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#675: Never Upsell Without Permission

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 14, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 14, 2011
At the risk of sounding unprofessional, when is it appropriate to for a management consultant "upsell" to a client?

To be clear, let's assume you are talking about adding services to an engagement beyond those initially agreed to. While some might consider it "unprofessional" to focus on selling more services than the client has initially asked for, doing so is appropriate if such services are in the best interest of the client at the time you propose them. Be aware, however, one of the greatest complaint clients have of consultants is the suspicion that the consultant will find an unending set of problems that the consultant is "uniquely positioned" to solve, potentially staying forever. Not all consultants follow the creed of "be bright, be brief, and be gone."

Some consultants consider themselves "order takers" by just doing what the client asks them to do. Part of your responsibility is to continually diagnose a client's situation and advise on additional value-added services within your skill set and ability to deliver. There is an inappropriate time to suggest additional services, and that is in the first days after you start the engagement and before you have established the legitimacy of your services and client trust in your judgment. We have to earn the right to suggest additional services.

Tip: At the beginning of each engagement, mention to the client that you will be continually evaluating opportunities for further improvements of his or her organization as your engagement proceeds. Ask them if they would welcome your diagnostic findings and suggestions for additional services if you detect a valid need. As the engagement proceeds, note those improvement opportunities for which you or other consultants could provide services. As long as you are delivering on your original commitments, discuss how these additional services could be integrated with your current services. The key is to establish explicit terms under which you are may suggest additional services. If they say no, honor their wishes. By not doing so and, as your last slide of your final briefing, listing all the additional services you could provide, you just strengthen the uncertainty in their mind of whose interests you really serve.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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