HOW TO CHOOSE A CONSULTANT – 10 TIPS MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION
February 26, 2012
People often ask me how to know if a consultant or coach is right for them. I’ve decided to help out by creating a list of questions that should help anyone making such an important decision.
1. A RECORD
Look for a steady and consistent track record. There should be numerous successes and some failures. I would be very leery of a consultant without any failures.
Having been around awhile is another good sign. If the consultant is new, ask about track record in previous careers. (Someone from the corporate world who has worked in 15 unrelated departments in their 20 year career there, is not an asset!) A good consultant should have a history of wins. I would be concerned about one without any successes.
Formal education is good but don’t let it be the deciding factor. Workshops and seminars might be more valuable than a Ph.D, depending on your needs.
4. DEDICATED LEARNER
Eager student, applied learner and seeker of knowledge – The last thing you want is someone who finished college and hasn’t learned anything since. A consultant should be up on the latest knowledge and able to offer you cutting edge ideas in their area of expertise.
5. RELATIONSHIPS COUNT
A consultant should have wide reaching and solid relationships. These affiliations not only tell you about the consultant themselves but also the esteem in which they are held by others.
6. A PROGRAM FOR SUCCESS
Looking for a specific program that provides results. Having a documented program is imperative to success. Ask to see the plan that they use to help their clients. If they can’t or won’t produce a plan, be cautious.
Do they have people who have worked with them successfully? They should be able to provide you with at least a few names and numbers, even with confidentially issues, someone from a different industry than you are in should be able to do so. If the consultant can’t or won’t do that, I would be skeptical.
8. CREATIVE IDEAS AND AN OPEN MIND
Look for evidence of creative ideas. Ask questions that should stimulate creative answers. Try something like, “What is an out of the box solution for this challenge?” “If this, this and this were to happen, what would be one unusual way to deal with this issue?”
Coming up with right or wrong answers isn’t important in this exercise, however that might be nice, but the key is to see some creativity and openness to you driving this line of questioning.
Are they secure in their ability to help? Are they passionate about your project? Are they listening to you intently and offering some answers? These are all signs that they can and will be committed to you and your project. Any signs of distraction, lackluster interest or insecurity about their ability might be a sign to keep looking.
10. MOST IMPORTANT POINT OF ALL
Do you feel like you want to spend time with this person? Is there a rapport between you two that you can feel? Do you like, trust and feel safe with them. If you can’t answer yes to these questions, I would strongly recommend that you move on.
I almost always meet my clients, face-to-face before engaging them. (Sometimes this is not possible as my clients are in other parts of the world.) I want to know that I like them, enjoy spending time with them, and that they are serious about their success. In fact, I ask my potential clients the same questions I have outlined here. The last thing I want is a client who falls short in any of the above categories. This would signal a possible defeat for me and them.
For me, it’s absolutely imperative that I like my clients. I know that going into a relationship is going to mean that we are together for years to come. (Many marriages don’t last as long as my client relationships.) They will be introduced to a highly respected group of my past and existing clients and I have to know a potential client is going to fit in nicely with my group.
Ask for recommendations. A successful consultant should be happy to provide you with at least 5 solid references.
I hope this helps you choose the right consultant for you. Don’t worry they’re out there. It really is a very personal decision to make and once you have chosen, you should feel the weight of the world lifted from your shoulders. Good luck.
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