In business the key is to find, promote and satisfy a specific customer for your specific product or service. Not every customer is desirable for your image or brand (see When your brand gets accepted by the wrong consumers
In consultancy the very same principal applies, and should be rigorously applied in the evaluation of a potential customer. If the customer is not happy with my intervention and actual results they will not recommend me to others, and far more important, may actively campaign against me.
Sell your service to those who can use it, or are willing to try it. Do not take on a customer who shows the following “red flags”. Openly discuss these concerns before signing the contact and accepting the job.
You should be 100% convinced that you understand the company’s goals and their resources dedicated to solving the problem. You should be 100% convinced that you can meet or provide the information required in order for them to meet their goal and objectives. You should be convinced that the organization understands exactly what you are offering them and the time required.
5 Reasons for a Business Consultant to say NO to a Potential Client
- An organization that hires a consultant to tell them they are doing everything correctly. This type of company would like to use a professional “outsider” to validate their behavior, methods and results.
A company that is going through the motions, but not interested or involved in implementing your ideas. Discuss this with potential clients before hiring. Ask if there is money and time budgeted for implementing new ideas and procedures. Suggest hypothetical situations and ask how the company would react and why. What resources (time, personnel, money) are they willing to dedicate in order to solve the problem?
- A business that is in obvious imminent danger of bankruptcy, closure or elimination from the marketplace. These types of organizations are seeking any type of life preserver and willing to accept any help, but often times it’s too late. They are often desperate, broke, pressed for time, faced with massive problems that cannot be solved quickly, many times the internal atmosphere is corrupted by power struggles, bad attitudes, and low morale. This type of business is a challenge to a consultant, but my questions are always, why didn’t they ask for help and advice when the problem took on serious proportions, why did they wait? How will it reflect on you as a consultant if you take the job and cannot turn the situation around? Do they have the mental, emotional and financial resources to follow and implement your ideas?
- An organization that is in an obvious leadership battle, they want to use you and your ideas to “overpower” their internal adversaries and strengthen their own powerbase. Who is hiring you? What position do they have in the company? What are their reasons for hiring a consultant? Who is supporting the idea to bring in a consultant and who is against it? Why?
- A company that does not have a clear reason or objective for hiring a consultant. There are great reasons to bring in a consultant; to hear new ideas, to solve a specific problem, to provide motivation and education, to identify potential problems or opportunities, to get an professional opinion from outside of the corporate structure just to name a few. If the potential client cannot clearly explain what they want or what they expect you to do, watch out.
It’s hard to walk away from a customer with money, but it’s even worse to take the job when you can’t deliver the expected results.