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#328: Consulting Among Friends

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 16, 2010
How do you respond to consulting colleagues who, with no prior relevant experience, take on contracts in your area of specialty and then come to you for help? Am I being competitive by not wanting to share my years of education and experience that give me an edge?

It is difficult to see someone with less experience serving a client for whom you presume you could provide better service. There are two responses, either of which might reduce the odds of this happening in the future.

First, determine how the client selected your colleague instead of you. What does your colleague provide, in the client's eyes, that you do not. It may be that you are not known to the client and your colleagues was the only presumably qualified consultant available. In this case, (sort of) shame on you for not having a better market presence, and it is something you can address. On the other hand, consultants usually think they are selling competence, when in fact clients are buying confidence. There are lots of consultants around with enough skills and experience, many with more than enough for the job at hand. It is possible that the client trusts your colleague even without the superior technical expertise you know you have.

Second, decide under what conditions you will help your colleague with your expertise. Treat them like any other client for whom you would devote time. Of course, you can provide 15 minutes of general advice as a friend, but at some point it becomes paid consulting. Just like you could ask a friend who is a doctor about what kind of flu is going around without feeling you are crossing the line, but you wouldn't want to ask them to do a complete physical outside of a professional setting.

Tip: Respect the client's choice of consultant. Treat it as an opportunity to learn and grow. As to your friend, offer to work together for a fee - don't be embarrassed about asking, since this is what you do for a living and you invested a lot in the acquisition of that knowledge.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  learning  proposals  prospect  reputation  your consulting practice 

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Michael E. Cohen CMC MBA says...
Posted Thursday, June 17, 2010
I'm in complete agreement wiht the above. Rearding networking with friends, if you want o do this, be sure to inform your friend(s) that you are interested in getting business; otherwisde they may not think of you when an opportunity develops. Also, refer business to friends as appropraite; one of the best ways to network is to do things for others.
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