Talk a Good Game

There is a case against independent consultants in AV/VC/UC projects. Mostly the backlash comes from those who as a result can't sell the easiest thing to the client and get a nice commission as a result. They see consultants as a hindrance who muddy the waters, don't create documentation and isn't there to plug the stuff in or support it. I see it completely different. Hear me out.
My role as a consultant has always been to provide a non-partisan opinion to the end user. My job is to listen to the client and understand their use case. My job has never been to listen to them, then suggest the main thing I sell (it would make it hard since I don't sell anything).

My clients are everyday folk who don't live in our world. Therefore, they aren't up to date on the latest widget or service from XYZ company. It's only after a consultation where I learn their habits, their goals and their budget that I can recommend any particular solution(s). That's not saying that there aren't great integrators out there, because most of them I know are great. The problem lies with people like this who recommend their product no matter what. It doesn't matter if it's overkill. It doesn't matter if it's inappropriate. I know everyone is out to make a buck, but recommending absolutely inappropriate equipment is only a detriment to our industry as a whole.

Imagine if I needed some sort of method to get to and from work. Now picture me buying a semi tractor trailer to do that because that's what I was sold as a solution. It is the same thing. Some may say "buyer beware" or chastise the customer for not knowing any better and not doing their homework. We in the industry cannot expect that the client is up to date on our genre's ever changing technology though, and absolutely should not take advantage of that assumption.

What I do:
I meet with the (potential) client and don't charge for the initial consultation. Every now and then, the problem gets solved right then and there. If the moons line up, meaning I want to work with them and they want to work with me, we get an agreement in place covering price and scope. Then I do my best to recommend the best products or services to fit their need. Often it's as simple as telling them to buy a simple piece of gear from Logitech, sign up for Zoom and put blinds on their windows. Other times, it's a heck of a lot more complicated. What I don't do is make recommendations that come strictly from my suite of products. This is why I think independent consultants are important. Feel free to disagree, that's cool, but my goal is to have everyone using video conferencing. It's not to sell the client something they don't need, that sucks, and never gets used as a result.

Edit: I was asked via Twitter if I actually took money from someone to recommend Logitech and Zoom. The answer is "of course". It's my job to recommend the best solution for the intended purpose. It is not my job to overly confuse the client and upsell them absolute bullshit that they don't need.

This blog is the opinion of Bryan Hellard only and does not necessarily represent those of his clients/employers.

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