I work with startups, entrepreneurs and ideators to shape and build their products. My focus is around the IT Solutions but my problem solving always goes beyond the technology realm. Part of what I do is to find technology service providers for building tech solutions. In my 3 years of conversations as an IT Consultant with boutique agencies and freelance consultants , I studied (learnt some things the hard way) what helps service seekers lock the right service provider. I feel, I should share 5 things that are highly critical for effective service provider-seeker conversations.
Am I speaking to the same person as I have exchanged emails with or had telephonic conversation with?
“On call, they sounded like they offer different types of web development services but looking like they don’t seem to do much of e-commerce development.”
If this sounds familiar, we are talking about the same thing.
With technology at finger tips, it is a no-brainer these days to have websites and digital portfolio handy. If the service seeker doesn’t know the strengths of the service provider, they start the conversation with an entirely different expectation. The service provider on the other hand may not have diverse offerings that the seeker expects, but they might we very deep in a niche area like natural language processing or image processing. With the lack of this context, it is very likely that the mismatch of capabilities is misunderstood as incapability of the service provider.
Often, I hear entrepreneurs being cautious about their competitive ideas being copied and replicated in a different form. If they don’t feel secure disclosing their ideas and vision, it is almost impossible for the consultants to offer something that takes them a step further. So, it’s extremely important that the ideator’s IP is protected by all means.
I also hear concerns from the service providers about payment dues that extend forever. The question I hear often is “Are they doing well as a business?”. The risks of service engagements are multi-fold. Is there something that can ease the financial burden on the service charges? May be a fixed initial payment or clearly defined milestones. Assuring the quality of service is integral part of negotiations.
It is very hard to find our GPS coordinates in the product development lifecycle. The product design could precede early-adopter market identification (though ideally that’s not what we would like to have done). For service providers, it is really really important to have this clarity. In some cases, they may not be able to make the best of their assumptions. As seekers, the onus mostly falls on the seeker to paint a clear picture about the opportunity the team is going after. Experienced providers can gather from their industry expertise and give new perspectives. For instance, blockchain app developers know the latest trends on the type of businesses they hear from.
The right domain lead should speak to the consultant. The more the number of hops it takes to do the same pitch to multiple teams the more exhausting the effort is going to be.
I was at a meeting few days ago at a medical device manufacturing company where the CEO, Technology Head and Product Head were in the meeting with consultants while doing the pitch. All questions were discussed over the presentation and the executive lunch that followed. Business cards were exchanged and follow-ups happened immediately after the meeting. Neat!
In some cases, the service providers come back with an indecisive tone after the meeting. It is not clear at the outset what the problem is. The pitch was excellent, the questions are well-answered, the parties sounded completely convinced and have a great energy.
It is very important to establish a strong channel of trust across the parties. There are cases where the pitch is convincing but the track record is not. Or the nature of the market is volatile and company is struggling through a possible melt down. Most cases, the parties are open to discuss the differences. There are cases, where this doesn’t proceed.
In short, the consultant is bringing something to the table that is not-obvious. There are clear gaps that need to be bridged constantly. Trust is a very strong theme, be it on the potential, capability, curiosity or outlook, that sets a good tone for engagement.
Each engagement I worked with relied on one or more of the above factors. This list is definitely not exhaustive! I would love to hear from you about your experiences and perspectives. Please comment and share your feedback.