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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

Do Clients Follow Your Recommendations and Advice?

Why some clients don't listen and what to do about it.

When I finish a market research project, I often include recommendations that reach beyond the project scope. These come from serendipitous, but important, discoveries: I told one client that customers were migrating to computers that were not compatible with the client’s software product. Unfortunately, the client did not plan to investigate this development. They thought the transition would not affect the company for years.

Take steps to breakdown clients’ resistance to your recommendations as their resistance to advice reduces your chances for a successful engagement.

Why do such situations arise?

Both the client and the business advisor see just part of the picture. The client may reject your recommendations because of unannounced developments, for example, a new product or an upcoming merger. In addition, the advisor may have misjudged the client’s problem or masked their own limitations.

How to make recommendations that hit the mark

Qualify the client. Before accepting the assignment, research the client and the company. Analyze the client’s needs. Identify potential problems.

Make sure the client is receptive. Here are four red flags:

  • The client wants a quick off-the-cuff answer.
  • The client’s first question is, “How much will it cost?”
  • The client balks when asked for details about the project or the problem to be solved.
  • The client does not seem to want your help.

Be objective. Do your skills and experience match the client’s needs? If your sweet spot is small to medium businesses, you could refer large clients to an advisor with more resources.

Ask questions, for instance:

  • Why do you need this____?
  • Who are the other stakeholders, and what do they need?
  • What have you tried?
  • What was the outcome? Why?

Use words carefully. Replace “you should” or “you must” with phrases such as, “Have you considered…?” “What would it take to…?” “Here is what I have observed.”

Document your work and all in-person and written exchanges with the client.

Fire difficult clients if you anticipate a disastrous outcome because the client refuses to follow your advice or fails to provide essential input. Continuing will be harmful to the client and could damage your reputation. The client could blame you for a bad outcome. Fire unethical clients.

When clients do not follow a business advisor’s recommendations, it could be that neither fully understood the other. Advisors and clients should make sure there is a fit. Then the advisor needs to ask probing questions, and the client needs to provide in-depth responses. Some engagements may not work out, but when successful, the relationship could continue for years.

A shout out to my Massachusetts Business Advisors colleagues for providing their thoughts about this topic.

Articles on similar issues:

5 Notes to Ensure Your Consulting Firm’s Recommendations Resonate

The 4 Unbreakable Rules of Giving Advice that People Actually Respect



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Copyright ©11/23 Ruth Winett. All rights reserved.

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