How to say no to consultants

   In my continuing effort to appear to be a busy executive, I rarely will see anyone without an appointment. Occasionally, however, the receptionist will announce someone with a company name that tweaks my curiosity, and if Iíve had my morning nap and thereís a commercial break on "Jeopardy," Iíll consent to see them
   So it was last month.
   Christopher and Elizabeth, impeccably dressed as professionals, entered my office. They each handed me a business card and perhaps they noticed the look of horror on my face as I realized why their company name sounded familiar.
   "Youíre management consultants," I said as nonchalantly as possible. "And from one of the largest firms.
   "Thatís right," beamed Christopher. "Thanks for seeing us without an appointment."
   "My pleasure. Iím not interested."
   Christopher pounced on this opening. "Do you think your company is operating at maximum efficiency and that your profit levels are as high as they can possibly be?"
   I hate that. Of course not. But Iím not going to admit that to any bozo off the street. "Yes," I said, but obviously not with enough conviction.
   It was Elizabethís turn. "Let one of our top analysts do an in-depth survey of your business, pinpointing problem areas. No obligation to continue with our consulting services once the survey is completed."
   They were not deterred. I told them there was no way Iíd take the next step and pay for consulting services to implement the improvements the analyst would undoubtedly recommend. They said it didnít matter, just let them do the survey.
   After saying no 30 times, I got intrigued. I also got them out of my office by saying yes
   Their "top" analyst, Lawrence, arrived the next morning, having just finished a job in Denver. We shook hands and he wasted no more time, immediately grilling me on every aspect of my business
   After hours and hours in intense discussions with Lawrence over three days, I had to admit the $350 was very well spent. With his questions, he had highlighted some problem areas that might have sat dormant for another 10 years without correction
   "Thank you very much, Lawrence," I said. "Youíve been a big help. Weíll get working on some of your suggestions immediately"
   That wasnít what he had in mind. Lawrence ripped off his analystís mask and behind it revealed something I hadnít seen in three days from him . . .the salesmanís smile.
    I tried to remain calm. "What do you want from me?"
   "I want our consultants to implement these changes for you," he replied.
   "How much?" I asked. Here we go again.
   "Approximately $34,000. But if youíre not satisfied with our work at any time, just tell us to go home and the billing stops."
   After Lawrence finished his 150-minute speech as to why Iíd be an incompetent fool (Iím paraphrasing) if I tried to implement the changes myself, I reluctantly agreed to consider retaining his company to draft the initial plan, which would cost about $6000. I told him to call me the following week and Iíd give him an answer.
   "No," he said. "If you canít make a decision right now then we close the book on you. We wonít call."
   I couldnít make a decision. He left. And he was right. The closest I ever came to retaining them were those few minutes in my office. After that, the momentum was lost.
   They called anyway, a few weeks later. It was a member of the Executive committee. He said they werenít satisfied with the analysis Lawrence had done and wanted to know if another analyst could be sent out, at no charge.
   I was tempted, but I had bled them enough. Instead, I showed him (at no charge) how his company could save a quick $2,300.
   Now thatís consulting.

 

 

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