By John Mitchell
Last month I presented at the Market Research Association’s 2016 Corporate Researchers’ Conference in San Francisco. In addition to my own session, I attended a presentation by Gina Scott of Citigroup on “The Art and Science of Building True Client-Supplier Partnerships.” As someone who has sat on both the client’s and consultant’s side of the table, I found it all relevant. Building better client-consultant relationships is in everyone’s interest. In particularly, Scott advises us all to adhere to six principles:
- Lead by example. If consultants and clients wish to establish a partnership, it is important that each treat the other the way they wish to be treated. A client who treats a consultant as no more than a vendor will in turn be treated as little more than a source of revenue, and vice versa.
- Communicate often and honestly. Consultants do better work and clients get better results when information flows freely and frequently between them.
- Assume good intent. Most people are fundamentally decent and hardworking, and can be counted on to do the right thing. Everyone should keep this in mind as they begin a new consulting relationship.
- Delegate and trust. Clients should recognize that successful consultants get that way because they are experts in their fields, and should trust their advice. Likewise, consultants should see that clients often have different perspectives that come from working with many different partners.
- Learn and move on. Everyone makes occasional mistakes. Only a few should be fatal to an otherwise productive business relationship. Figure out how not to make the same mistake twice and get back to the important work of gathering and acting on insights.
- Appreciate and laugh. Remember that and the end of the day, clients and consultants alike are all human. The most enduring client-consultant relationships are exactly that—relationships between people—not transactions between two businesses.
I was reassured by Scott’s points. We follow all of them at Applied Marketing Science (AMS), and it shows in our sizable base of long-term clients, some of whom we have served for over a dozen years and on multiple engagements. If you would like to learn more about partnering with AMS, please contact us to start the conversation.