One of the key issues for consultants is building client rapport. Of course, it makes sense that you need to strengthen your bond with the key decision makers in an organisation. After all, a poor working relationship with the person that hires you is unlikely to lead to further communication and, ultimately, more work.
If you can make an opponent comfortable with your decision-making processes, you will have gained a powerful ally.
It’s sensible to see building relationships with decision makers as a primary goal, but what about every other stakeholder? A majority of consulting roles mean communication across a variety of departments or divisions, and creating buy-in from those is so often overlooked. So how can you create buy-in from everyone affected by your consultancy? Well, it’s a big ask, but here are a few pointers.
In any consulting role you will have opponents. Perhaps these are people who are intrinsically against your role, or your particular ideas; there are a multitude of reasons why someone might not like you. These people can easily become instigators of dissent or opposition in departments as a whole. This is deadly to creating buy-in from departments.
Know Your Relationships
It’s good to have opposition, but staunch, stubborn opposition to your ideas can create any number of problems. If you see opposition getting out of hand, deal with the issue in a completely non-confrontational way. Remember, this is their territory and they have to live with the consequences of your decisions. If you can make an opponent comfortable with your decision-making processes, you will have gained a powerful ally.
Don’t Focus On The Past
You know your recommendations are sound. They’re based on your objective analysis of the business combined with the range of experience you have from seeing so many other businesses’ operations.
However, if you’re looking to create buy-in from departments, you are faced with a very particular problem: you don’t want to dwell on the problems of the past, but implementing change without explicit and fully understood reasons can be traumatic for departments.
Demonstrate The Benefits
The way around this dichotomy is to offer demonstrable benefits. This way you’re not focusing on the past explicitly, but instead putting the emphasis on improving their working lives. If you can offer proof that a department will benefit from your inclusion, you’ve gone a long way to creating buy-in with them.
Ask For Their Expertise
This one might seem a little obvious, but excluding a department by not using their expertise says that you’re here to clear up their mess.
The easiest way to include a department is to use their expertise of both the industry and the company. This also has the added benefit of giving you ‘on the ground’ information – the reality. Once you collect their information, it’s important to show that you are using it. Being disregarded is just as bad as not being consulted at all.
Make An Effort To Build Rapport
There are some very specific things happening in the brain regarding rapport. Our conscious mind only ‘sees’ the first two steps of this five-step process, and leaves the basal ganglia, limbic system and amygdala to deal with the other three steps.
Without going into too much detail, the better your match with that person’s internalised view of a positive person, the better rapport you build, and the easier they find it to empathize with you. What’s interesting here is that our internalised views of positivity are remarkably similar, certainly on the base level.
First Impressions Last
Add to this the primacy effect (you’ve all heard some statistic showing how important the first 15 seconds of a relationship are), and you can see that it’s vitally important to create rapport from the second you meet someone.
This means posture, conduct, language and facial expression amongst other things.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how important rapport is in creating buy-in across departments, but it’s worth noting that really effective rapport – the kind that gives you that god-like reputation – is about building rapport on all levels: company, department, group and personal.
Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Work
Sometimes, however, regardless of your efforts and knowledge, there will be some situations that are untenable. It’s important to realize that these should be isolated. Having problems creating buy-in at one company or institution should never affect other relationships you have with unrelated clients.
David Ingram has been working a Digital Marketing Consultant for some of the UK’s largest brands for the past 5 years. He is currently working with the team at Hunters Estate Agents (www.huntersnet.co.uk) in Leeds to boost their online visibility and performance.