In consulting, answering questions accurately, and getting accurate answers to questions is crucial to taking appropriate action. But it can be a lot more complicated than it sounds.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to answer the question and only the question and sometimes it’s important to look beyond the question for a better answer.

At Red Pill, we believe answering the question and only the question is appropriate during the RFP process we use when looking for email vendors that may be a fit for our email deployment clients.

The reason: If they can’t respond to an RFP properly, how are they going to respond to our client’s day-to-day requests properly?

Integrating a new email vendor into an email sender’s system is an arduous process—so arduous, a typical email vendor relationship lasts at least two years even if the client is unhappy. Requiring accurate, succinct responses to RFPs is one way we narrow down possible vendor choices at least to those who can follow directions.

RFP responses from vendors who demonstrate they can’t follow directions get tossed. This is the first layer of protection from long-term painful relationships we provide for Red Pill Email clients. It’s a simple method for immediately eliminating obvious misfits.

Then there are times when it is necessary to look beyond the question. It’s how we operate with our clients and how we expect the vendors we help clients select to interact with them.

Consultancies such as Red Pill Email and the email vendors it collaborates with have experience across a large swath of organizations. As a result, when a challenge arises with a client, chances are they have seen the same or similar challenges with other clients and helped overcome them. That experience can help lead to solutions that may not have crossed the client’s mind.

The trick to successful consultant/vendor communication with clients is knowing when to simply answer the question and when to look deeper into the circumstances behind it.

Typically, questions that require simple, straightforward answers come early in the relationship or before it officially begins: “Do you offer X?” They are questions aimed at getting information rather than advice.

Questions that require more than simply answering the question are typically aimed at finding a solution: “I need to accomplish Y. how do I go about it?”

That said, identifying which type of question is which isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds. To do it, a consultant must climb inside the client’s head. What are his/her goals? What are his/her supervisors’ goals? What are his/her day-to-day job responsibilities and activities?

At Red Pill Email, we have developed a comprehensive process that helps us understand clients’ needs holistically. We learn the specific needs and wants of every department and how they affect other departments and the company.

Armed with this knowledge, Red Pill Email consultants can tell when a question is simply a question and when it is something more.