The objective of the acquisition component is to gain knowledge about the client and their business idea, their stage in the process of starting or growing their business, the state of their business, their strengths and their weaknesses. And you need to seek this knowledge without the client feeling threatened! No-one who attends a business advisory session wants to feel they are under interrogation.
- With a new client, ask why they have come and what they are seeking, for example. Then you can move on to more detailed questions about the state of the client’s business. If they have a problem, even though they recognise they need help, they may nevertheless be embarrassed about their predicament.
- Acquiring information can be particularly difficult where clients are not aware of the real issue, but just the symptoms. For example, they may say, ‘My cash flow is not very good’ instead of ‘I have no sales!’ Begin by asking a few general questions to break the ice and to encourage the client to do the talking. There will be plenty of time for specifics later.
- Do not criticise; this may be threatening for the client and the response will be fight or flight. For example, if you think an idea is poor, help devise some market research with the client that will enable them to discover this for themselves, rather than saying it will not work. Often, they will come back with a different idea, or discuss how to change direction.