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What to do when your Consulting Project Falls Short?

All consultants experience projects where they should expect to deliver strong results but fall short.

The reason for this gap can come from the client side, when your client isn’t putting in sufficient time and energy into executing your recommendations. Or maybe they’re just so busy it takes them much longer than you’d like for them to get back to you and to take action. But the gap can also be on your side. The strategy that you thought would surely work, simply doesn’t.

I remember running an ad for one client that generated close to 100 leads each time it ran in small state publication. Yet for another client in a different industry, an ad with the same approach, brought in only 10 or 20 leads each time it ran. I would bang my head against the wall trying to figure what was going on. Was it the headline, the offer, maybe the media.

When this happens you have 3 choices. You can consider it a failure, fold your hand and go home. You can make excuses as to whose fault it is and pretend everything is all good. Or you can take a long and hard look at the situation and keep working your ass off until you find a better solution – one that delivers the results your client is really after.

It’s not always easy to do this though. There are so many variables involved that there’s no one right solution for everyone. In my experience, when it comes down to it, if you’re a consultant and want to be in the business for the long-haul, you have a duty to do whatever it takes to make a wrong situation right. Even if that involves pushing yourself and your client outside of their comfort zone.

This adjustment to get things back on track requires making sacrifices. Spending more hours on the project than you’ve budgeted for and sometimes putting up your own money to test new ideas.

It’s like walking a fine line. If you can get things back on track you’ve got a happy client and likely one that will continue paying you. On the other side of that line though, you have the potential to upset your client. If they’re not seeing the results they’re expecting, it’s a given that they are already unhappy. And in the case that you need to nudge your client to take more action … or call them on the reasons the project isn’t working (a problem on their side) their unhappiness can lead to a decision you’ve been dreading to hear “you’re fired.”

But here’s my take on all this. Regardless of the outcome, if you’ve really given it your best shot. If you’ve pushed the boundaries, made sacrifices and done whatever you can to deliver your client results, you can and should be satisfied, whatever the result.

It’s impossible to please everyone. Remember, when it all comes down to it, you don’t live with your clients, you live with your conscience.


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