Developing a partnership with your client—one built on mutual trust and understanding—is essential for establishing a long-term working relationship. If you aren’t trusted, your advice won’t be trusted. If you don’t understand the client as a person, you won’t know how to best present advice or how it will be taken. And if the client doesn’t know you as a person, the client might not know how to interpret your advice.
Building an effective consulting relationship with your client begins on day one. From the very first interaction, you should notice the ways in which this relationship is (or isn’t) being developed.
The following questions can help you assess the quality of your client-consultant relationships and can also identify areas that might need attention. In a practical sense, it can be difficult to monitor the quality of a relationship on an interaction-by-interaction basis. That’s why these questions can be so helpful. They will help you take a step back and look at the relationship objectively. Use these questions as a way to check in on the quality of your client relationship and as an advance warning of a relationship that might be in trouble.
- Do you understand what gives this client the greatest pride concerning their business?
- Do you understand what this client worries most about concerning their business?
- Do you understand the degree to which this client is open to outside help and support?
- Has your client given any signals that they trust you by sharing sensitive information or concerns?
- Have you and your client shared information about your personal lives (hobbies, family, etc.)?
- Are your conversations two-way? Are both you and the client listening to each other?
- Is the client aware of specific knowledge, skills, and experience you bring to the relationship?
- Has the client introduced you to others on their team in a positive and supportive manner?
- Do you feel relaxed with the client?
- Does the client appear to be relaxed with you?
- Do you feel welcome and respected?
- Have you been asked to provide anything of value, such as advice, information, or support?
- Have you provided anything of value?
- Does the client appear to be interested in working with you?
Establishing an effective relationship makes it possible to reach agreement around your client’s goals and will help your client understand the value you bring to the partnership. Although establishing a relationship is the first phase of the consulting process, it’s essential to pay attention to the quality of the relationship throughout the entire consulting process.