3 Reasons Why Consulting Assignments Fail

Let’s have a show of hands – everyone who enjoys going to the dentist put your hand up.

I can almost hear the response – “What, are you crazy? What a silly question”.  So let’s try another one and let’s make it a multi-part question.

Hands up everyone who enjoys hiring; OR working with; OR even sitting down at a networking lunch next to a consultant.

I’m prepared to wager money (not a statement to be taken lightly when made by a Scotsman) that the response was similar. In fact the only variable in my mind would be how many more people prefer their dentist to a consultant. Why is that?

The answers to that question range along a scale. At one end we have business owners who are not really sure what, if anything, the consultants they hired actually achieved. At the other stand the entrepreneurs who hired consultants to do something – like increase sales or generate more leads – and it didn’t happen.

If we could be objective about the topic we might be able to agree that it’s not always the consultant’s fault when things go wrong. But it is true that we (the consultants) are often holding the gun when it shoots us in the foot. There are a number of reasons why that is the case. Here are 3 of the more common ones.

1. Trying to solve the wrong problem.

Let’s use the example of increasing sales or generating more leads.

When sales drop a common reaction is to assume the problem lies with the sales people. So the solution is to train them in appointment making, presentation and/or closing skills.

The same thing happens when leads begin to dry up. The assumption is that, if we have marketing campaigns, they aren’t working. And if we don’t have marketing campaigns we need some.

The next step for the owner is to start talking to either sales training or marketing consultants.

Let me use a medical analogy to explain what happens next. Let’s say you have a sore shoulder. Your family doctor sends you to see a physiotherapist and a surgeon. Odds are the former will suggest physiotherapy – at least for a start. But the surgeon will probably suggest surgery to quickly solve the problem before it gets worse.

Why does this happen? In 9 cases out of 10 it’s not because the physiotherapist and surgeon are driven simply by wanting to make money. It’s because most of us – for the best possible reasons – are predisposed to see a need for that which we know. And if the symptoms – whether they relate to medicine or business – fit, we react accordingly.

But every now and then the problem isn’t that the sales team’s skills are weak or that our advertising campaigns don’t work. The real problem is that our competitors have introduced more advanced technologies offering more features/greater value. Or it’s that they have adopted innovative processes which have reduced their costs, allowing them to reduce their selling prices.

Sales skills training or introducing creative social media campaigns are simply not an effective response to those problems. And adopting them is the result of faulty analysis – by both the business owner and the consultant.

If you were going to let a surgeon cut your shoulder open the odds are that you would get a second opinion before letting him/her begin. Why would you not do the same with a critical business problem?

I’ll talk about the second and third reasons why consulting assignments fail in my next post, later this week.

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Tags: business, business owners, consultants, entrepreneurs, hiring consultants, increase sales, Jim Stewart, marketing campaigns, marketing consultants, more leads, ProfitPATH, Working with Consultants

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