The Unprofessional Professional

Casual-Consultant

I’m feeling a bit bothered by this.

I’m a big believer in having respect.

First, for respecting yourself. For who you are, how you handle yourself and what you’ve accomplished.

Second, for respecting others. Those around you and that you do business and have relationships with.

Your clients and prospective clients aren’t dumb. Once they get a whiff that they can’t trust you or that you aren’t dependable is the day they start considering your competitors.

Now, not too long ago I started offering four free strategy sessions a month. This is for my coaching program where I help consultants build marketing systems and plans that allow them to attract their ideal clients, and grow their business beyond just relying on referrals.

Because I have limited time, I ask anyone interested to submit a form to see if they qualify and might be a good fit for the program.

Once someone qualifies we send them a link where they can book a time and day that is convenient for them (it automatically shows when I’m available for the calls).

This is where things can start going downhill.

I’ve had several people who have signed up (that means filling in the form), received an email from me or my team with the scheduling link, and have then selected a day/time for the call. We also follow up with a reminder to each person before the call.

Many of these people don’t show up for the calls! It’s not that they send an email and say “sorry, I’ll be late” or “my apologies but can we reschedule” ahead of time. That would be understandable. People get busy and things do come up.

But no, these are people that don’t do anything. They don’t email before or after the scheduled time. They simply vanish as if they never scheduled the call. Never made a commitment.

I don’t know about you, but to me, not only is it unprofessional. It’s disrespectful.

These are people that say they need help with their marketing. They ‘say’ they want to improve and grow their business. The problem is they don’t respect themselves or the others around them to follow through and do what they say they are going to.

Your clients and prospective clients aren’t dumb. Once they get a whiff that they can’t trust you or that you aren’t dependable is the day they start considering your competitors.

There’s lots of choice out there my friend. Give a client any reason to doubt you and it’s open season.

Professionalism, dependability, trust all count. And they’re all critical factors in building a successful brand and business.

If I’m off course on this, let me know. What are your thoughts?

  • Geoff Bretches

    You are right Michael. As a buyer, I want to know that a consultant is credible, has integrity, before I want to know that they promise results and good pricing. You’ve hit it on the head. Perhaps their mistake, and your reply, will help them learn this now.

  • Ryszard

    Asking to pay even a nominal amount usually works as a good test to differentiate between those prospects who are seriously interested and those who are out there “just looking”.

    ===
    Hi, Michael,

    I have read your article with much interest and I cannot tell you how much I share your point of view. Yet, there is a common pattern I think I can recognize in offering “something for nothing”. I cannot help observing – with some bemusement – that such propositions invariably tend attract a disproportionally high share of what I call “free riders” ie. people who count on obtaining some sort of a benefit without really having much of an intention to (ever?) pay anything for it.

    I guess you reasonably have no expectations to get a solid commitment from 100% of those who have signed up for your sessions. Still I agree that, out of politeness, the “no shows” should let you know in advance, eg. by sending you a note, or if they could not do so, at least remember to say sorry afterwords. That is, if they really felt bound to attend the appointment in the first place.

    From my experience, asking to pay even a nominal amount usually works as a good test to differentiate between those prospects who are seriously interested and those who are out there “just looking”.

    For example, with my partner, I offer an interesting piece of software for data visualization that could be used in the SaaS formula for running audit, transactional or customer experience surveys and then present results in an attractive, easy to grasp management dashboards.

    Recently, we have been asked to show a demo and give a short talk about this product during a training conducted by another consulting firm that seemed interested in purchasing the service so that it could use it with their large corporate clients. So, we agreed to do our demo “for free” as we usually do, this being a routine part of our marketing activity.

    However, since the training session was to take place in a different city, I asked the consulting outfit whether or not they would consider reimbursing us for the cost of a train ticket to travel there. I assumed it was OK to ask, given it would take us a full day to get there and return home, while we could count no more than effectively 20 minutes on the floor in front of the audience (one of those corporate clients potentially to be audited).

    As you may be have guessed by now, there was no reply to my polite request, not even a “no” or “maybe, next time”, or “let’s split it 50/50″, nothing, zero, null. Our prospective “buyer” literally vanished.

    My learning from this experience was, it wasn’t seriously there for us in there first place. So we ticked it off and moved on, having a clear indication they turned out not to be a genuine prospect.

    Take care!

    Ryszard
    ===

    • Ryszard – you’re right that in many cases it’s best to qualify prospects by getting them to make a financial commitment (even a small one). Right now I’m testing to see how that offer compares to the free offer. I won’t get on a call with everyone – I just don’t have the time – but it’s why I’ve asked that people fill in the form so that we can see if they would qualify and potentially be an ideal candidate for the coaching program. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  • Kimberly Crossland

    I’ve run into the same problem. It’s maddening and a very disrespectful way of doing business!

  • Howard Bryant

    In your book you advise consultants against working for free. QED?

    • Howard – you’re right. I don’t see this as ‘work’ but rather as a strategic decision to speak with ideal clients/prospects. I don’t have the time to get on the phone and speak with every person that submits the form. But if the person looks like a good fit for the coaching program, and I truly believe I can help them reach their goals, then it’s a good use of my time to get on the phone and speak with them. That said, we’re constantly testing different approaches and offers to see which resonates best and generates greater results.

  • Strategic Learning Partner

    This does not apply to all obviously, but these are the exact reasons why I don’t bother with consultants. Everyday we get request from consultants wanting to represent our solution and we rarely let them in the door.

    • You mentioned that you ‘don’t bother with consultants’ but you’ve also said that you ‘rarely let them in the door’ – which says to me that you do work with consultants, but have decided to only work with the best of those that approach you and that can provide you with the greatest value. If that’s the case, I applaud your decision.

  • Teala Peterson

    What a coincidence! I am in midst of working on my final preparation as facilitator of a local business which is developing a strategic plan. Part of this lengthy process has been devoted to re-thinking their vision, mission and core values. For the latter, they have identified trust and dependability as the most critical company values in order to re-claim dominance in their industry sector. When I meet with them for our final session on Wednesday, I’d like to take your story and ask them to react. I will guarantee you that the process of truly thinking about how to be the best in the business will confirm your reaction that the behavior of those who so flippantly dismissed your offer of help is spot on.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Teala – you’re welcome to share the story. Let me know how that meeting goes for you.

  • Rick Parry

    Mike,

    It’s wonderful you know who to cut from your email list now.

    Being “not obligated” to consult until January 2nd, starting today, it’s great to have the chance to sit down and respond with a free mind to a situation like this I’ve had happen to me as well as my local field reps.

    In my company the policy is simple… “to get my or a local agents time free of charge, we hold you spot with a $20 dollar bill.

    We hold as little as 5 to as many as 25 or so spots for the month to new or established businesses and charge a $20 up front hold for that spot and if you took that spot and you don’t show up we take the $20 dollars… if you are present… no charge happens.

    For us, it works. If the spot is filled… we have a 70% chance of continued business. We only sell the first step of coming to the appointment along with all the benefits of why the should.

    Now granted these business owners have heard from us more then once and to try us out is free. EXCEPT $20 buck to hold your spot unless you don’t show.

    We have used this for a while and have given free positions after they saw us at least 3 times with the $20 offer to hold. We’ve built the value and when we take the “$20 umbrella” off if you schedule you appointment within the next 72 hours… as a one time offer… they bite… or they are passed.

    We continue to market to them at least once every 3 weeks to stay in touch but move on until they are ready to commit themselves. We tried both and still continue both free and $20 holds in separate campaigns. With completely free we accept they can not show. When paid we expect them to be there of we charge $20. It was a pleasure to enter this conversation. I have followed you Mike for about 3-4 months and respect your style, even if I am not a client, I love reading the short posts.

    • Thanks Teala for sharing the approach that you’re using. Glad to have you as part of the community here.

      • Rick Parry

        I’m not Teala. lol… I do like your posts and it was great to finally comment.

        • Hey Rick – indeed you’re not!! Not sure what happened there. Fixed now and appreciate the comment and you letting me know. Again, a big welcome!

  • Virginia Nicols

    Another proof of the perceived value of “free.”

    • Virginia – yes, free offers need to be used strategically so that the end result produces what you really want. Even with some of my time wasted on people that disappear, the overall process has still been rewarding and great for business.

  • Gary Hitching Assoc.

    Hi Michael,

    Unfortunately, you will always get people with poor self realisation who are clueless to how they affect people around them. The people you refer to would probably not consider themselves as rude or disrespectful.

    I have to say my friend, that the onus is on you to devise a system that virtually guarantees that people won’t drop out. You may for example want to look at adding some phycimetric questions to your screening process that are geared towards determining attributes such as honesty, reliability and dependability.

    I’ve been in sales for a very long time and you have to learn very early on in your career not to take things personally. People will always disappoint you, but for every idiot, you’ve usually got at least one or two who you can always depend on.

    • Gary – Thanks for the comment! Can you imagine if people actually thought of themselves as being rude? I had a laugh just thinking about that and what kind of conversation they’d have going on in their heads. We’ve already refined parts of our process to address some of these issues. My goal in sharing this story is that it might be a wake up call to some and also as a way to for me to express what’s on my mind.

  • Yo Micheal, If I had a dime everytime this happen to me then I will be a rich man. Not only that I had clienst who got to the table when bout sign a contarct wiht me and pull out for no reason. Its just the part of th ebuineses we all face. All you can do id kepp pushing on.

    “Antonio Coleman” Signing Off

  • Deborah A. Johnson

    Michael I would like to first thank you for creating such a valuable resource for consultants. I have been consulting for a little more than 15 years. Today, I only accept clients by referral because it helps to separate those who are serious from those who waste my time. I have considered marketing vs. referrals only but I do not care to deal with the “shoe box of ideas” for a client usually found with aspiring entrepreneurs. In any event, I would be interested in a mentoring session on Marketing with you. Please advise on cost and availability.

    • Thanks for the comment Deborah. Happy you’ve found the site valuable. I’ll send you an email.

  • Allan Schneiderman

    Dear Michael,

    I fully get your frustration. In fact, I have had meetings with potential clients who can’t wait to get started, ask for a formal quote and never respond. Nor do they answer subsequent calls by me. So I am beginning to re-think the best approach to save my time as well. As I do not charge for initial “sales” meetings or quotes, I have begun to ask about their budget to hire a consultant. If the client cannot give me a firm budgetary #, I remind them that this is how I make a living and I ask them quite candidly if they wish to proceed based on my daily fee. I either get the contract, negotiate a price or walk away. At least I don’t spend additional time if the client opts not to commit.

    Best regards and happy holidays,

    Allan Schneiderman

  • Michael, some buddies and myself had this same issue in our consulting businesses. How we tackled that was to cchargea low refundable fee for the strategy session so that the people who were serious followed through and we didnt waste time with tyre-kickers. Worked great for us! 🙂

    • Darren – great to hear from you. Yes, that’s one approach that can work really well. There are benefits to charging a fee but also some downsides (you’ll miss some potential buyers). Depends on your available time and resources (have a salesperson or not that can assist, etc).

  • I agree that the root of respect for others is self-respect

  • Mensima Stanley-Pierre

    Professionals or not, Michael, most people – and that’s what we are at
    the end of the day – don’t commit to what they don’t pay for. I agree
    with Riszard about asking for a nominal fee to help know who is serious.

  • Lilieth

    That is so true. some of these people who has a business they treats clients as if they don’t need them. everyone is working for someone, no matter how you look at it.

  • Someone once said “Something that’s free has no value”. A non-profit I work with offered free event tickets to college students, but we got a lot of no-shows. Charging $5 per ticket greatly reduced the no-show rate, with almost no impact on registrations.

  • Consulting is not for everyone — lets make that clear.. it is only for experts who achieved great success from their experience and work to share ideas and insights that make real sense..

  • Great article. Trust is the most important value that you can offer to your clients. How to establish that trust and maintain is not a walk in the park. Trust should come not only from you but from your employees as well. Create an environment wherein the your prospective clients feel that they always get their money’s worth and much more

  • lordblazer

    I’ve had this happen to me. not as a business owner but as a job seeker. Potential employers would like to have a phone interview with me. Then suddenly once it’s scheduled, they don’t contact me. Or they contact me an hour later. Worse case I’ve had was one employer waited a whole week after the scheduled time to call me and wanted me to make the decision to go down early in the morning for a “trial run” and yea you know where this is going. That was a rough year, from gov’t agencies to law firms. they all treated me unprofessionally. So I left the DC area. Their attitude was “we have tons of candidates that are like you: speak five languages, have a master’s degree, have international experience, intercultural experience, and actually has worked as a consultant. Though we would like to offer you a job we can offer you this free internship instead” yea that crowd of employers.