In order to deliver high-quality consulting services, it is essential you do not undervalue client discovery. The discovery phase is a key element of the consulting process and is essential to properly understand and connect with a business.
What happens in the discovery phase?
The discovery phase happens before a consultant creates a consultancy plan for a business. It involves collecting data from multiple different sources about your customer’s background, future goals, and current working conditions. You should harness this data not only through technology, e.g. sales data but through interviews with your client and their employees. This will help you to collect both qualitative and quantitative data and create a full, well-rounded understanding of a company.
For example, the following 4 steps could be completed in a discovery phase…
1. Review documentation of the current financial state of the company
2. Conduct interviews with team members
3. Shadow members of staff and stakeholders
4. Look at the statistical data of a company
Why is discovery important?
A discovery phase enables a consultant to get to know a company on a deeper level and will give them insight into how to create creative, effective business solutions. The purpose of discovery is to eliminate presumptions and subjective opinions about a business and to ensure a consultant has an accurate understanding of a business.
How long should a discovery phase be?
The length and depth of a discovery phase will vary depending on the size of the company, and how much time has been allocated to the consultant. Even a small company, with only a few employees, however, requires a discovery phase to ensure an accurate and true representation of a company is captured.
Key tips for completing an effective discovery phase
1. Keep your answers opened ended
When conducting an interview, ensure you avoid ‘yes/no’ questions and keep your questions open-ended. You may then wish to get an interviewee to further advance on an answer by asking them, ‘why?’ This will ensure they delve deep into their thoughts on a company and do not feel limited by your questions.
2. Be there in person
During the discovery phase, it is your job to explore what has been going wrong for a company and why they have hired you. This cannot be learned through digital communications alone, you must engage with the company face-to-face so you can analyze all elements of communication, e.g. body language, tone of voice, etc.
3. Set a schedule
If you are working with a large company, you may feel as though your discovery phase could go on indefinitely. Obviously, this can’t happen and you must keep on schedule to deliver your proposal on time. To ensure you remain on time, create a schedule and a discovery checklist to ensure you remain focused and have direction.
One of the biggest challenges facing consultants is mismatched expectations, a thorough discovery process can help you eliminate this challenge as you will gain a complete understanding of the expectations and needs of a business.
By Ellis Bledsoe, Principal Owner ECB Solutions, LLC