CUSTOMERS’ BIGGEST FEARS IN HIRING A CONSULTANT
• Consultant incompetence
• Lack of management control
• Continued dependency
• Excessive fees
• Lack of time
• Need for a consultant seen as an admission of management failure
• Fear of disclosing sensitive data
• Improper diagnosis or needs analysis
• Pushing a product
To assuage the third fear—continued dependency—keep in mind the seven roles of a “change agent, according to Everett Rogers in Diffusions of Innovations:
1) To develop a need for change The change agent helps identify needs, points out alternatives to existing problems, and they may also create needs.
2) To establish an information-exchange relationship The change agent must enhance his relationship with the customer by being perceived as credible, competent, trustworthy and empathizing with the customer’s needs and problems. Customers must accept the change agent before they will accept any innovations or solutions they propose.
3) To diagnose problems The consultant must determine why existing alternatives are not meeting the customer’s needs.
4) To create an intent in the client to change Once the consultant has ascertained the various actions required in order for the customer to achieve their goals, they must seek to motivate the customer’s interest in their proposed innovation.
5) To translate an intent to action This is where interpersonal network influences can help the consultant effectuate change. Altering the opinion of a group’s leaders, for instance, is one effective strategy.
6) To stabilize adoption and prevent discontinuance Consulting programs have a habit of dying, out of apathy or simple disinterest. The consultant must help the customer stay the course until the results of the innovation can be assessed based on a fair trial.
7) To achieve a terminal relationship This is perhaps the biggest challenge of all for most consultants: getting the customer to the point of coping with their problem, or solving it completely, whereby they no longer need the consultant.