I’ve learned a lot over the years of consulting with various companies. I’ve decided to share some generalities now that some of my earlier non-disclosures have passed. I’m still not going to mention any specific companies or industries. We’ll keep this on a general level, because I don’t believe in sharing any private information even after an NDA has passed.
Let’s start from the very beginning of the process of working with a new client.
This is actually one of the most important parts of the whole future relationship. The reason is that it dictates how they perceive you and how much weight they give your input.
Here’s a case study on a situation I ran into
Several years ago I was consulting a company, for now we will call them Company X. This was one of my very first “big” consulting gigs and I was so excited to work with that company at the time, that I agreed to provide consulting for them at a discounted rate (that they knew was a highly discounted rate).
I agreed to it because I wanted them on my “resume” of consulting clients. Company X happened to be a giant in their industry, and they were in the same industry as a company I had consulted a little over a year earlier, whom I helped make a lot of money (Company Y).
Consulting begins. Now, I started to realize right away that Company X was making the same mistakes that the previous client was making, and I started to tell them exactly how to fix that problem, what needed to be changed, etc. It was very clear and obvious to me what had to be changed, and I conveyed that to their higher ups. However, this time around they didn’t want to take any of my advice as the previous company (Company Y) had taken (whom ran with and made a TON of money off of, by direct result.) Instead they wanted to do endless meetings and unnecessary paperwork and focus on literally everything except fixing their problems/increasing their profit. Essentially utilizing me for the complete wrong reasons.
This happens more than you would think in the consulting business. Someone hires you, you have the answer to their problem but for one reason or another they don’t act on that advice. We’ll get to my belief on what makes company not take advice well (ego can be part of it too).
A few more weeks went by with Company X and when the first months renewal came up, I had some other offers and projects on the horizon that would net me much more money (since I was consulting at a discounted price) and because I didn’t want to take money from them and have no results on their company (even though it was due to their inaction) – I was looking for great case studies and to build up my brand, and this wasn’t helping in that cause since they were extremely slow and inactive to my advice. I gave up on the consulting deal with this company and moved on.
Less than a week later I received a frantic call from a friend at Company X who had just been given a hard deadline of when they needed to increase profits by or their would be some major restructuring at the company. He seemed in fear of his job, etc. I explained to him that I was already working on 3 other projects at the time and that they would have to pay me much more money this time to get even a fraction of my time, and that I wasn’t happy with how things ended having had the answer to their problem over a month ago and they took basically no action and didn’t regard anything I had to say to help them.
So I reluctantly agreed to do this, for the much higher premium since I was busy and had to outsource one of my other projects now. I was kind of irritated at the whole thing, so I told them I wouldn’t be doing any unnecessary meetings, and it would be a 1 month trial pending they take my advice. I wasn’t looking for a paycheck to do nothing, I was looking for a case study of how I increased profits massively for big companies.
However, contrary to what I thought was going to happen, things were much different this time. All of a sudden (because I charged what I should have charged from the beginning, and laid down the new rules) they regarded my opinion much more and actually listened to (almost) all of my advice. They went on to not only hit their profit goal, but they beat it by more than double.
Later down the road, I had talked with the company and basically came to the conclusion that because I gave such a discounted rate, they didn’t take my advice seriously and didn’t act on anything and saw me as the low man on the totem pole that they could just use for advice on their marketing tactics (that weren’t working). Later when I was charging more, and they knew I could easily leave if they didn’t listen, AND they had a profit deadline – all of a sudden I was like a rock star in the company and everyone was taking action on my input and utilizing the consulting how they should have from the beginning.
The moral of the story for me is that you can never discount yourself. I mean that more than just in terms of a consulting salary too. When you lower your perception by accepting something that’s not an ideal scenario, it never seems to work out. I think this applies to all marketing and business in general. People like to assign a value and perception on you and your product, and if you help them to lower that perception and value it’s probably not going to work out.