By Helen D’Arcy, Senior Learning & Capability Consultant, TP3
Are your Business Partners equipped to lead consultation meetings that ensure both client needs and the wider strategic business objectives are met?
The emergence of the Business Partner
A growing number of organisations are moving their corporate service team members into a more consultative role, working as a Business Partner with specific internal clients instead of providing subject matter expertise as part of the service team.
Although these employees may have expertise in their service area, they often lack the professional consulting skills to effectively engage stakeholders and achieve Trusted Advisor status.
This skills gap becomes particularly evident when leading a consultative meeting with their clients.
Why consulting meetings are different
Regular meetings with internal clients are critical to the Business Partners’ consulting role.
In the consultative meetings, Business Partners already provide valuable knowledge and insights from their specific service area. But the objectives of most meetings need to be extended from exploring the client’s priority needs. Each meeting also provides the opportunity for Business Partners to:
- build credibility for themselves and their service team
- develop sustainable trust-based relationships
- engage the client in their service area’s corporate strategic agenda
- influence business outcomes
So as the responsibilities of service team members broaden to Business Partner status, a need to learn consulting skills emerges. This ensures the new Business Partners can perform effectively and build credibility in their role of strategic influencer as well as service provider.
It’s not just a new set of skills - it requires a fundamental mindset switch from being a service provider to a solution-focused Trusted Advisor.
What opportunities are there for a consulting meeting?
Business Partners will typically find there are three types of meeting where a consultative approach can be used. They are:
- A client-requested meeting (ie: based on a client need)
- A regular progress meeting or catch up
- An opportunity or business change the Business Partner has to present
The stated objectives for each type of meeting may be different, but each can be handled with a solutions-focused, consultative approach that builds Business Partner credibility.
How to lead and influence a consulting meeting
There are different and distinct stages to holding an effective consulting meeting.
Being unprepared for a client meeting can undermine your credibility as well as wasting time. Set meeting objectives, the agenda, think about likely objections and prepare yourself to lead the meeting. Give yourself enough time for any research that may be required.
The 5 steps to conduct an effective meeting
- Establish rapport with attendees to build trust and create a positive environment
- Set the scene. This is the time to take leadership of the meeting and get agreement from everyone on the purpose, timing and outcomes. You may need to frame the meeting well to ensure there is a sense of shared purpose
- Investigate the situation – ask the right questions and use high level listening skills to explore your client’s needs, concerns and priorities. This is key to building your professional credibility
- Demonstrate your understanding of the conversation – check your assumptions and uncover any blind spots. This step provides the opportunity to impress your client with your insightful analysis and summary of the situation
- Propose a solution or options, using skillful framing to achieve client buy in. Manage any objections constructively so you can move forward and agree the next steps.
After the meeting
Deliver on your promises, keep your client informed and follow up with attendees to ensure that any agreed actions can be carried out by set deadlines. Meeting follow up provides another opportunity to build credibility and trust, but failing to deliver on promises made can see relationships take a major backward step.
In order to realise the full potential of Business Partners, the role needs to evolve from being a service provider to influencing stakeholders and clients and achieve the organisation’s strategic agenda. To do that, Business Partners need to maximise the opportunities provided in every meeting.
Do your team need new skills to run an effective consulting meeting?
We’re running half-day workshops specifically to help Business Partners develop the consulting skills they need to be successful in their role. Over three-and-a-half hours, we explore how to plan and lead a consultative meeting that builds credibility, influences stakeholders and achieves desired business outcomes.
If you’d like to discuss running this workshop in your organisation, please call us on 1300 658 388 or email firstname.lastname@example.org