Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Big Con

I learnt a lot today.
Mostly about how to make things up and sell them to peo... whoops, sorry, I meant about consulting.

Here's how: A couple of days ago, I went ahead and told a prospect something that I thought we could do for them, based on a briefing session by the head of consulting (HOC). And I provided numbers and everything. The same numbers the HOC gave me.

Me: Sure, we can save you 20-25% of ongoing ___ cost. As a matter of fact, we're already doing this for a, y and z.

Client___: (getting interested despite himself) I don't see how you could do that. I mean, there's not that much to do on an ongoing basis... ummm... are you sure about these numbers?

Me: (full of righteous salesmanship, basing my statements on the rock that I think my HOC is) Of course I am. In fact, let me do something: I will send you, by the end of the week, a roadmap, showing you how we're doing this, and then we can talk numbers, and see what we can do for you.

Client___: Sounds excellent.

Me: Alrighty then.

So, bursting with pride for getting somewhere selling a fairly new, unknown service, I go to my HOC, and tell him I need specifics - numbers and roadmaps - to send out to Client___. And he tells me, "Just speak to A, and get the numbers. She's the dude when it comes to this. And oh, if she can't get you good numbers, just ask her to make them up. I mean, she's better equipped to make them up than you are."

When I get over my coronary attack at hearing this, I spend 3 days chasing A and team (who ignore my pleas for information and keep saying, in an appalled manner, "you believed numbers that HOC gave you? Why, for the love of god, why? He's a consultant, he'll say anything!). Finally, with self-imposed mailout-deadline-cum-professional-suicide hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles, at 6:00 p.m. today, said team and I get into an empty conference room. We spend 45 minutes making jokes about the consulting profession (yes, they are consultants), throw some numbers around, do some tweaking, decide to call them real, and put them down for posterity.

No, the mail hasn't gone out yet - it'll be in Client___'s mailbox before he gets in on Monday morning. But next time, I'll be less worried about sending out information like this, secure in the knowledge that if I don't actually have information from consulting, I can just make them up. After all, whether they're making them up or I am can hardly matter.

Oh, and btw? These numbers are now going to be used to sell this same story to other prospects too, now that we have them.

Meanwhile, thinking of all this reminded me of one of the coolest columns ever: Fast Company's Consultant Debunking Unit. Here you go. Enjoy.


Nandu said...

Speaking as a consultant of several years standing, trust me on this one. If you get the job, you'll make SOME changes for the better happen. And then, if you're a GOOD consultant, you'll convince the client that the changes you've implemented result in the numbers you promised. The Consultant's Motto 'Never Give A Sucker a Break!'.....:)

Popat said...

Finally! Someone on the inside confirming what I always knew for fact. I *have* to get Azad to read this before he signs his full time Consulting offer letter.... :-)

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Some day you'll have a cussed client like me who'll teach you about the Bullshit Bingo. I used it on the McK boys and they hated me for it; I suspect you might even find it funny.

As for consultants' numbers, do clients take them seriously any more?


J. Alfred Prufrock said...

And a bit of a coincidence that we posted about old friends and adda at around the same time. Something to do with Pujo being round the corner? innocent look morphs into evil gloating grin


progga said...

Nandu, the consultant's motto is not for me, clearly! I'm a poor faffer.

Popat, I suspect this will not throw Azad off his course!

JAP, I've seen bullshit bingo - and yes, it is funny! Fortunately or unfortunately, I'm not that kind of consultant. In fact, I'm not any kind of consultant. To wit, I have a sense of humour, and I don't believe my own bullshit. *Phew*

progga said...

JAP, is Pujo round the corner? Really? *frog immediately drifts away into pujo nostalgia... which consists primarily of how good fish fry tastes at stalls on the roadside during pujo* Dammit. Now you've sparked hajjaar reminiscence which are banging on the sides of my head and insisting on being committed to the www for perpetuity.

maverick said...

hahaha...good one! Read 'House of Lies' if you can...its like the 'Liar's Poker' of consulting...complete laugh-riot...i think you'll start to relate to most of it!

progga said...

Thanks, Maverick, will check out.