Over the years my views and philosophies on being a consultant have changed and are constantly evolving. There are certain things that consultants can incorporate into their businesses in order to maintain a high level of service to clients.
One of the things I have tried to do is be neutral when it comes to vendors and technology. While this is an admirable goal to have, you will find yourself gravitating toward technology you and your clients find useful and proven. It’s okay to be a certified consultant for a specific vendor. This brings up a whole new set of issues I will talk about later. There are two keys to take away from this. The first is to understand the underlying technology as a whole. If you think a particular product is superior enough for you to become certified in it, know why. Know how it is better than the competitors and where it lacks compared to the competitors.
The second key is to not be influenced by becoming a reseller/distributor for particular products. If you want to become a distributor, then focus on that. If you offer consulting services, become an integrator for that product. This way, you are not influenced by the latest promotion for a particular product and try to make it fit for a customer when something else might be better.
As a consultant, you will probably find yourself working with specific products more than others. This is natural. I have found myself working with Cambium ePMP products more often than some others. I believe in the product, so I recommend it to my customers when it fits their situation. However, becoming an expert on a product line has pitfalls.
The first pitfall is you are an expert not paid by the vendor. If you are doing an excellent job on Social media and SEO your name should be popping up in google searches for that product. For example, if you do a search for “Cambium Consultant,” the first page that pops up is a page with my info on it. In a way, you are representing the brand without knowing it. This can lead to you answering questions about a product without any direct compensation for your time. I have always strived to answer questions on topics I am an expert on. There is a fine line between answering questions to a client who has not paid you money and one who has. Every potential contact is a potential client. You have to decide how to handle that grey area. This is an area I struggle with regularly. I am a Cambium ePMP expert and get many questions on this and that from folks who are not clients. I try and answer as many as I can, but at the end of the day, the paying clients do take priority.
Distributors and ordering
I mentioned earlier about me personally, not wanting to be a distributor or reseller. I don’t want to have to meet quotas and absolute minimums to keep stock of products. Some companies are better at this than I ever could be. Having a good relationship with a few good distributors is a good idea. Over the years, I have developed good relationships with several of these WISP distributors. There are some I shy away from due to they have competing services. There are a few vendors and distributors I have referred folks to, and the next thing I know they are offering them consulting services or saying, “I can fix that real quick for you”. They may not even realize they are hurting my business. These are distributors and vendors I personally stop referring business to. If it’s the right product, I will still include them in options for clients, but I make sure I keep on top of the relationship between myself, the vendor, and the client.
There are distributors out there who do very well offering consulting services. The question to ask is are they selling you products because the product makes them money or is it the right product for you? There is much room for either way.
Just some random 3am thoughts