The value of intial consultations and why I charge (and you should too)

free lunch erp consultingOn any given day I receive from 1 to 3 inquiries (today alone I counted 5) from people already using MAS 90 accounting software or thinking of switching. Most start off just like this:

Hello Wayne,

I am looking for someone that can assist a firm that has started a project but has hit a wall with Visual Integrator and generating reports from the MAS database.

Can you please get back to me by email so that we can discuss?

Reading between the lines I can  infer with a decent amount of certainty that the original “Business Partner” sold a package of software with promises that implementing some difficult feature(s) would be “no problem”.

Now it comes time to implement that feature long after the software has been sold. Suddenly that “no problem” is a big problem.

So the consultant (or end user) starts to reach out for suggestions and assistance on how to actually make the software work.

What they’re really looking for is a free push in the right direction. A “Hail Mary” pass if you will. That one FREE idea that can be provided to turn this failing software engagement around. Note the liberal use of the word free?

If you’re providing these types of ideas for free you’re foolish.

Make no mistake about it –  these inquiries whether from another consultant or from the end user are looking for a free handout. Sometimes it’s called “brain picking”.

So long as you’re providing a freebie — the requester is your best friend.

It’s when you try to turn the meter on and charge that the tables suddenly turn. Calls aren’t returned. Emails go unanswered. You’d provided an hour or two of great advice – so why doesn’t this company want to hire you to implement it?

The next time you encounter this situation try an experiment.

Instead of opening your free knowledgebase – offer to perform a paid engagement. Set the fee at a fixed amount – say $500 – and agree that you’ll provide an hour of phone time, a written recommendation, and an hour of follow-up discussion.

After you’re done the person can either take your advice and hire you — or find a consultant to do so.

You’ll be shocked how many people  completely disappear at the first mention of money (my guess is that at least 95% will never be heard from again).

That’s why we charge from the first minute for our knowledge.  If a company is reluctant to pay anything – doesn’t it make sense to know right at the start – BEFORE they’ve freely picked your brain?

After all, knowledge is what we sell.

Why do so many consultants go jumping into these engagements time after time and provide an hour or two of free ideas only to have the requester (or their consultant) implement their good and valuable information on their own without so much as a dime of compensation?

The next time you’re approached by a company that’s not a client – have a ready answer. The question can be quick but the answer won’t be free.

2 Replies to “The value of intial consultations and why I charge (and you should too)”

  1. Wayne,

    Those are all good thoughts. I’ve been in this business along time, and you are right, about 95% of those looking to pick your brain, will back right off, when you try to be compensated for the work.

  2. Wayne,

    I could not agree more fully. In fact, I recently held several sessions with staff to address this issue not only for non clients but for clients as well. Often we get inquiries from clients where they are basically asking us to impart to them the how of what we do where the transfer of said knowledge may be an hour or less, but the acquisition of said knowledge was over the course of months and years.

    I have explicitly prohibited my consultants from providing this type of knowledge. In fact I have coined a term for this: “Intellectual Embezzlement”

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