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How to Hire a Marketing or Sales Consultant July 18, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Solving Business Problems.
Tags: , , , ,

There are times when hiring an outside pair of ‘experienced eyes’, also known as a ‘consultant’, makes sense. The Big Dogz know when, how, and why to hire one for any particular issue. The Big Dogz don’t screw around when it comes to making sure they get their money’s worth either. It seems that anyone who’s taken a marketing 101 course in college is a qualified ‘expert’ on marketing. If it were only true. There are certainly some really good marketers and sales consultants out there…but many are just awful and have know business telling you what do to.

Here are some of my thoughts as to when it makes sense to hire an outside expert. Hire a consultant when you:

  • Haven’t been able to address or fix the marketing/sales problem yourself. Have you done all that you can? Have you consultanted with some of your network friends? Just hiring a consultant because you don’t have the time, is a waste of precious resources…mainly, your money!
  • The marketing/sales challenge is well outside your expertise. You cannot know everything. If you think you do, I don’t want to meet you.
  • Are faced with a major marketing/sales crisis and you can’t afford to ‘learn as you go’. There is a price to pay for trying to fix it yourself. If we agree that time is money, just figure your hourly rate x the amount of hours you have already spent + the cost of the time you will probably wiz away trying to fix it unsuccessfully yourself.

Here are a few questions I’d ask any prospective consultant about helping me with a business challenge, marketing or not.

  • Give me some examples of how you’ve fixed this kind of problem before. How did you determine it the root causes? What did you prescribe to deal with it? What kind of success did you have?
  • Why do you think your are the best prepared to help us deal successfully with this challenge/problem?
  • Tell me about how your work with clients from start to finish. What do you hold yourself accountable for while you’re working with us? What do you expect from me, the client?
  • Tell me about your worst consulting experience. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
  • Tell me about your best consulting experience. Why do you consider it your best?
  • Can you give me three bonafide (not some friend or relative) clients I can call who have worked with you before?
  • What kind of follow-up do you provide after you’ve completed the assignment?
  • If you take this assignment, what would you consider a successful and complete outcome? Hold their feet to the fire. Be sure the outcomes to measure success or failure are clear and understood by both parties. No vague stuff. Get it in writing.

You can probably come up with more questions but these will get you on the right path. Hiring a consultant to do anything in your business is a serious step. Make the wrong choice and you’ll waste resources and have a bad taste in your mouth about ‘consultants’. Find the best one and you’ll understand why you spent the time and effort to get them in.

What do you think? Have any other questions you’d ask a prospective consultant? Write to this blog post and let me know!! I don’t know everything…



1. Dave - July 30, 2008

Thanks for the helpful tips. How would you suggest narrowing the field of potential consultants prior to actually talking to them on the phone? How can one tell the difference between the real guys and the wannabe’s without endlessly searching Google and calling whoever happens to be at the top of the list? credentials, awards, etc? is there a specialized “Google” just for consultants? some kind of standardized ranking a la Avvo.com (a lawyer ranking site.)


2. David Dirks - July 31, 2008

Dave: I think if you vetted them with the line of questioning I listed in this post…you should have a good feel for whether they are wannbe’s or the real deal. I would always talk to bona-fide clients of theirs as well. I’m not aware of a ranking site…at least a valid and well-used one that helps to rank ‘consultants’. If you find one…let us know! Thanks for taking the time to post here.


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