The mission of the freelance consultant begins with a precise diagnosis of the applicant's needs. This first step is far from obvious. A poorly defined assignment is a failed assignment. It is often at the level of the analysis of the needs that everything will be played out!


The difficulty in presenting a situation. A need is not always correctly or fully expressed, for various reasons:

  • The applicant's concerns are so obvious that it will be very difficult for him to talk about them in a comprehensive and impartial way. Yet these are two important characteristics on which the future mission will be based.
  • Sometimes they will speak too quickly, choose their words poorly, imagine that the consultant understands and take certain shortcuts, omit important information and ultimately paint a completely incomplete picture of the situation.
  • Sometimes the applicant is unaware that he or she is expressing his or her need incorrectly and thus transfers to the consultant, whom he or she will describe as "incompetent" or "inexperienced", his or her difficulties in drawing up a complete statement of the situation that poses a problem.

In practice: give examples

During the first meeting, it can happen, despite long exchanges, that the consultant does not manage to understand the real need of the applicant. The latter does not know how to express his problem, and even less the objectives he wishes to achieve. His speech is completely unstructured.

It is necessary to abandon questioning, since it does not produce results, and to propose a certain number of examples by asking the prospect in which he recognises himself. Often, when the person hears the consultant describe several situations, he or she becomes more at ease and can explain how some situations have points in common with what he or she is experiencing. And how some others are not comparable at all. His answer becomes structured and, by successive approximations and comparisons, the consultant ends up understanding the problem that is being presented to him.

Guiding the other... without imposing

The attitude of the consultant in this first phase will also influence the interlocutor's story. A lack of listening, too much certainty or too much self-assertion may "muzzle" the future client and extinguish any desire to express himself. The consultant will then gather only a tiny fraction of the information that should have been in his possession.


Integrating a situation

Rephrasing reflects the consultant's ability to quickly grasp a new situation and understand its ins and outs. In this sense, it reassures the applicant when it is well done.

Rephrasing allows the consultant to leave with an exact vision of the situation and the problems. This will make the drafting of the proposal much easier!

But beware! If not properly mastered, it can lead the applicant to decide not to work with a consultant even if, on the other hand, the qualities and expertise of the latter have been recognised!

Regularly ask your interviewer to validate and complete your rephrasing.

This necessary interactivity is facilitated by the use of a number of key words or phrases:

- If I have understood correctly, ... ;

- So you mean;

- Tell me if I am wrong... ;

- You say that..., but
still... ;

Is that right?

Avoiding extrapolation

"THE trap to avoid: reformulating with other situations and other clients in mind, and therefore filling in the blanks, i.e. the areas that are still unclear and should be clarified, with elements from one's own experience.

Not all assumptions need to be made, and only information that has actually been heard by the consultant will be reformulated.

When a consultant reformulates the needs of his future client in order to check that he has understood everything he has been told, he may be confronted with a remark such as "That's what I thought, consulting is taking what the company says and repeating it in a different way by invoicing him!

This reflects the prospect's high expectations from the first meeting. After expressing his need, he would like the consultant to give him some leads. It should then be re-explained to him that it is fundamental to understand the problem well before seeking solutions. A consultant who is able to reformulate, in his own words, what he is told is a consultant who understands the situation perfectly.

For the duration of the mission, the consultant puts himself in the applicant's shoes, but maintains an external perspective that guarantees both neutrality and greater insight. Being able to provide a simplified view of the prospect's reality is in itself a high value-added act from which most prospects can benefit. Rather than being offended by this, the prospect should be pleased: it is a guarantee that his problem will be well treated! Finally, the prospect should realise that it is only as it progresses that the consultancy service will demonstrate its effectiveness.

Being a teacher

By rephrasing very clearly what he hears, the consultant indicates to his interlocutor in what form he would like him to express himself. He therefore invites him, in a subtle way, to teach himself. For example, if he sketches what the other person says on a flip chart, it is likely that the other person will use the flip chart to sketch his ideas.


It should be noted that, in 90% of cases, when a consultant intervenes, the need has been identified - at least partially - a long time ago. But no one thought it was worthwhile to call in a consultant at the time. As time goes by, the need becomes more and more urgent. When the file finally arrives on the table of a decision-maker and the choice to resort to a consultant is made, this one, once the phases of invitation to tender and selection are over, has only very little time to carry out its mission. Unfortunately, the consultant too often intervenes, like a fireman, when the need has turned into a problem.  

We take stock:

It is important that the consultant obtains from his client his real needs, correctly expressed, and the degree of urgency of the situation. There must be no ambiguity or unspoken words. This is a prerequisite for the success of his mission. For this, it is necessary to :

  • Listening to the applicant and getting him/her to talk.

The aim is to get an accurate, complete and objective picture of the situation; D adopt the right attitude that encourages the other person to express themselves without feeling muzzled or influenced; reformulate and synthesise the information provided. Rephrasing allows both parties to ensure that they are on the same page and that there are no misunderstandings.





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