• 12th April 2007 - By proteman

    Dear Fellow Consultants,

    How many times have you said, “My clients are driving me CRAZY!”? Well, now you can get them back – give them a taste of their own medicine – by driving them crazy. Read below to discover the secrets all good consultants know. These are our top four ways to bug the hell out of your clients.

    • Pepper your conversations with “consultantisms”: A recent article in Consulting Times (page 10) cites a survey listing the most annoying phrases used by consultants. Topping the list were: going forward, leverage, core values, on the same page, paradigm (my PERSONAL unfavorite) and synnergy. Use these at every opportunity, even in your personal life.

    • Maximize complexification: Take a really simple concept and make it sound difficult and complex. Watch your clients nod their heads, as if they understand. They probably won’t ask what you mean, so you’re off the hook to explain yourself.

    • Dazzle em’ with longer words and sentences: According to Language Monitor, there were approximately 988,968 words in the English language as of March 21, 2006. So why not use as many as possible? Instead of saying “before,” why not say, “prior to”? Instead of saying “use,” say “utilize”. Why use the word “to” when you can say “in order to”? Instead of talking about change, why not talk about “shifting paradigms”? (This is a bonus because you’re using one of the top annoying words!) When strung together, you can create one long sentence that will leave your clients scratching their heads. For example, Prior to the utilization of technology to manage shifting paradigms, aligning intangible organizational requirements with nebuluous customer-defined specifications in order to capitalize on opportunities had been challenging. (Say what?)

    • When questioned, go on the attack: After all, you are the expert. Your clients hired you because you’re smart and you know more than them. Don’t let them threaten your credibility by asking you questions or challenging your recommendations. If you back down, you’ll be perceived as weak. Instead, show your superiority by going on the offensive. Make sure to point out how long you’ve been in the business and your past successes (“I’ve been doing this for a million years.” “When I invented the Internet…”) If that doesn’t get them to back down, act indignant and suggest that “if they don’t trust you, maybe we shouldn’t work together.” They should be crawling back in no time.

    A personal disclaimer: We at The Loyalty Group, Los Angeles, pride ourselves on keeping things simple and straight-forward. This blog entry does not reflect our approach, philosophy or practices. We love and respect our clients!

    © 2006 The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved.

  • 3 Comments to “How to Drive Your Clients Crazy”

    • Steve Roesler on April 14, 2007

      Dear Phyllis,

      I ran this up the flagpole but no one saluted. It seems that, at the end of the day, our human capital were deployed in ways that would maximize their ability to leverage assets to meet our strategy going forward. This represented a huge paradigm shift for most employees. They had been resisting efforts to get more granular in their thinking–we normally look at our key objectives from 30,000 feet.

      But we believe strongly that continuous improvement will be the key to becoming the global leader in providing value-added products and services in a customer-centric way.

      Finally, to show how unique we are in establishing market share, our next corporate initiative is to benchmark against the “best-in-class” competitors. There’s noting more important than highlighting our uniqueness by becoming more like other companies.

      In the meantime, we have initiated our poster program titled “In Search of Mediocrity.” Since our performance had been so poor, we want to take incremental steps that can be measured weekly.

      Excellence has already been used in poster programs and annual reports by our competitors. We believe that by highlighting Mediocrity, we’ll capture a niche that hasn’t yet been attacked. We also thought that, as long as we were attacking something, we would use that momentum to join the War for Talent.

      Perhaps we could partner with your firm, as it seems we may already have some mutual synergies to bring to the table.

    • Phyllis Roteman on April 15, 2007

      Bravo Steve! Your articulation of your mission-critical strategies and tactics is indicative of your thought leadership and paradigm-shifting breakthrough performance. (I see a possible consultant-speak contest here…)

      On a more serious note…it’s sad that often, to establish credibility with clients, I find myself talking in consultant-speak. I worry that if I don’t, I won’t be taken seriously.

      Maybe we should start a plain-talk revolution. Let’s drop the facade and all agree – corporations and their consultants – to drop the long-winded babble and buzz-words and just say what we mean. Work life would sure be more interesting, and it would force all of us in the business world to really think about what we mean before we speak and write, rather than tossing around tired buzz words.

    • Steve Roesler on April 16, 2007

      Sure, Phyllis, it is sssooo easy to drop into the jargon when you’re sitting in the midst of it. And you are very accurate: there is almost an expectation that the ones who don’t use the buzzwords also don’t know what their talking about.

      So let me join you on your serious note.

      My graduate school training is in PR and writing. I am very sensitive to jargon because we were evaluated on being:

      a. Crisp and concise
      b. Buzzword free

      Any violation of one or both spelled disaster.

      So here is what I do (I did not do this when I was younger and less confident):

      When I meet a new client or prospect for the first time, I explain conversationally that:

      1. I’m well-versed in theory
      2. I am there to help them do (something) more effectively
      3. Whatever they want to start or change will have to be understood and accepted by the people in the organization.
      4. In order to achieve #3, the language they choose and use will determine whether people think they are “real” or that they’ve read a book on a plane back to the office.
      5. Then, I say that I’m going to speak in the kind of language that has meaning and power, and not like bullet points on a bad Powerpoint slide.

      I’ve never had someone not get it. It often takes a lot of time together to change the client’s inherent corporate inclination, but that’s fine. And frequently I write their meeting notes so that they can practice using the real thing and have a model for talking at work the way that talk at home.

      So, that’s my latest thought on the whole jargon deal. Thanks for taking time to thoughtfully respond to my comment.

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