Choosing the right consultant can create tremendous value. This relation is confirmed again and again in studies. However, finding the right consultant is a challenging task: due to an ever-growing provider market with many spin-offs, takeovers and new entrants, the lack of transparency is continuously increasing.
Considering which consultant is suitable starts with the question about the right size and the consulting area or consulting market sector the consultants should be choosed from: Do you need a large consulting house or a highly specialized consulting boutique? Which type of consulting is right? Should it be a classic management consultancy? Or can it also be another service provider (e.g. advertising agency, IT service provider)?
Challenges also arise when checking the experience and quality of the consultant: What specialist knowledge must the consultant bring to the table? What experience of the consultant is required? What criteria and measures are necessary to verify the quality and credibility of the consulting firm and its consultants?
From long list to evaluation and final selection
Once the most important requirements towards a consulting firm have been defined in terms of size, type, required industry and functional competencies as well as "cultural fit" (= which consultant fits my company and my employees), the first step is to compile a "suitable" long list of potentially eligible consulting firms. Here, one can rely on one's own experience with consulting firms or recommendations from one's own personal network, but in most cases, additional market screening is necessary to ensure that no relevant consulting services and consulting firms are missing.
This phase of consultant selection then is followed by the call for and the evaluation of the submitted proposals. At this stage, it is important to assess whether the proposals reflect the problem, task and objectives correctly, whether the approach, project organization and the planned project schedule and timetable meet the expectations and whether the fees, the qualifications and credentials of the consultant or the proposed consulting team are shown clearly and transparently.
Those consulting firms and proposals that best match the requirement criteria are placed on the short list. However, the evaluation of the submitted proposals alone does not allow for a well-founded decision on the consulting firm of choice. Further criteria such as reliability, service and customer orientation, the "chemistry" between client and consultant, the flexibility of a consultant or the consulting team can only be evaluated based on a personal presentation of the consultants.
The final decision: The best price-performance ratio counts
Depending on the problem at hand, consulting firms can differ significantly in their basic characteristics, solutions, approaches and offered prices and fee structures. It is therefore recommended to first separate the assessment of performance and price criteria and to identify the consulting firms and offers that are best able to solve the problem at hand. Among these "best" it is necessary to judge which consulting firm offers the best price-performance ratio. This does not necessarily have to be the most favorable offer, but any price premium must be justified by a correspondingly higher added value of the consulting firm.