Jokes About Consultants

Why are there so many jokes about consultants and how can you use them to your advantage? Actually, it’s an important issue and will help you understand how clients and prospects see you and how you can build trust and rapport better…

Why are there so many jokes about consultants and how can you use them to your advantage? Actually, it’s an important issue and will help you understand how clients and prospects see you and how you can build trust and rapport better…

The jokes about consultants are mostly negative and show that people feel real ambivalence about consultants. On the one hand, consultants have status. You get the “big money.” You have expert knowledge. You have variety; you get to work at different companies but aren’t pinned down to one like the people hiring you are.

On the other hand, most employees have seen consultants come in who knew less than they did. They’ve also seen consultants gather most of their information from the employees and then feed it to the “boss.” So they’re selling knowledge for big bucks that they just picked up.

Most of the jokes about consultants involve definitions. For instance, “What do a consultant and a fixed cat have in common? They both can tell you how to do things that they can’t do themselves.”

Some jokes refer to the ease of entry for consulting: “A consultant is someone between jobs.”

Many versions of one joke show resentment about high consultant pay. This is mine.

A ship with a load of bananas was stuck on a sandbar. So they find a ship unsticking consultant. (It pays to specialize in a niche.) She goes to the scene and after looking around says that the cost to unstick the ship will be $10,000. They say that’s a lot of money. But they know that if they pull the ship from shore it will be inside the sandbar and still trapped. If they pull with ships from outside the sandbar it will require several ships, and the bananas could go bad quickly, so they finally say OK. She goes into the hold of the ship and starts measuring everything. She already has data on this kind of ship. After a couple of hours she goes to a place on the propeller shaft and marks a big X with chalk. Then she takes a ball peen hammer out of her pocket and hits the X at a specific angle. The ship slides off the sandbar out to sea. The client grouses about the high cost for a couple of hour’s work so she itemizes the bill: $1 for the hit with the hammer and $9,999 for knowing where to hit!

She billed for value delivered, not time, and as discussed in the FAQs resource, you want to also.

Put another way, some people have reason to not be impressed by consultants. And some people who hire you, or have input on the decision have an incorrect idea about what you do, are suspicious, jealous, or insecure.

The reason this is important for you to keep in mind is that when you’re selling yourself to get hired, you need to impress people. BUT, when you try to impress, you may come across as arrogant or difficult to work with. (I’m the expert and you hired me to do it my way!) You need to remember that the people you are selling to often have these ambivalent feelings about consultants.

The insecure people will see it as a sign of their own weakness to hire consultants. Or they may worry that their bosses think they need the expert help. The more sophisticated people will not be impressed by your attempts to impress them.

While the right approach depends on your personality, being aware of this problem is the first step.

What I recommend is that you be “humble” as you demonstrate your expertise when you’re selling yourself. One way to do this is NOT to talk so much. Rather ask great, insightful questions that get the other person talking and show your knowledge. They’ll conclude that you’re smart because of the questions, not because you said so. And they’ll think you’re a great conversationalist when they do most of the talking! Another way is to have great testimonial letters (and direct referrals) where other people say how great you are. And they cover the points that will help you, such as how easy you were to work with, and how you made them look good with their bosses.

Another approach (and you can use all of these) is to convey to them that hiring you is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of management smarts. You realize that they could do what they need themselves, but by delegating it to you, they are freeing themselves up for things only they can do. You don’t say this directly, but you convey it, thus coming across as non-arrogant, supportive, etc. The coaching approach can be similar. Great athletes have coaches. You’re there to support them, provide a second set of eyes, etc.

This is yet another example of the importance of relationships in consulting. You understand where the other person is coming from and are part of a relationship with them that they are comfortable with. As Mark McCormack said in What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, other things being equal, people do business with people they like. Other things NOT being equal, they still do business with people they like!

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