Consultants are becoming a fact of life. Companies often retain the services of a consultant to help them put together a project and buy at the best prices.
Some companies I work with deal with consultants who seek to acquire their consultative expertise for free, then put the project out for bid. Therein lies the rub. It's virtually impossible for a company to provide valuable expertise and still offer the lowest price. So the company that gives a consultant free help often finds itself losing business to the low bidder.
The answer is not to avoid working with consultants altogether, but to treat them as another sales channel. Focus on selling consultants in advance of the project they're working on. This means selling them the same way you'd sell to a distributor or dealer of your products and services.
Consultants have different needs and concerns than end users, including being able to provide a good product that will satisfy their customer needs with the fewest number of complaints. They need to know the companies they recommend are reliable and live up to their promises.
A consultant who wants your technical help but won't give you a commitment in exchange is looking for a free ride. Of course, we never want to ask a consultant to compromise integrity in recommending you. The real issue is to determine from consultants what they need to see or hear from you to feel comfortable that your company is best suited for the job before you provide the help they are seeking.
Consultants who believe you are the best choice are not compromising their integrity by recommending you. Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Reach via fax at (724) 933-9224, at www.totaldevelopment.com or by phone at (877) 933-9110.