A tale of two Ladies …
Here’s an interesting lesson in selling consulting services that happened to me today.
You see, whilst I own and manage a number of consulting businesses, I also hire consultants to help me. Often. It’s a ‘no brainer’ really. One of the key lessons I learned in business is to recognise when you don’t know something, and then getting some expert help. So I use consultants on my own businesses quite a lot.
So, back to today.
I had phone meetings with two consultants that I wanted to help me with my business. Two consultants who potentially could help me with different aspects of my business. So they were not competing on the same piece of work. I was ready to hire both of them. The initial meetings were via phone as they were both overseas.
The First Lady.
We spent an hour on the phone. We got on like a ‘house on fire’. We chatted about a common interest initially…Dogs. Then moved on to talk about my businesses, what our gaols were and so on. The good points and the bad points.
All the time she was engaged, genuinely interested and peppering the conversation with anecdotes illustrating her knowledge of the key area under discussion. I was impressed with what she had done with other clients.
As we got to specifics, she asked me two questions that got me sitting back and thinking hard. Really hard. They were very smart questions. We pondered the impact of these questions on the opportunity at hand, and agreed to talk again very soon.
How did I feel that meeting went?
Really well! The consultant first built rapport, listened well, provided knowledgeable feedback, and then demonstrated her ability with some really intelligent questions.
Will we work together? Definitely. She quite clearly ‘gets’ our business, understands what we are trying to achieve, and has the track record and experience to help. Deal done. And I look forward to our next meeting, because I know it will be constructive, it will challenge my current thinking and I’ll get some great new perspectives.
The Second Lady
We were 10 minutes late starting the meeting. It wasn’t clear who was supposed to be calling who. The consultant had not provided the right contact details and our PAs spent a frantic few minutes getting us organised. I was already conscious that my later meeting schedule might be heading off the tracks. But no matter. We connected.
After a very brief introduction the consultant outlined what she does. My company does X, Y and Z. We can help you with this opportunity. All good so far. Though I did question the ‘fee’ mentioned for the services. It was far too cheap for all of the services we were going to be provided with.
Coming across as cheap is just as bad as coming across too expensive. The price for your consulting services needs to ‘match’ the value of the services being provided. If it seems too cheap, I’m going to question the value of the services. Will it be outsourced, handled by junior staff, automated. I’m now distracted by the price…
So we then started looking at my business and the opportunity at hand. Things just went downhill from there sadly. This was wrong, that was wrong, this looked cheap, that was awful. I had actually spent hundreds of thousands of dollars with ‘recognised’ experts in various fields improving the parts of our business under review.
I was told one of the previous ‘experts’ we hired in a specific area was obviously not much of an expert…. (Actually he is a recognised World Leader on the topic, within her area of expertise, though she had never heard of him).
I actually found myself being overly defensive, which is not like me at all, or conducive to learning new things, so I consciously had to rein back.
How did the meeting end? With the consultant saying I’m not sure I can help you, you seem to have had all the expert advice you need and so you probably won’t want to hear my views……. Think about it and get back to me.
Will we work together? I doubt it very much. Not much thought required really.
So which of the two ladies are you?
How are you perceived by your potential clients? I have to say after the second meeting I found myself asking myself that very same question! But I relaxed as I realised we would never act in such a way with a potential client. We are certainly Lady Number One.
It’s not about who is right or who is wrong, but how you make your potential client ‘feel’… People buy on emotion, not logic.
Some food for thought maybe?