Selecting the Right Consultant

Jesse Hopps

Selecting the right consultant for your organization can be a very daunting task. Choose right, and you have a very successful project and everyone is satisfied; choose wrong, and you have a recipe for disaster. Use Demand Metric's downloadable Consultant Evaluation Matrix to compare your potential consultants across 5 key dimensions.

What Makes a Good Consultant?

  • Relevant Experience - strong candidates should have excellent academic credentials, recent experience (2-3 years) in your industry, and have worked successfully with companies your size.
  • Skill Set - critical skills for consultants include: extraordinary verbal/written communication, listening skills, knowledge of vendor solutions and compatibility, project management, technical skills, business acumen, analytical reasoning & problem solving ability, team-building, leadership, creativity, strategic planning & prioritization.
  • Professionalism - solid consultants should offer references and testimonials for their work, be sensitive to political issues, always be punctual, display honesty & integrity, dress appropriately, and certainly have no axe to grind.
  • Methodology & Tools - the methodology should be transparent and flexible. Additionally, clear deliverables, pricing, and timelines should be present. Enquire as to the toolset that will be used, to ensure your organization is not paying for the development of a new Consulting Methodology & framework.
  • Personality - this soft skill is very important; senior staff must respect your consultant and be accessible as required. Don't overlook the character, and passion your potential consultants express, as it is a good indicator of their willingness to give 110% effort and quality for the entire project.

Action Plan:

    1. Document Requirements - before you go into the market to find the right person for the job, be sure to have a good understanding of what you are looking for in the first place. Document and prioritize your project requirements, in the form of a Request for Proposal (RFP) or similar method.
    2. Research Top Candidates - speak with peers and colleagues in your industry to identify which firms, or particular consultants, have a strong history of delivering projects in your area of need. Industry associations are another great place to start the research process.
    3. Conduct Initial Interviews - invite your top 2-5 consulting firms to an informal interview. While this can be done over the phone, looking each consultant in the eye is a much better way to judge his or her character. Ask for any reports or thought leadership they have contributed to their subject.
    4. Compare Contenders - use Demand Metric's Consultant Evaluation Matrix to do an apples-to-apples comparison across the 5 key dimensions: relevant experience, skill set, professionalism, methodology & tools, and personality.
  1. Check References - before signing on the dotted line, check the references you are given, along with a few indirect references from their customer list. Typically this list can be found on their company website.
  2. Make a Decision - after reviewing proposals from your top 1 or 2 consultants, make a decision and move forward with the project. Be leery of proposals that are based on a Time & Materials (T&M) cost structure. You should favor fixed pricing & deliverables over time & materials.


Choosing the right consultant can be a difficult task for any executive. Use a systematic evaluation method to separate the wheat from the chaff.