As a consultant you’ll speak to top managers every day. Moreover you’ll speak to partners and senior partners in your own firm, who are CEOs’ trusted advisers and talk with them on a daily basis. Consulting is not only about coming up with the best ideas or delivering the best Excel models. That is necessary, but not enough. If you developed the best strategy but you are not able to convince your clients, both internal (partners) and external (client’s management), your days and nights of hard work have been totally wasted. Time wasted for you and money wasted for the client.
So, how do you make sure that your ingenious recommendations are understood and build the reputation of a trusted advisor? Mastering CEO-level communication. It sounds easier than it is, since speaking like a CEO often entails doing exactly the opposite of what you would do when telling a story to your mum. Here are 6 practical tips to help you talk like a CEO:
1. Top down, never bottom up
Put yourself in the shoes of a CEO: she has no time for understanding the nitty gritty details of a specific situation. She wants to hear the key message first, and then, if and only if she finds it useful, she’ll ask you to provide details. Always think about what is absolutely critical for the CEO to know, and start with that.
2. Concise, above all
The scarcest resource in the life of a CEO is time. This is not the best time for boiling the ocean or going through an endless number of possible solutions. They want a structured, quick and concise problem solving approach.
Structure is not only about creating a framework at the beginning of the case. It's also about presenting your findings and recommendations in a way that is easy to understand and captures attention. Without the best presentation, all your analyses would be pointless.
Most CEO proposals are loaded with everyone's opinion. And most opinions tend to be based on gut feel rather than facts. CEOs want facts first, to make sure you are in control. Always back up your conclusions with the RELEVANT facts. Don’t overload CEOs with endless numbers, just back up conclusions with the relevant figures to corroborate their soundness.
5. Creators of solutions, not problems
CEOs and (most of all) Partners in consulting tend to be overly anxious. Do not contribute to their anxiety, for their and your own sake. Never mention a problem without proposing a specific solution or the next step to find one. This does not mean that you should hide problems, but rather that you should give the CEO or Partner the impression that they can count on you to solve their most pressing issues.
6. Never caught by surprise
Always anticipate the 3 most logical questions a CEO is likely to ask. Then proactively answer each question before she even asks the question verbally. This makes it unnecessary for the CEO to think critically because you've already done it for her. And getting the answers without asking is what will make you shine in her eyes, more than anything else.
Practising the above 5 rules will be absolutely crucial, not only for your future as a consultant, but also to succeed in case interviews. At My Consulting Coach our experienced coaches will provide detailed oral and written feedback on your communication style after every case interview. The earlier you start to talk like a CEO, the sooner you can be one!
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