Consulting Tips for Business Relationship Managers – Part 1

Posted | Category: BRM Capability | Contributed

tipsThis will be the first in a occasional series of posts on consulting tips for Business Relationship Managers (BRMs).

BRMs Are Consultants – Like it or Not!

I’ve learned over the years that some BRMs do not like being told that among other things, they are:

  1. Consultants
  2. Salespeople

As one that has over 30 years consulting and over 8 years of selling experience under his belt I’m always offended that businesses are turned off by these labels!  Dan Pink does a wonderful job of reminding us that To Sell Is Human in his excellent book of the same name – a book I highly recommend for any BRM! I guess I should write a book called something like Business Relationship Management Is Consulting! But I won’t (collective sigh of relief!) But the truth is, the successful BRM needs a healthy dose of consulting skills. And the successful consultant needs a healthy dose of selling skills, but we’ll save that for another post! (Another collective sigh of relief!)

A Few Nuggets of Consulting Wisdom

1. When in trouble, ask questions!

There are several aspects to this. The first is that asking questions buys you time to think. This is not so important for introverts, who tend to think before speaking, but can be a game changer for extroverts who tend to think BY speaking! Second, questions elicit more detail and clarity about a given situation. This minimizes the chance that we waste time (and lose credibility) by answering a question or offering advice when we didn’t really understand the issue. Third, it’s important to ask “powerful questions.”  Learning how to ask questions that really probe is a critical consulting skills.  See Eric Vogt’s “The Art and Architecture of Powerful Questions.”

2. If you want to understand a dysfunctional system, follow the money!

A take-off from the police bromide about crime. I find funding of services is almost always ‘broken’ and drives dysfunctional behaviors. Fixing the funding model is usually quite challenging, but simply surfacing how holes in funding models lead to dysfunctionalities can be quite helpful. For example, when services are essentially ‘free’, consumption of those services tends to be irresponsible and without regard to cost drivers. Take password resets. If there is no cost to me for using a help desk to remind me how to reset my password, then why not? If I understood that each password reset costs the company $250 (for example) and that this will show up on my department’s budget in some way, then maybe I’ll learn how to do it myself, or at least use the self-service password reset feature.

3. The greatest danger with communication is the illusion that it’s taken place.

I learned this chestnut from Dan Appleton, a data modeling guru, about 25 years ago! You see the traps of miscommunication come up time and time again. The quote helps me remember to do everything I can to validate what is being communicated – this takes us back to the point about asking questions!

4. Meet the partner where they are – but know where they need to go!

This is really key. The business partner is where they are because they have a certain set of experiences, a context and a frame of reference. To try to convince them that “this is what you need to be doing” when they have no possible way to relate to the recommendation is at best futile, and at worst frustrating to them. As an illustration, a partner may say to their BRM: “I need help evaluating these potential Customer Relationship Management solutions.” To say, “No you don’t. You need help understanding the root causes to your CRM problems!” is unlikely to be well received. A better approach might be to say, “We can certainly help you with that evaluation. In order to determine the evaluation criteria, we should work with your team to understand the root causes of the issues you need to solve with the CRM. Who should be on the team we work with to investigate the root causes?” My example may be a little crude, but hopefully it makes the point.

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