Get Your Money’s Worth from Consultants: 3 Questions to Ask

Two years ago, my favorite client asked for a proposal for a major initiative. It’s right up my alley and I was delighted to be invited to help them achieve their goals for the project.

Now, I think these people are the best thing since Sputnik and they think I walk on water, so it’s a mutual admiration society. Excellent relationship. I asked good questions and got good answers. I worked hard on their proposal taking care to stay within budget, deliver the pieces that would meet their goals, and offer added value. I was sure I’d nailed it. They agreed and accepted it.

And then all hell broke loose. The economy tanked,  the sky fell in, and my proposal was put on hold indefinitely. I understood and over the two years, we’ve exchanged a few staying-in-touch notes.

Last month they called with a request to begin immediately. Or even sooner. Of course, their objectives have changed since we’d last met and my recommendations changed in kind. Nonetheless, I got it done–with projected timelines as tight as I felt I could make them.

Again, my proposal was accepted. But before they sent the signed contract, they called with a request to push up the dates. 

Please understand that I really like these people and I was eager to give them what they want. What’s more, I pride myself on my flexibility. Hey, it’s part of my brand.  So I figured I’d work weekends, pull in some extra help, push it to the limit–and acquiesce to their request. 

Then last night–somewhere between counting baby lambs and deep REM sleep, I awoke in a panic. What was I thinking? These people deserve my best efforts and I am committed to delivering exactly that. They may not realize it, but I’m as deeply invested in their outcomes as they are–or nearly so. In good conscience, I couldn’t allow them to compromise results by pushing the project through in a compressed and unrealistic timeframe.

Okay, I may lose this bid. If so, I’ll be hugely disappointed, but I called this morning and laid it all out. I’m still waiting to hear.

The reality is that there are only 3 questions every buyer should ask themselves before they engage a consultant.

1. Do you trust this consultant?

2. Do you believe they will be fair in all dealings–from pricing to performance, and everything in between?

3. Do you think they can deliver the results you want?

If you say “no” to any of those questions, find another consultant. If you can answer “yes” then allow the consultant to guide you. They know what they’re doing; that’s why you’ve called them in. Let them do what they do best–and get your money’s worth.

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