When Procurement teams bring in outside consultants, they typically have a few benefits in mind:

  • They want fresh ideas and novel answers to challenges that their team hasn’t been able to crack.
  • They need some FTE flex to tackle a big project that current resources don’t have the bandwidth for while keeping the trains running.
  • They’re looking for outside-the-box thinking to identify new opportunities they are missing.

Whether your company has an established Procurement team in place or is just starting to build one out, a consultant can kick start your practice. That said, everyone has brought on consultants that didn’t end up working out. This can be an incredibly costly mistake that introduces disruptions that will leave you scrambling.
Yet the opportunities offered by consultants can be huge – So, what can we do to ID and root out bad consultants before bringing them in?

The New Consultant Wishlist

Don’t rely solely on a CV or resume - make sure you get insight on a few key elements of a good consultant that aren’t always evident in credentials.

Strategy Development

A consultant's ability to recommend hard-hitting strategies is a staple quality. As such,

  • Does their CV “walk the walk?” Consultants may tout a host of relevant experience, but ask yourself – how often do they cite that experience when discussing solutions? If a consultant doesn’t ground ideas in past accomplishments, how much value did they really bring those other organizations?
  • Are they differentiating your needs from past clients? Every organization is different, and one size never fits all. If consultants assume your organization is identical to other clients, you’re in for problems. Make sure to ask what  about a proposed solution may need to be tailored to your needs. If they haven’t thought this through, treat it as a warning that solutions might need rework later on.
  • Do they treat relationships the way you do? Are you looking to complete a specific, siloed project and have the relationship ends when the project closes? Or are you looking for a more general, wide-spectrum resource to grow with your team? Either may work. However, be sure that any potential consultant understands this desire and can fit within those parameters. You don’t want a one-and-done consultant when a longer-term relationship is needed.


A consultant's past accomplishments may look like a great fit. However, dig into how well that past will translate into working with you.
  • Are you hearing a lot of buzzwords or business speak? Don’t be fooled by flashy, long-winded descriptions that often hide a lack of ability or knowledge. Consultants that can’t explain concepts clearly may be floundering to make up for skill deficits.
  • Are their teaching skills on par with execution skills? When a consultant relationship ends, you want to ensure business can carry on without them. Make sure to discuss knowledge transfer and teaching members of your team how to carry on after the consultant leaves. 
  • Are they good listeners? Is the consultant so focused on their own ideas that they don’t hear you? Some consultants just want to reinvent the wheel without understanding the organizations they’re stepping into, which makes it all the more likely they will propose making the same mistakes you already learned to avoid.

Make Sure your Consultant is a Fit

Finding the right consultant is tricky. Think through these questions the next time you interview a potential consultant to make sure the right resource is brought in.
What happens when the wrong resource is brought in instead? Check back in the new year, as we’ll review a few key questions to ask to ensure any new consultant relationships stay on the right tracks as work progresses

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Brian Seipel

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