Don't Let Client's Derail Your Process--For Their Sake!

Just like persistent “cash flow” problem are really profitability problems, so too most “over-servicing” issues are really “under-pricing” issues in disguise.

The reason is because you have a set way of doing work–a certain cadence and thoroughness–and you’re just kidding yourself to think that you and your team can bypass it.

“Hey, folks. We need to be a little more efficient on this project. It’s a new client and they didn’t have our normal $30,000 for the diagnostic. But Joan and I are really excited about where this might lead. They are going to give us an opportunity to explore this new industry that we think has promise. They only had $20,000…and we don’t want to lose money…but let’s try to be even more efficient than usual. Thanks, folks.”

That’s how the discussion sounds as you kick off the project. And in the post mortem, 5 weeks later, guess what. It took just as long as every other diagnostic you do for $30,000.

And it should.

It’s taken years to get comfortable with a certain process. A certain cadence that gives you enough time to think, plan, and explore. There are no shortcuts in the principles that you need to surface, how the data is balanced, and how the presentation is polished to wrap a bow around this thing.

But when a prospective client comes to you with an exciting opportunity, you develop a sudden amnesia that approaches disrespect for the people who do the work. At that moment you are letting the prospect become the expert and the roles are reversed: you’re taking orders from whoever it is that you are supposed to be helping.

Instead of asking the right questions and slotting the observations into the well-worn research brief, you throw that aside and flip out your order-taking pad like a waiter at Awful House. You’re the supplicant asking if they want fries with that instead of sticking to a process that has consistently, faithfully yielded fantastic results for hundreds of clients.

Sometimes over-servicing does occur. But when you go into a client engagement and let them pretend to know how this works, you’re cheating yourself.

But worse than that, you’re cheating them. They deserve your best work, and your best work depends on a process that you own.

You know how great it feels to “own” an engagement:

  • You know how to start. What observations are critical to set the foundational agenda.
  • You know where to look next and how to keep the new client informed. You know what questions they’ll have next and how to anticipate them before they surface.
  • You have a sense of timing and how to juggle multiple clients at the same time with all of them feeling like they’re getting the right amount of attention.
  • You know when you’re making money…and earning it, by God…and there’s no resentment that you’re doing your best work and not really getting paid appropriately.

Why follow your normal process?

  1. Better outcomes.
  2. Less resentment.

On some rare occasions, an intentional or even accidental deviation can drop some improvement or discovery at your feet, but normally you need to retain the normal process just like every other professional/expert does.

Give yourself enough opportunity so that you can say “no” when it doesn’t feel right, okay?


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