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In November last year, I read an interesting blog post published by Hubspot*. It discussed the sales trends they anticipated for 2023. Especially the first point that emphasized the importance of us, as providers, not primarily selling solutions but identifying challenges, caught my interest. This is, of course, not a revolutionary or new idea, but it is an area where I believe both us in the consulting industry and our customers have a long way to go, and where the potential for value creation is significant. I am not saying that consultants are no longer experts in delivering good solutions, but perhaps the ability to identify challenges has been somewhat overlooked.

Use specialists to make a "diagnosis"

Imagine that you are sick and want to get well. Is it enough for the doctor to say they have seen sick people before and give you medicine based on this simple criterion? Or do you want the doctor to ask you questions, conduct a thorough diagnosis, and explain the problem before prescribing medication? Do you need to take the medicine once, or perhaps for the rest of your life to get rid of the ailments? Do you need only one type of medicine or maybe several?

I understand that it is a complex landscape with different procurement methods and, in some cases, strict rules, but the message is about the importance of understanding the cause of the problem. It is crucial to give the experts who will fix this issue the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and understanding to handle the task in the best possible way. This goes both ways, and it is not only essential for us as providers to focus on gathering enough data to solve the customers' challenges, but it is also essential for the customer to give us the chance to do just that. Some customers already do this, but in my experience, there are still many who have a long way to go. Would you diagnose yourself during an illness, or would you let a specialist do it?

Involve specialists throughout the process

Acquiring consulting services is often a time-consuming process, and ideally, the problem should have been solved yesterday. To save time and resources, it is tempting to identify what one needs and then search for it in the market. Here, I believe the customer would benefit from being patient and considering the possibilities of sending out a more open request. "This is our problem." "This is what we want to achieve." Then, let the suppliers come up with proposals and show what they believe is the best way to reach the goal, based on the information provided, but also through an ongoing facilitated dialogue throughout the procurement process.

The procurement process may take a bit longer, but I believe it will lead to a better solution, delivery, and a closer partnership, which can also be time and cost-saving in the long run. Consultants are experts in Best Practice and have often been involved in many projects, companies, and industries. So why not take advantage of this expertise during the needs assessment phase as well?

Consultants are experts in Best Practice and have often been involved in many projects, companies, and industries. So why not take advantage of this expertise during the needs assessment phase as well?

Are you doing yourself a disservice?

All too often, I see companies doing themselves a disservice by being overly specific in using long lists of unrealistic "must-have requirements" in procurement requests, only to end up having to go through the procurement process multiple times and eventually having to compromise on the requirements anyway. Is industry experience really essential? Does it have to be one individual consultant solving the task? I believe that customers can benefit even more from the experience consulting firms possess by engaging multiple minds to identify and solve a task. My experience suggests that this almost always leaves the customers satisfied.

Is the selection based on "years of experience" outdated?

With technological advancements increasing exponentially every year, the categorization of competence based on "years of experience" has also become outdated. For example, there would be little point in asking for a consultant with 8 years of experience in ChatGPT. I have encountered several such examples over the years. Consultants should be priced relative to their expertise and how well they can understand and solve the customer's problem, not based on how many years they have been in the workforce.


So, dear customer, give us the opportunity to show you that we understand the problem you are facing and let us together find the solution. Get rid of exclusive procurement requests where the solution to a problem is tied to a single role when it could be solved by a team, and don't search for a superman who doesn't exist. Yes, the procurement process may take a little longer, but I believe it's worth it!


Contact Gard Søhoel - to learn more about how you can create value through challenge identification.


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