Creating a Collaborative Relationship Between Clients and Consultants

How do you get the best answers, outcomes, and results when working with a client? 

The answer is genuine caring. 

When you start a project, it’s easy to forget that you are working with another human being and not simply a client. Think about the people you are interacting with, understand their needs, and take the time to build a personal connection.

At its core, consulting is about forming relationships. When you take the effort to form a collaborative relationship with your clients, it gives them confidence in your abilities and creates an atmosphere of trust.Further, it ensures that all parties involved are working toward a common goal, whether it’s increased revenue, improved operations, or reaching new customers.

In order to achieve this level of collaboration, you must see your role differently. As a consultant, you’re hardwired to search for solutions. But, rather than focusing on solving a specific problem, prioritize helping the client achieve their goals. Help them get the promotion, increase their value, and become more successful.

When you begin with caring, the rest develops naturally.

So, let’s get started!

Build Rapport with Clients

Building rapport comes little by little at first. You can begin the process by using the FORD method (Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams). 

Kick things off with a little small talk to get to know your client. Ask questions about their interests and hobbies outside of work. Get to know what drives them and where their passion lies. It’s important to ask questions, connect with them as a human, and actively listen.

Once you’ve started to build a strong relationship, focus on becoming a source of emotional support for your clients. There may very well be times when they are struggling with a problem and need someone to talk to. You may be one of the few people they can trust to be objective when they need it most.

Allow them to express their true thoughts and feelings. Don’t judge or solve – just listen and ask questions to help them think through solutions. 

Often, the tendency is to prioritize professionalism over personal connection, but this can hinder the development of a true human bond. Rather than maintaining an artificial distance, allow yourself to build real human connection.

By connecting on this personal level, you establish a level of trust that will make it easier for them to open up to you later on. Moreover, it helps you begin to truly care about them and their business, as if it were your own. 

Earn their Trust

As a consultant, strategic thinking and frameworks are your default. Use these skills to deliver quick wins to the client so they see your value immediately.

After you’ve set the bar for your performance, just focus on meeting it consistently. Remember, great work is simply good work, compounded. 

By showing up and delivering consistently, you give the client a sense of control over their project. This lowers their stress and builds trust over time, which will make it easier and far more enjoyable to move forward on projects together.

When there is a strong connection and synergy between you and a client, you begin to truly operate as a cohesive unit. 

Consider the analogy of a rowing team, where rowers anticipate their teammates’ actions, maintaining a consistent pace and reacting in unison. Without this synchronized action, the boat cannot propel forward. 

Similarly, in client relationships, a comparable level of trust and expectation must be established. Clients understand that when challenges inevitably arise, they can rely on the consultant to address and resolve the issues at hand promptly. This shared understanding and commitment to problem-solving solidify the bond between them.

Practice Active Listening

One of the most important things to remember when working with clients is to be present. Whether it’s an in-person meeting or a conference call, make sure you are truly listening to what they have to say and not just listening to respond.

Mirroring is a great technique where you repeat back what the client has said to show you understand. This can be very effective in building trust and synthesizing in real time.

Another helpful technique is the five why’s method. Start with a problem and ask “why” until you uncover the root cause of the issue and come up with creative solutions or workarounds. With this method, you push beyond their canned answers and get to the heart of the matter.

In time, you’ll find that your clients begin opening up to you more often and in a more authentic way. You can continue to nurture this by incorporating a few key things into your listening:

  • Assess the situation in realtime.
  • Probe and make connections.
  • Ask questions to help your clients think through their solutions. 
  • State insights as hypotheses.
  • Ask for confirmation or validation of your ideas.

This process helps you too! It helps get you to the connection and conclusions you need as it happens.

Deliver Good Work Consistently

Smart, talented people aren’t difficult to come by in the consulting world. Consistency, however, is what sets the best consultants apart from the rest.

Good work, compounded over time, sets the foundation for excellence.

To begin with, define the problem clearly on paper. It’s often difficult to get a clear idea of the full situation when you’re operating within the vortex. Then, ask questions and brainstorm with the client. By being a true thought partner, you can help them to see their project from different angles.

You can think of yourself as the great Oz behind the curtain. Give your clients the spark, then let them take it and shine.

Make Your Clients’ Life Easier

This should go without saying, but be client-ready. Mind the calendar, send timely updates and notes, and turn work around quickly.

Take administrative or other low-hanging tasks off their plate if you can. 

Even with small things, instead of looking to them for next steps, offer up proposals and solutions. Your job is to take the work off their hands, not ask them what they want you to do next. This lightens their mental load and helps them focus on their bigger goals.

There’s no shortcut to building a collaborative relationship with clients. But, when you genuinely care about their success, they’ll feel it. And that is ultimately why clients keep coming back to you instead of the competition. 

At Keenan Reid, we know what it takes to create powerful partnerships with clients. We specialize in pairing talented consultants with the right corporate clients to help them reach new heights. Visit to learn more about how we can help you optimize your consulting career. We would love to help you find the right solution for your future.


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