Consultations, properly given and received, are a very valuable service. In this cost-conscious and do-it-yourself time, consults are a great way to get on the right track, pick up the resources you may need, and get a working plan to follow through on. Whether you hire further help for the implementation or proceed on your own, the initial consultation which provides the working plan is critical to achieve the desired results.
We have all experienced feeling less than satisfied after speaking to someone in the business of selling a service or product. Like the salesman who recently provided a quote to my aging parents for the install of a tub which was double what we found with someone else. He tried to take advantage of an elderly couple, selling features they couldn’t use and overinflating the cost. Fortunately this was a quote rather than a consult, and they did not pay for his waste of their time.
So how do you make sure that you get good value from a consultation?
Do your homework first. Ask people you know who are like-minded to you to share their contacts. Do online searches, have a conversation with the person you are considering hiring, and ask for references. Don’t just call the number on the flier in the mail, as my parents did. You are looking for trustworthiness, expertise, great service, and in my world of staging and decorating you want a connection to other great people for sourcing materials and trades.
Ask up front what the cost will be. Consults may be charged by the hour or as a fee. If the person you hire is time efficient, hourly can actually save you money because a quote by the job will have time added in for unknown variables which may not be relevant to your job. I am able to tell people with a great deal of accuracy how long the consult will take so they know what cost to expect. You can always expect to hear me graciously refuse a cup of tea or to sit and chat before getting started.
Ask what to expect from the consult. Ask how the consult will flow and what you should expect to achieve from it. I let people know they will be encouraged to share their motivations for the changes and that we will discuss options and resources. Our time together often includes hands-on work such as furniture shifting and color selections. Knowing this ahead of time allows for increased comfort with the process, and the ability to stop any part of the process.
Know the difference between service and up-selling. When someone gives you a quote for no charge, it seems fair to me that they attempt to sell you on their products and services. That is after all what they are there for. On a paid consultation, however, someone who spends your time trying to sell you another service or product is missing the point. Because I offer further services such as staging rentals, shopping service, and room rearrangement, I will often mention these as an option moving forward for the client to tap into. A mention is enough.
Allow the professional to do their thing. Once you have decided to put your trust in this person, relax and let them direct the process. If you approach the consultation from a position of distrust or micro management, you risk missing out on the information you hired the person to provide. It will be your choice whether to follow the advice in whole or part, but now is the time for an open mind.
Adapt the team approach. View the person you have carefully chosen as a member of your team. Be open with ideas and communication. She or he needs your input in order to give you the best service, and your trust that you will receive great value.