How to find new consulting providers for your projects? | Podcast

Sometimes it is important to understand what your options are before defining your requirements. You can look for consultants before or after writing your RFP, depending on how well you can define your needs…

On this week’s Smart consulting Sourcing podcast, Consulting Sourcing Expert Hélène Laffitte explains how to find new consulting providers for your projects.

Key Takeaways

There are many talented consulting firms out there. But ultimately, the success of a consulting project is a human-to-human journey. Meet the partners, talk to them and their former clients. It is the only way to make sure they are a good fit for your needs.


Hello and welcome to episode 13 of our podcast, smart consulting sourcing. The podcast about consulting procurement.

My name is Helene and I’ll be your host today, each week I’ll give you the keys to better use manage and source consulting services. In this episode I’ll explain how to find new consulting providers for your project.

So, last week I listed the main pitfalls when writing an RFP, and the first pitfall I mentioned was, to not write an RFP that was the main mistake.

But you know recently I had a discussion with Joe O’Mahony, the professor at Cardiff business school and living authority on consulting.

And he reminded me that, building an RFP is not always the only way to go. And sometimes, it’s important to understand what your options before defining your requirements are.

And the way to do that is to look at the market, find potential consultant, and then enter an RFI process and co-build the RFP with them.

So, that was a very relevant remark and I would say that you can absolutely look for consultant before or after writing your RFP depending on how well you are clear on your needs.

Dimensions of finding new consulting providers.

But the very step of finding new consultants regardless of where you stand is to define your criteria of search.

So, what are the things I’m looking for? What type of consultant I want to find? But where to start, what are those key markers that I need to look at so the first thing is the capabilities.

So, which is what do they do? And some examples are, you know, strategy, operations, six sigma, branding strategy, and so on.

Another marker is the industry experience, what industry do they work in? It can be retail, glass making, process industries, oil and gas, etc.

The footprint and the geography served where they’re based, and where they can deliver. And sometimes you can add the language requirement to that.

The credibility of a company is also important, the brand, the thought leadership they produce, their partner profiles, this is something that can really be a differentiator between different consulting providers.

They sometimes look the same on paper but through you know reading their thought leadership and looking at their product profile, you can get a sense of exactly who consulting providers are.

And another example is culture business and management.

Culture change from one country to the next and it’s important sometimes to work with local consultants in order to make sure you maximize the chances of success of your projects, because your team will be more sensitive accepting of a consultant that has the same culture than they do.

So, those were examples of criteria and now that you have your list of criteria, you can start prioritizing them, and you know start searching.

How and where to search for consulting providers?

The first step is of course to look at internal sources of consulting providers and that can be a list of preferred providers, that can be recommendations from colleagues or your network, and that can be a database of previous project copies.

Anything that’s internally can give you some names and contact information. And then you can start looking at internal sources, so that can be directory of consulting firms, that can be articles and books written under field you’re interested in,

That’s a very good way to identify ideas or new methodologies or approaches that you would like to try on. And actually you can find both those two information on our new platform

I invite you to have a look we’re still rolling out so, you know, really open to any feedback you could provide.

Another source can be a list of professional association in your industry or in the capability you need.

And finally Google search is my friend or quant or go whatever your religion is in terms of search. But this is also a very powerful tool to find new consulting providers in particular when they’re very niche.

So, now you can look at on one side the consulting providers that you found. And on the other side those key markers that you had identified and really compare those two and build that first list of potential providers.

And the side of that list, will really depend on the size of your project and its strategic importance. In other words, when you’re in a small project with little impact of visibility you can have a very short list while when you’re a very big project you might want to have a quite important list.

So, now that you have your list and if they seem to fit the criteria that you have defined. But you have to kind of screen the specifics to make sure that the features are good.

So, the first thing to do is to look at the background of the founders, very often it gives you the core capability of that company. It also gives you in information about what type of consulting providers you’re looking at. Another thing that you need to look at is thought leadership.

So, beyond the article that you found did they write other thing, who wrote it? What are they new are the documents new or recent do they have case studies that relate to that thought leadership which is the type of project you’re looking for.

Another interesting information about a consulting firm is the partner profile, are they former executive? Are they lifelong consultants? consulting providers?

It’s really interesting to understand how they operate and who you need to talk to because what you’re really looking for is the right partner, the right partner that you will contact and start talking to. Well actually the first thing that you want to do is listen to them.

You want them to explain to you what they do how they do it and that’s the way you can learn about their culture, their approach, and their range of expertise.

You also need to make sure that all the criteria that you identify are important check; I mean you need to make sure that they’re good fit for all those criteria.

At that stage I recommend not sharing too much about the project it’s an exploratory call it’s not a briefing and you don’t have an NDA, you didn’t sign a Non-Confidentiality Agreement.

What are you looking for in the consulting providers?

So, what you’re looking for is really the expertise, the past experience that is a fit for you. And a few details about who could be on board of the team in charge of the project.

But you can give them visibility on the likeliness of the project and the potential timeline and also give them an idea of the budget. If you don’t have a specific number, you can always give some sort of range, to say it’s a small budget, it’s a large budget, and it’s a strategic project.

Anything that can help them assesses the size of the opportunity for them. I always recommend also at that stage to check references.

It’s good to do it when you are working on a specific project and you know what you want to check but it’s also interesting, you know, to get to know what their former clients say about them.

And these references have to be personal, it’s a partner that you want to work with and that’s the partner you want to hear from former client.

And again I mentioned it’s great to have references that are relevant real projects, similar project, and if possible recent. And by recent I mean less than three years.

And of course you want excellent feedback you want to work with the best consulting providers.

So, there are many ways to identify potential consulting firms, but what is important really is to make sure that they are a potential fit for your project and for your organization.

I hope that you are now better prepared to explore the consulting industry and broaden your pool of potential suppliers.

Well that’s it for today, my next podcast will be an interview of Laurent Thomas my co-author of smart consulting sourcing, and he’s a former senior partner Oliver Wyman. He’s currently EVP at Salve. And we will discuss about where to focus in the consulting sourcing process.

In the meantime if you have any questions or want to learn more about what we do at consulting quest, just send me an email at

Bye and see you next week! Au revoir!

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Helene Laffitte

Hélène Laffitte is the CEO of Consulting Quest, a Global Performance-Driven Consulting Platform. With a blend of experience in Procurement and Consulting, Hélène is passionate about helping Companies create more value through Consulting. To find out more, visit the blog or contact her directly.

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