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My firm was recently accused of overselling (the too eager mindset, not the overbooking practice) at a client. It’s not altogether surprising considering the project environment…overly tactical, reactive, short-term focus driven by inexperienced, disconnected teams…but there are lessons here.

Overselling

You look at the landscape through the lens of your products and services. You decide the client does not know what they are doing. You spend lots of time speaking to others who share your perspective (i.e., firehouse syndrome), and you convince yourself the client needs a massive solution. You provide complex answers to simple requests. You embed your resources into your recommendations and mention what you can do as much as possible. You are perceived as too aggressive for the environment. Perception becomes reality.

“Do you want a Cadillac or do you want a Bentley?” -Unnamed Consulting Partner apparently unaware of other forms of transportation

Underbuying

You do not clearly define the desired outcome or the path to get there. You do not secure the resources to execute your ideas. You do not trust external advice or look for proven practices. You look at services as costs to be minimized. You evaluate solutions on price with no regard for quality, risk, time or scope. You overextend whatever you can to avoid buying something new. You wonder why things are not going well.

“Cheaper doesn’t mean more efficient. It may be cheaper to run banks without security guards, hotels without housekeepers, and manufacturers without accountants, but that wouldn’t make those businesses more efficient.” -David Goldhill, Catastrophic Care


The best consulting projects are collaborations. Buyers and sellers (often numerous on both sides) work together to deliver an ideal solution. One’s overselling is another’s underbuying.

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