The $30,000 Consulting Mistake

Let me tell you about the time asking the wrong questions cost a consulting company $30,000.

When I worked at ye-old-day-job, on Day 1 I was given a $30,000 budget to build a website and told I’d get a $5,000 bonus if the website was up within 6 months. I was made to understand this was a Strategic Priority. The old website looked like it was built in Dreamweaver as a college project.

We needed to fax new content to the webmaster™ who would then update the site within 2-weeks. It sucked. I was motivated.

I made a list of local web development companies. I emailed the ones that seemed like a good fit.

I was taken out to a lot of lunches.

One lunch stands out as a lesson, my friend.

This particular company — let’s call them Villains Inc. — took me out to lunch and spent the entire time telling me about why Drupal was better than WordPress.

They never even asked about our business needs and wants.

I had two problems:

  • Our website wasn’t generating leads
  • I’d lose $5,000 if our new website wasn’t up in six months

I knew the outcome I needed: a website that would generate more leads.

The company spent the entire meeting talking at me. They never asked me about the company, the problems we were experiencing, or the outcomes we were looking for. Instead, they talked about their services and technology. They never asked questions like:

“Why do you need a website?”


“Why a website and not another marketing investment?”

Had they asked those questions… maybe they would have made $30,000. But they didn’t and lost out on a $30,000 project.

The company I picked:

  • Started off the conversation by asking me about my goals and the outcomes for the project.
  • Showed me how I’d save money by investing in an initial, paid discovery session upfront to define what we were looking for in the project — instead of figuring everything out on the fly
  • Brought a developer, designer, and project manager to our office for a two-hour meeting where they met with the four people who would have the most day-to-day interaction with the new website and asked them questions

It was a no-brainer to invest $30,000 with that company.

I start off every conversation with a prospect by asking them questions so I can qualify them as a client and make sure I know what problem they’re coming to me for help solving (

If I can’t solve the problem they’re experiencing, I refer them somewhere else. If I can, now I understand the problem before I propose services to them.