Consultants Should Be More Like Doctors: Diagnose First, Then Prescribe

You’ve finally scored the big meeting with the dream prospect. They have expressed strong interest in your company and seem like a great fit for your services. As the Very Important Top Officer (wow, she’s actually in the meeting!) kicks things off and describes what she needs, you nod in agreement.

“Yes, we can do that.”

You start describing how the solution work, why it would be so valuable, what steps you would take, what they need to do, and so on. You’re really excited now, about to land your dream client, who must be overwhelmed with how insightful you are. You realize that the tone of the meeting seems off. So you suggest even more solutions. VITO thanks you for your time and insight. You leave dreaming of the big project with the dream client, but you know something isn’t right.

Now you’re in the doctor’s office. Your shoulder is hurting. It could be an old sports injury, sleeping wrong, getting old, or the stress of trying to land that dream client. Whatever it is, the pain won’t go away with ibuprofen and it’s interfering with your sleep and your life to the point that you’ve finally carved out precious time to see a doctor.

“Shoulder pain? I’ve got just the thing,” says the doctor. “I’ve done this surgery thousands of times. It’s great. Works really well, great deal, short recovery time.”

“Are you sure I need surgery?”

“It’s a great procedure— you’ll love it.”

What’s wrong with this picture? You’d run out of that doctor’s office and never return. It would be absurd for a doctor to suggest surgery without really understanding the problem. With something as complex as the human body, getting the diagnosis right is critical.

What about a business?

Don’t start prescribing surgeries or pills until you have the right diagnosis. Some issues are simple to diagnose— you can have people self select online, or get what you need in a single meeting. Other issues are harder and require a diagnostic. Just as the doctor will run tests, you may have to run tests on your “patient.” Some of these tests will cost money. People who want the best for their business understand that. Just as a doctor can help a patient be prepared, you can help your prospect, so you don’t waste anyone’s time or money, but do the right amount of diagnosis for your patient’s situation.

How do you know when this is working? When the prospect says, “great, can you send me a proposal?” That’s a good sign. Even better is when you say, “I’d love to, but let me clarify a couple of important things first…”

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