Consultants as Business Partners: Sending the Right Message

Christopher WentlandAuthor: Christopher J. Wentland

In the complex world of health IT, consultants play a pivotal role as allies and business partners for healthcare organizations. As providers work to weave enabling technologies into the fabric of care delivery, collaborating with the right HIT subject matter experts could make or break progress. Ever-growing onus is on healthcare consultants to rise above the competitive noise and demonstrate their value to healthcare providers.

As a health IT consultant, you get one opportunity to make a good first impression. Communication style, physical presentation and personal projection all factor into how you will be perceived by the healthcare customers you are vying to do business with. This article offers practical advice for sending the right message as you endeavor to build HIT partnerships.

Communication

From email tone and grammar to how you personally address your clients, communication style is a key element in relationship building. Early correspondence represents a prime opportunity to listen to clients and establish a firm understanding of their objectives and pain points. Echo what you hear clients saying to make sure you’re on the same page.

The way you articulate yourself digitally and in person sets the tone for the team dialogue. Check signatures to make sure you’re addressing clients in their preferred manner. Demonstrate the expertise they value you for while endeavoring to remain personable and approachable. If you need to deliver an email that is potentially sensitive, have a co-worker read it with you a few times. Delivery makes all the difference. Bring a positive approach to all things—including the negative. Remember that communication matters both inside and outside the office.

Personal Projection

Face-to-face interactions may be the single most influential factor in how you’ll be perceived as a consultant partner. Show up to meetings on time and bring both your knowledge and your humility with you. Don’t send the message to the client that you are anything other than equals in your partnership. Walking into the room and throwing your weight around will alienate team members. Remember that your goal is to help guide the project, not tell the client what to do.

When it comes to being the expert, don’t hesitate to speak up with ideas, but seek out advice from others on the project team as well. This is a great team building exercise that allows you to show your value, but as a member of a collaborative team. It often helps to peg an internal point-of-contact with a good handle on work-site culture to give you an inside perspective of the organization’s priorities and history.

Physical Presentation

First impressions are undeniably influenced by personal presentation. There is likely already an impression that, as a consultant, you must be someone that knows what they’re doing. Live up to that expectation. Control what you can by way of your physician presentation by dressing and behaving professionally. Poor personal hygiene may send a subconscious message of unprofessionalism. Show up 3 to 5 minutes early to be settled in before meetings start.

In the insular world of health IT, word travels fast. Whatever message you elect to send, it will travel. Consistently sending the right message—on behalf of yourself and your firm—is your greatest asset.

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Read the next post in the Consultants as Business Partners blog series: Cost Consciousness and the Bigger Picture will touch on establishing a team dynamic with new business partners.

Read more from other consultants on our Consultant Lifestyle blog.