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8 Quantum Leap Questions Consultants Should Ask to their Clients

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February 2, 2021
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6 minutes
Lynn Hunt
Lynn's diverse perspectives on business stem from her extensive experience as a management consultant - her role as a beloved wife, mother and grandmother adds further depth to her insights.

Top freelance consultants add real value to their clients. This is why they win consulting projects even though these are trying and uncertain times and the consulting world seems awash with competitors.

Oh, wonderful, you might say! Everyone knows that.

Perhaps. But right now, how can you add the extra value that will set you apart?

Here are some ideas on what questions consultant should ask their clients.

How to Win Consulting Projects

The good news is that there are more freelance consulting projects available than ever before, especially for online consulting platforms. And the better news is that two old-fashioned, simple consultant skills, expertly applied, can make you stand out from the rest.

One of them is asking the right questions at the right times. And the other, even more important than the first, is listening to the answers.

I’m sorry if you were looking for a more complicated answer than that.

You might point to the urgency from clients as they scramble to digitize and otherwise adapt their businesses to a technological world coming out of the COVID-19 crisis. But the truth is that some basics of consulting have remained the same. One of them is client discovery – the consultant understanding precisely what the organization’s problem is and what is required. This is where the management guru, Peter Drucker, says, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”

However, what questions should the consultant ask their clients?

I wondered how to change typical questions that consultants asked their clients into quantum questions that would jolt and energize both of them.

“Ask a better question, get a better answer.” - Richie Norton, author and businessman

Defining Quantum Questions

You ask questions to clarify your client’s perspective, understand the current situation, and glimpse the future vision. Of course, the skill is not in asking questions but in asking the right questions. As the author and businessman Richie Norton so aptly puts it, “Ask a better question, get a better answer.”

Better questions that elicit thoughtful responses are the basis of the solutions you may devise for your client. They also establish your authority status and build your credibility.

Quantum questions, on the other hand, challenge your thinking and force you to stretch beyond the obvious. The dictionary definition of a quantum leap is an abrupt change, a sudden increase, or a dramatic advance. Quantum jumps in physics are associated with the shift from one energy state to another.

So, what questions should the consultant ask that will change energy levels and push you and your client towards making abrupt changes and dramatic improvements in performance?

A simple but surprisingly thought-provoking question is to ask how you could get 10x the expected and previously accepted results.

Here are some versions that you might try.

Quantum Leap Questions For Clients

#1: Trade-offs

What trade-offs would you consider if they led to a 10x increase in efficiencies?

To be a bit cynical, perhaps an even better question might be to ask what trade-offs people would consider if they led to 10x the amount of bonus they would receive!

Trade-offs are necessary when activities are incompatible – more of one thing requires less of another. For example, a product that performs well for one set of needs may be ineffective in meeting other requirements. Or the activities that deliver one kind of value don’t provide the different value needed elsewhere.

It is surprising how difficult businesses find it to make clear strategic choices. Rather than cleanly cutting one, straddlers or re-positioners try to justify keeping both.

#2: Marketing

What could you do in marketing to reach 10x the number of potential customers as last year?

We know that marketing has changed dramatically because of digitization. In addition to this, what could you do to increase your reach? Can you target new markets? Are there specific customers that need more focus? What are your key objectives in reaching them? What exactly could you do differently to be more effective? Would you have to change your product/service/offer? What else might change?

#3: Capacity

How could you best utilize and structure your staff to handle 10x the amount of work?

I had a recent project where we had to answer this question. The client was a government organization mandated to deliver critical services to large numbers of citizens, but with limited resources and no prospect of increased funding. It was amazing what happened once they understood the need for 10x the result. They moved some people, changed and merged responsibilities, embarked on upskilling, closed down certain functions and moved others onto digital platforms – and offered those who could no longer contribute what Netflix calls generous severance packages, with respect.

    Some other Netflix approaches may help answer the capacity question:

  • Don’t measure people by how hard they work or how hard they try. Measure outcomes. Reward sustained A-level performance, even if achieved with minimal effort, with more responsibility and great pay.
  • Don’t tolerate brilliant jerks. The cost to teamwork is too high.
  • Look for the best people only. In procedural work, the best are 2x better than the average. However, in creative/inventive work, the best are 10x better than the average.

#4: Technology

What technologies could deliver your current offerings in 1/10th of the time or with 1/10th of the staff?

Many traditional business processes will soon be replaced by technology. Of course, the technologies you choose and the way they are applied will depend on the business you’re in, but

  • Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), and robotic process automation (RPA) are driving new ways of doing business and a new wave of productivity.
  • Natural language processing and sentiment analysis are revolutionizing the service industry.
  • Portals have become the face of HR, with HR professionals fundamentally reviewing their roles.

As a digital consultant, you might assess digital readiness, design a digital strategy or streamline business and technology processes, significantly reducing employee hours and costs. But if you can demonstrate the 10x principle in your offering, you will bring new energy and a sense of purpose to your consulting projects.

Quantum Leap Questions For Consultants

I know I’m cheating – I promised quantum leap questions for clients. But if they work for clients, why shouldn’t you also be looking at how to make dramatic improvements in your performance?

Here, with thanks to the ideas in a David A Fields blog, are four questions for consultants. They may help you rethink, adapt and innovate – and dramatically grow your freelance consulting business.

#5: Fees

What could you offer that would warrant a fee 10x higher than the client had in mind?

This question makes you consider how you can increase and establish the value you bring and how you can charge for it.

For example, you could simply ask a client wanting a CRM solution what the budget is for your consulting intervention. Or you can focus on ways to dramatically increase the value of any additional customers brought in and associate it with your fee. A client who may have been considering payment of a few thousand dollars may not quibble about $20- $30,000 if you can show that bringing in 5 new customers per month might generate an additional $50 000 per month or $600,000 per year.

#6: Brand recognition

What could you do to have 10x as many prospects recognize your name or the name of your firm?

Hint 1: Online consulting platforms give you exposure and marketing reach that you probably cannot afford on your own.

#7: Referrals

How could you generate 10x the number of referrals from your current clients?

Hint 2: See Hint 1 above.

#8: Velocity

What systems or changes could deliver your current offering in 1/10th of the time or with 1/10th of the labor?

Hint 3: Dare I repeat it? Registering with a consulting platform like Consultport dramatically cuts the time and cost of finding the right clients and freelance consulting projects. They even undertake much of the admin load, handling contracts and payments on your behalf.

Quantum Leaps for Freelance Consulting Projects

You may want to win more freelance consulting projects. If so, you will need to combine dramatic improvement to the outcomes of client projects, so that they will refer and vouch for you, with equally dramatic improvement in the way you run your own business to improve efficiencies, skills, and exposure.

Being part of the online consulting marketplace with your name associated with a reputable consulting platform is the cherry on the top.