My experience almost universally with prospective clients via the Internet (people you have no prior relationship and who hop onto Google and search for a half dozen consultant email addresses) has been sketchy.
In nearly all cases if I haven’t had a prior relationship with them (they’re on my Internet email newsletter for example) then the initial contact ceases after any mention of price.
Up until the point where the info is free and you’re providing free information – the conversation continues. Notice that I keep repeating one work more than another (Tip: Free).
Now the free model works primarily for consultants who either enjoy working for free or for those who have another service to offer that uses free consulting as bait (CPA firms, Networking companies that sell systems management).
For typical pure ERP consultants – here’s how most online leads roll –
You Know The Lead Found You With A Random Web Search When
1. They are only willing to pay for questions they deem difficult and where they receive the “Black AMEX Card” level of support (instant callback, unlimited followup, unlimited remote logins, additional free quick questions unrelated to their core problem).
2. Their definition of payment is:
- At the least expensive hourly rate they’ve ever heard of (usually in the $60 to $80 per hour range)
- For the smallest fraction of an hour (probably 15 minutes) that they think it took to solve the problem – and then only if THEY deem that the problem is difficult. Quick questions and easy questions are always considered free.
- Initial discussion, research, followup, login time, ancillary questions are all no charge. Similarly if the issue is a software bug then you are expected to fix it for free – including opening a case with Sage (you won’t learn about this until you try to bill them).
- Only pay for actual hands on time solving the problem. If it took under 5 minutes — then it’s no charge in their mind
- If the problem takes 8 hours then they are willing to only pay what they deem “reasonable” and reasonable to them is defined as what their prior (incompetent as per their description) consultant would have charged — so long as it’s not more than $100.
3. These web prospective clients disappear when their problem is resolved. They often promise future consulting work (and LOTS of consultants fall for this trick).
4. These web prospective clients only re-appear when they have a FREE quick question they want to ask (and they’ll keep re-appearing until you mention fee or ignore them).
These are just my observations based on hundreds of interactions (many of which I’ve documented here). Your actual mileage may vary. What do you think – am I off track?