Consulting is sort of like dating

Consulting is like dating…

You don’t give everything at your first meeting.

Almost every consultant I know (including me) has done this: You meet a prospect for coffee, get along brilliantly and start brainstorming ideas on how to solve the problem they want to hire you to solve. By the end of the meeting, you’ve given them so much free consulting they don’t need to hire you.

Kind of like you put out on the first date and he never called again.

I did a quick search on “What to ask a prospective client” just to see what would come up. Here are some of the questions that resonated with me.

Have a list of questions to ask them about their business and the project they want done. Then let them talk. Sample questions could include:

  • What is your objective with this project?
  • What happens if you don’t achieve this objective?
  • What business problems are keeping you up at night?
  • How are you solving these problems now?
  • What resources for solving this problem do you already have in place?
  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • What is your budget and time frame for this project?
  • How do you prefer to communicate on this project – email, telephone, in-person meetings?
  • If everything went perfectly in this project, what would that look like for you in a year?
Conversely, I’ve also met the over-eager power partner prospect. Years ago, I met this guy at a networking event, then met him for coffee. He almost immediately set off my “Danger! Danger Will Robinson!” internal alarm when he jumped into plans for us to go into business together. I soon found out that his “surefire deal” was something he found on Craigslist and hadn’t bothered to check out much.

The purpose of an interview meeting is to see if you and your prospect are a match. Is he/she a good client for you? And, are you the right consultant for them? This does not include you solving all of their problems at that meeting.

You should certainly give your prospect some examples and success stories of similar projects you did. Especially give them some references to check out. But as my friend and sales mentor Marty Wolff once told me, ” If you’re not on the team yet, leave your ball in the car.” Good advice.

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