For better or worse, one of the first questions I often hear from a prospective client revolves around budget. Some address it meekly, others boldly. Regardless, when their needs involve media training, presentation skills sharpening, or Congressional testimony preparation, the top issue for many is moolah.
I get it. If you can’t afford it, why bother with a deep conversation? At the same time, there are loads of other vital issues that need to be discussed, too. Consider questions like:
- How much experience do you have as a communications training consultant?
- What publications do you offer workshop participants?
- Do you follow up or are you a “here today, gone tomorrow” type?
- Can you share your written ethics guidelines with me?
For a more complete list of questions you should ask any prospective training consultant, see the Appendix in “A Buyer’s Guide to Communications Training Consultants.”
Still, that budget question frequently seems to be top of mind. What’s the right answer? I can only speak for myself. I try to be as transparent as possible, patiently explaining that many factors impact a budget:
- Why do you believe you need media/presentation skills/Congressional testimony training? It may or may not be the right solution.
- How complex is your issue? Complicated issues demand greater preparation on the consultant’s part.
- How many participants do you envision? An executive workshop is fine with up to three people. Any more than that begins to negatively affect active learning, so we’ll need to structure the engagement more carefully.
- How sophisticated is your messaging? Do you have a handle on it or do you expect me to start from scratch?
These, of course, are not the only factors in play, yet I hope it gives you some notion of what an initial conversation might sound like.
There are many considerations when it comes to budget. Some consultants feel comfortable with an off-the-shelf commodity approach. Count me out. Over 17+ years in business, I find that doesn’t work in most situations, not necessarily for me, but for my clients (hey, my life would be easier if I could quote a one size fits all rate; it just wouldn’t do justice to those in need).
One budgetary aspect that potential clients do need to heed up front is how a consultant charges. As noted above, some have a flat, off-the-shelf fee. Others charge on an hourly basis. My approach is to determine professional fees on a project basis. This gives more certainty to the client (and, yes, to me). They don’t need to worry about their consultant running a meter every time they ask for advice, and they aren’t nicked by a thousand little cuts for mundane expenses. Besides, from an ethical point of view, it’s too easy for an unscrupulous bad apple to pad the invoice. I’m a big fan of offering budget certainty, which the project approach does.
What do your initial client/consultant conversations sound like? How do you handle things when dollars are the first issue raised? Clients and consultants — what say you?