Posted by: kenwbudd | March 8, 2011

IT consultants! Who needs them?

Here are seven reasons why a prospect may resist the idea of engaging an IT consultant.

1: Consultants cost too much
You have to compare the cost of using a consultant with the cost of not using a consultant. The lost opportunities from not improving your operations could more than outweigh what you invest.

In IT, prospects might raise the objection that they can use their own employees instead. Given that excuse, you can raise the following questions in response:

  • Are the in-house employees capable of performing the proposed work? A consultant can provide specialised and focussed knowledge and experience, as well as a fresh and objective perspective.
  • Do the in-house employees have time to focus on it? If they’re going to try to conduct a separate project, in between their daily duties, there will be delays, shortcuts, stress and resentment of having more work piled on their plates, for no money.
  • Are employees really less expensive? Don’t forget to count the costs of benefits, vacation and sick time, the reduction on quality efforts and the overhead on HR and payroll.

2: Consultants’ advice is common sense
Many employees say “I could have told you that” about something I have advised my client. My response is: “Why didn’t you?” If they come back with “I did, but nobody listened,” then I reply “Well then I’m here to help make your point and to offer an objective and unbiased viewpoint.”

Also consultants are more experienced in collating data, structuring a coherent argument and writing clear communication documents and reports that will appeal, and are acceptable to, stakeholders.

They also have influencing and persuasive skills that are difficult to find in-house, which ties back to the providing an objective viewpoint.

In-house personnel are also open to criticism of mistrust because of their possible ambitions, career goals and targetted prospects. A consultant can stand outside the political cut and thrust of internal management teams and because of this they will have need to the backing and authority of the most senior executive.

3: Consultants Change things
That’s their job. They are agents of Change. If things didn’t need changing, then the client would not have called on you.

Consultants do have to be careful to meld with the environment and their client’s operation in a way that promotes change but doesn’t disrupt the parts that are working.

We need to build trust and confidence with employees, so we can work together to avoid breaking things that don’t need breaking.

4: Consultants don’t fully understand our business
In the beginning this may or may not be the case. Consultants typically specialise in one business area, with a wide range of knowledge in most other areas. They need to be aware of their lack of knowledge and gaps in their client’s domain, and, because they are motivated, they will find ways to quickly bridge that gap.

You cannot be too specialised. Some consultants focus on serving very specific strong vertical markets. That only works, if the market provides enough business.

Most specialise by technology and can’t afford to further narrow our markets by being too focussed or too vertical. Instead, consultants need to have a thirst for knowledge and accept the limits of their expertise. They must be willing to receive input from and actively listen to others.

5: Hiring a consultant is too much work
The effort of interspection i.e. analysing and describing the business needs to a consultant, can be a large part of what the prospect needed to accomplish.

Hiring someone from the outside forces them into looking closely at what the organisation is all about. When only working with insiders, it’s easy to fall under the delusion that you fully understand all of your own requirements but you miss out on that different external perspective and the invaluable experience of what other similar organisations have tried.

6: Been successful to this point without them
Clients who say they are happy with the status quo are heading for a decline. Perhaps they lack the insight and imagination or knowledge, for what they might be able to accomplish, given the right support.

Part of your sales responsibility as a consultant is to describe the possibilities. Opportunities that are attainable because there is no benefit in overselling and promising impossible results. That’s what gives consultants a bad name.

7: We’ve had bad experiences with consultants
Your challenge is to convince your prospect that all consultants aren’t the same. In contrast to “those other guys,” we’re committed to honesty, trust, establishing reasonable expectations and exceeding them, with the prospect of a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

In these occasions you are selling a trusted relationship to the client. A relationship that will last and grow over many years. Trust me I’m a consultant!


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