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Does an impartial consultation process really exist? Considering that consultants spend $7,462 per year on marketing, consultancy humor comes handy to paint professional advisors as somewhat vague in their estimations. However, there is a way to manage an objective consulting business. In fact, a fair consultation is an excellent sales pitch for winning new customers. Customers love when they see that you’ve done the legwork and provided unbiased cost estimation. But how can you be fully transparent in consulting when transparency and clarity are based on having the right information that you do not always have? This is why we approach the consultation process at Flash Hub a bit differently.
Why A Single Consultant Will Always Lie to You?
A customer typically comes with a request that looks vague in terms of how it needs to be executed. They like a particular service or product delivered, but they cannot tell you the way to deliver their requirement. This is where we come in. To give the best to our customers, we consult with experts.
Experience has shown us that asking one individual person or organization about delivery is not a reliable way to collect precise and relevant information about a project. The main reason for the lack of impartial consulting is that most experts possess specific skills or experience that don’t always include a broad range of jobs.
That’s not surprising:
- People train to become the best in a certain area.
- They become too attached to what they know best or what they represent best.
- They can’t really be 100-percent unbiased, even if they wanted to.
Therefore, an objective consultation process is tricky. Most agencies that collect information from specific information providers get prejudiced estimations, in one way or another.
How Specific Skills or Conflict of Interest Blur Objectivity
No expert will be an expert on all aspects of a complex project.
Let’s say a customer approaches you with an idea to develop an e-commerce business. You will most likely propose a solution based on your past experience. If you have Drupal developers on your team, they will suggest building a CMS in Drupal, without even considering alternatives, such as WordPress, for example. A similar pattern repeats for most robust projects. There are no expert consultants who can tell you all bits in terms of usability, performance, scalability or other variables included in complex products and services.
If you take this personal mindset and expand it to experts you hire, it becomes clear why asking an individual person is not a good base for a clear estimate.
On the other hand, experts, including consultants, are undeniably salespeople. Their cost suggestions are not only based on their skills only. They also include a healthy dose of self-interest in the consultation process, tooting their own horn.
You have to know how to figure out the impact of skills, experience, and self-interest in the overall set of variables for completing a project. Only then you can say that you’ve completed impartial consultation process.
Why Use a Broader Experience Model for the Consultation Process?
Base the cost estimation consultancy on a broader experience model. Set up a process that helps you collect multiple experiences to make the process for customers as objective as possible. Otherwise, you end up with too many unknown variables and limited individual experiences that blur objectivity.
To get rid of this blurred effect, you need to ask many people. Moreover, you need to ask the right people and the right questions.
Who are the right people and what are the right questions will become obvious as you follow the process we have set up at Flash Hub.
Asking Many People the Same Question
Once you have the big-picture requirements from a customer, you can broadly define all variables which are part of the system you are developing.
- Make sure you don’t ask only one person.
- Don’t ask random people.
- Ask people with extensive experience to avoid conflict of interest.
Let’s go back to the example of a client working on an e-commerce solution. Instead of asking a single Drupal developer because it’s familiar to run the consultation process in this way, go for several experts with a wider range of jobs in their work history. An impartial expert could know about Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce, for instance. They will not favor a specific solution because they won’t have any personal interest to do so. Depending on the question complexity, you can ask 3 to 5 people, or as many as 10 to 20 people.
Freelance platforms provide are a great way to find multiple experts for an even-handed consultation process. The point is not to narrow down your focus to people who call themselves consultants when you do the search. An expert who can provide a valid opinion is anyone with a fair share of experience and job success.
Of course, there are other ways to get in touch with experts. You can even hire a consulting business. However, virtual remote teams of experts provide an extra layer of objectivity because they consider variables you haven’t even thought of. More variables and more opinions provide a clearer picture of the consultation process for developing a product or a service and the associated costs. In turn, you get an extra advantage against your competitors who’ve used individual consultants or a business consultancy firm.
Why Getting Different Answers to Your Questions is Good for the Consulting Process
What usually happens in the process of collecting answers from multiple sources is that you get very different answers to the same question.
That’s a good thing. When this fact comes to light, you’ll understand that you haven’t asked the right people the right questions. Also, you’ll know some variables are missing from the consultation process.
What do you need to do next?
1. Arrange a video call with all experts who provided input.
Gather them in the same virtual space. Ask them the same question at the same time. Here is a list of questions that can help you clarify any inconsistencies in the consultation process:
- I asked all of you the same questions and each gave me a different answer. Why is this so?
- I need to understand where does this difference come from. Tell me more, please.
- Did you make any assumptions or missed variables in the cost estimate?
2. Listen to the discussion.
Although not all consultants will agree on everything, you will learn an important lesson. You will know how to refine the questions.
Fact is, if you don’t know the questions you need to ask about a problem, you don’t really understand the problem. The refined, more precise question can then serve as the basis to collect quotes from specific experts when you dive deeper into understanding what the customers want.
3. Filter the process with specific consultants.
Customers don’t always know how to put a name on technology, for example, understand what is a CMS, libraries, and frameworks. Consequently, they often go for a monolithic technology solution which costs them more than they could get from a molecular approach. But a monolithic system does not provide all functionalities. Customers are often left with pricey and partially ineffective products.
At this point, you need to ask specific questions. This will help you to:
- Gather precise requirements.
- Understand the reality of the problem, and
- Find the best people to solve it.
Customers don’t need an expensive solution that they believe will do everything.
Therefore, break down the questions in small pieces. Such filtering will remove the huge price for a monolithic solution out of the equation. In contrast, you will be able to provide a correct estimate for smaller chunks of work.
Experience as a Game Changer
An objective consultation process is not marked by self-interest. It’s a result of experience, which helps you gain full control and understanding of what clients need.
What’s even more important, you can present this transparent consultancy process to your customers, so that they get an idea of how you’ve come up with prices to what you are selling.
Impartial consulting based on a broader experience model is a powerful addition to the digital agency’s portfolio. It’s also a great sales pitch for face-to-face meetings.
When you present the cost estimates to clients, recommend the best way forward by picking up the most economical variant from the consultation process.
- Offer a clear list of tasks.
- Explain who will do what, and
- Elaborate why do you think that’s the best process for the problem that requires a solution.
You will end up with an unbiased estimate that’s more realistic than the estimate provided by an individual consultant.
This objective step-by-step consultation process can be used as early as in the initial product requirements gathering stage. However, it works wonders whenever you need to provide a more objective picture of project costs.