Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What do you need to be open to?

From time to time, someone asks me "what makes a good consulting client?"

What I realized recently is that it's up to us (we consulting/outsourcing/services companies) to be able to articulate who is or isn't a good client. Let's face it - not everyone is a fit to work together.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a marketing seminar by Tom Batchelder. He had us work through a messaging exercise called "Pain-Opportunity-Open To" that helps you orient your messaging to what really matters to your customers:
  • Pain: What pain are your customers in when they hire you?
  • Opportunity: What are your customers loooking to acheive when they hire you?
  • Open To: What must they be open to if they are going to be a good fit for doing business with you?
It's that last step that a lot of people don't articulate. Whether they are afraid of losing a sale, or alienating a client, they don't express "here's what I'm expecting from you".

For us, our customers need to be open to:
  • sharing control of the product development process
  • new ideas and new ways of doing things
  • sharing everything they know about the project - the risks, what will make the project a success, what peripheral information we should know, what the priorities are, who the customers are...
Wen talking about outsourcing relationships, I often hear people say "We've solved the confidentiality issue by only giving our development partner just the details they need to complete the module they are working on. They don't need to know what the rest of the system does".

Can anyone tell me - what kind of product does that work on? How can you have a successful product, when some of your team doesn't even know the context in which it will be used, let alone who will be using it?

If you're embarking on hiring an outsourcing or consulting partner, and they haven't articulated who their best customers are, and what they need to be open to, now is a good time to ask. Trust me, now is a much better time to learn that then two weeks before a deadline.