There's plenty of philosophers out there. Most of them have “day jobs.” It’s hard to…
Imagine going to your doctor and telling him what you think you need:
“Hey doc, I’m middle aged, a few pounds overweight and there’s a history of heart disease in my family. I’ve heard you’re a great surgeon and I’ve got the budget for open heart surgery, can we schedule something for next month?”
Do you think the doctor would agree and schedule it? Obviously not. While he may, in fact, be a great surgeon, and open heart may be something he is great at, and it may even be extremely profitable for him to do so, he simply cannot take you at your word. He must diagnose your needs and come up with a solution that is best suited for you.
So why would we not do the same thing with our clients? In the world of content and thought leadership what we are selling is often intangible and difficult for a client to understand. They may come to us confident that our work can solve a problem that they have, but they may be wrong.
They may have expectations that are not realistic or need something else entirely. Yet, more often than not when I client says, “I love your work and I think your programs are great. Let’s bring you in to work with my team,” we eagerly jump at the opportunity. We deliver to the best of our abilities but the client may be frustrated because they expected a different result or needed something else entirely. You end up with an unhappy client and some potential damage to your brand and reputation.
There’s a much better way and it isn’t that complicated to develop and execute. You need to develop a diagnostic process that involves the client so you can craft a solution with them that is designed to meet their needs. There are several benefits to doing this. Many clients perceive the solutions that we offer as a commodity. When purchasing, a commodity is quite simple. Price becomes the single issue to focus on and you (as the seller) lose any leverage you may have had.
By implementing a diagnostic you separate and differentiate yourself in a very powerful way. You’ve now put a question in the clients mind, “Why haven’t any of the other providers diagnosed my specific situation?” This weakens the position of other providers without saying anything negative about a competitor.
Another result of a quality diagnostic is that you and the client will learn more about their needs and how you can (or can’t) help them. You will be aligned around what the expectations of a solution will look like for them.
Ultimately, any solution needs to change a process or a behavior that is tied to a measurable business outcome. You may have the absolute best solution in the market but if you are, for example, the best “negotiation” expert and the clients issue is really not a “negotiation” issue they will still be struggling after you’ve done your best to help them. This happens all too often and results in wasted time, energy and resources for everyone involved.
There is no one size fits all model for creating a diagnostic. It could be as simple as asking the right questions or it may be a very complex process that would involve dozens of stakeholders. It can take minutes or it may take months depending on the clients industry, business and needs. What a good diagnostic will do is ensure that you have agreement about what it is that you are going to help them with and that you have a way to identify the current state and integrate metrics that will be used as targets and benchmarks for a desired state.
It may seem like a lot of work or energy to create a valid diagnostic, and it very well may be. Doctors spend years and years honing their diagnostic capabilities (as do many other professionals such as mechanics and consultants) and it will enable you to differentiate yourself and your solutions as well as better serve your clients.