants should seek feedback from the client, promptly addressing concerns and making necessary revisions.
Sales Pipeline in Consulting
A sales pipeline in consulting is the cornerstone of tracking potential client engagements from initial contract to closure. It’s a flow of opportunities going through various stages of a process where some of them will be removed, while others may successfully be won from the prospects (Sohnchen and Albers, 2010).
Without this process, consultants looking to increase revenue and add new clients will find it difficult to achieve this goal successfully (Sohnchen and Albers, 2010). The sales pipeline process includes stages like lead generation, qualification, proposal, negotiation, closure, and of major importance, client relationship management. It starts at the top where initial opportunities are reviewed. Where appropriate these are moved to qualified leads and some of them become warm leads. The warm leads are converted into proposals and may eventually lead to a new signed client engagement contract (Sohnchen and Albers, 2010). It is very important to have a qualified pipeline management system in place as managing it helps consultants to prioritize efforts on high potential clients and opportunities. It also helps to forecast revenue and plan resources based on potential deals in the pipeline.
Scorecards are used to manage consulting effectively, optimize the status, and drive continuous improvement. As a result, continuous monitoring and action is required (Phillips et al., 2015). One of the most basic scorecards is the IPO scorecard. This approach examines consulting from the perspective of inputs such as money, processes such as new skills, and outcomes, such as sales revenue (IPO). At a snapshot, the basis IPO shows the relationship between input to output. It benefits the consultant as it provides a quick comparison of key measures and examines the status of the engagement. As a management tool, it can shape the direction of the consulting project and improve or maintain the performance of the organization (Phillips et al., 2015).
Peter Block (2011). Flawless consulting: A guide to getting your expertise used. 3rd Ed. 2011. Pfeiffer, San Francisco.
Phillips, J., Trotter, W. & Phillips, P. (2015). Maximizing the value of consulting: A guide for internal and external consultants. Somerset, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISNB: 978-1-118-92310.5
Söhnchen, Florian & Albers, Sönke. (2010). Pipeline management for the acquisition of industrial projects. Industrial Marketing Management – Ind Market Manag. 39. 1356-1364. 10.1016/j.indmarman.2010.04.001.