The next question!!!

A perspective client called last Thursday to give me an update on his project. He is opening a new store later this year with plans of opening two or three more stores within the next year. At this point he’s evaluating new systems himself and just wanted to pick my brain a bit. He’s looked at a few systems and feels there is little or no difference between them. After a few more questions it became evident to me that he was falling into the same trap I initially did when I stated my consulting business. I had been a POS system reseller for a dozen years and before that I was distributed products to retailers a background I felt gave me the experience needed to evaluate systems and understand the features retailers needed in a good POS system. When I first began evaluating systems for specific clients I used a checklist. It listed all the features that we required to meet my clients needs. Once I determined that a vendor had the required features they were invited to demo their software to the key decisions makers. I used the process for the first year until I attended a seminar on ” How to deliver better results as a consultant”. As is the case with most seminars my goal was to glean one or two nuggets that I could use. In fact I left with only one, but it became the basis on how I approach all my projects. His message was as a consultant your role is to be inquisitive. You can never ask too many questions. And the most important question is the “Next Question”. The deeper you dig the more you find out. When vendors present a solution their role is put in the best light. Your role as a consultant is to expose the strength and weaknesses of the solution and match those to your client’s needs. This brings me back to the conversation from last Thursday. It became apparent that my perspective client was simply letting the vendors show their software without digging into each system in-depth. I passed on the nugget I had learned over ten years ago, “You can never ask too many questions and the next question is the most important”. Systems have very different feature sets which can only be uncovered by “Asking the next question”.