Skip Navigation

Consultants Need to Go the Extra Mile

By Michael Zipursky

The other day I got a bit upset with a contractor I was working with. I’ll tell you what went down and share a piece of advice that has served me well over the years.

I was preparing for a monthly client strategy session and asked this contractor, we’ll call him Tom, to complete some research and put it all together so I could use it at the meeting.

Where the Problem Starts

When Tom finished the work he sent it over to me. I wasn’t happy. While he had gathered some information and had done the research, it sat disorganized on the page and wasn’t complete.

Little pieces of critical information were missing. A price here, a stat there. They made up maybe 15% of the contents – but without them the document wasn’t ready for the meeting.

A 2 Minute Fix

It wouldn’t have taken Tom long to add this other information in. In fact, he just needed to access the websites that he had already listed and spend a couple more minutes writing down a few more numbers.

So why didn’t he do it? Because Tom is lazy.

It’s not just Tom though. The business world is filled with people that try to take shortcuts.

The Small Stuff Adds Up

The problem with shortcuts is what you skip over. One shortcut on a project might not be a big deal, but a bunch of little ones add up – quality suffers and it reflects poorly on you and your business.

I told Tom to go back and do it properly. I called him “lazy”, maybe I was being a bit strong but I wanted to get the point across.

You see, when you go to a meeting you need to be over prepared.

Too many consultants go to meetings with the bare minimum. The problem is they know what they want to say but they forget to take into account the questions their client may ask them.

How to Ooze Confidence

Being over-prepared gives you confidence. You walk into that meeting with everything in order and no matter what question your client springs on you – more times than not you’re prepared to answer them and have documents to show them.

Next time you’re preparing for a meeting, ask yourself, “Am I really prepared?” If there’s any hesitation … you now know what you got to do!

18 thoughts on “Consultants Need to Go the Extra Mile

  1. Sarah Klinger says:

    So true, thanks for the reminder Michael!

  2. Hey Michael. Sometimes I think the issue is not laziness, but a lack of context. When people understand the full context of their assignment, why it's needed, what it will do, why it's important, they will have a better appreciation for what is needed and go that extra mile. Sometimes it is laziness pure and simple, but sometimes it's a lack of motivation inherent in not understanding the big picture and instead seeing a small piece of it.

    • William – thanks for the comment! That's a great point and I agree that the big picture and 'reason of why we're doing this' are explained from the start are critical to the success of each project.

  3. OMA AREH says:

    great lesson. Through experience,I have learnt that the first step to confidence is preparation, now you have taken it to another level OVER PREPARE IS IT!

  4. Lawrence W. Nash says:

    Good stuff, and a great reminder! It is always better to have it ( over preparation) and need it and not have it. In my view, this would be the USP (unique selling proposition) that makes the distinction on it's face the separation and difference between the rank amateurs and the consummate professionals as consultants in what ever industry we're in.

    • Lawrence – While this definitely can be a USP it would need to be focused on the benefit it provides a client. While many consultants don't prepare enough…a client would expect that they would – so stating that you prepare more than others probably wouldn't do much to win more business. If the message could be stated and positioned in a way that it clearly provides a benefit to them and you can prove it (through testimonials for example) a fine USP it may make. Thanks for the comment!

  5. I love being over prepared! Not only does it show you go the extra mile but even if you never use that extra prep in a meeting or interaction the confidence really is invaluable. Case in point: I gave my first lecture as a new adjunct prof today and I spent days getting everything ready just for this first interaction. It went off amazingly the students loved it (it's macro economics) and I never once doubted myself. Win -effing- Win! Now I set the tone and they know that this is going to be a dynamic and interesting approach to this stuff and that they can trust that I know what I'm talking about – im the youngest prof in the dept. It really does work.

    • Nunzio – right on!! That's a great example and you said it better than I did. Thanks for sharing that!

  6. A fantastic and timely article- I'm currently preparing to present two proposals to different prospective clients, and I certainly get that 'over-preparedness' is crucial! As you say, if nothing else it raises your own confidence, and this sharpens your mind and your performance when it comes to dealing with questions. Apart from researching to the nth degree, I find I do a lot of mental rehearsal- sometimes I even rehearse out loud in the car as I practice answering questions or make sure that key points I want to make roll easily and naturally off the tongue!
    I must say that my personality type (a high C on the DISC analysis) probably helps me a lot with this- I am a details person, and having facts at my fingertips is just naturally important to me. I believe that this detail-orientation doesn't come as easily to some, and this is what we sometimes observe in those we call 'lazy' or (my typical observation) 'can't be bothered'. Your thoughts?

    • Jacki – Great comment! I agree that focusing on the details isn't naturally a part of everyone's work habit. Of all the successful consultants I've met and worked with over the years the majority of them had to (and still do) make a conscience point of focusing on the details and being over prepared (even if it doesn't come to them naturally)…or they have an assistant that keeps them on track. It's this additional effort that they put in that so often separates them from the crowd, helps to get them more referrals and leads to new business.

  7. Michael, I completely agree with you. When I am working with a client, I learn as much about them as I can. I pay attention to their behavior. I learn what is important to them, and I attempt to think like them when I am working on a project for them. This has served me very well. Before I present the project, I look at it critically from their perspective. If I were them, what would I say? If there is a question about something, I go ahead and answer it. If I feel an area may be perceived as weak, then I fix it. I don't know if Tom would be considered "lazy." Instead, I think he could be described as having a weak work ethic. When I turn in a project, I have a great sense of pride in knowing that I have done absolutely everything that I could have for this client. If a question pops up, then it is generally a small issue. They are generally very pleased with the product that I present to them. It is my goal to exceed their expectations. Fortunately, most of the time I attain that goal. If I fail to exceed their expectations, I evaluate how the presentation was received by them. I make notes on what I can do better next time, and implement the changes on future projects.

    • Margie – that's a great process that you use. Thanks for commenting and sharing!

Leave a Comment, Join the Conversation!