Sales people are taught to never take no for an answer.
Consultants should be taught never to take the absence of a now as a yes.
As a consultant, you don’t have any executive powers towards your client. You consult. You analyse. You suggest. You explain. But you don’t decide. That’s the prerogative of your client. And their obligation. Therefore a key aspect of consulting is about closely aligning with your sponsors and to be sure to have them on board – explicitly – before going ahead with anything; an implementation, a financial commitment, a presentation or workshop. And “aligning” includes making sure to have explicit approval of your suggestion, your approach.
Without that explicit approval, it’s far too easy for some sponsors to hide from responsibility, to duck for adverse consequences (which, nevertheless, have been weighed against the benefits and found worth the trouble) and – to hang you, the consultant, out to dry. Believe me. I’ve been there.
The best way to avoid this risk is not to “solve problems for clients” but “to help clients solve their problems” which I will write more about in a coming blog post.
The second best way is to hang in there, to be persistent in making sure you get an explicit approval by your client.
Don’t go ahead without an explicit yes.