How to Lose Business by Gold Plating

How to lose business
How to lose business by gold plating

I worked my way through college waiting tables.  At one place I worked, we had a cook who treated employee meals differently than customer meals.  Customers received the standard fair.  They got what they ordered.  But when an employee went on break and ordered a meal, this cook had a tendency to “gold plate” it.  If you ordered a cheeseburger, you were likely to get double-bacon cheeseburger.  Side of fries? You would get a big honkin basket of fries.

It was a nice gesture, but we would often get much more than we could eat. Sometimes we would get something we didn’t even want. We could see that he was trying hard to get in good with his fellow staff members. But he was trying a little too hard. It was overkill.

I’ve seen the same thing in consulting. Perhaps a company sends out a request for proposal for a simple website to process orders.  The consulting firm is competing with two others for the business. In their competitive drive to win the business, they over-engineer the solution, over-solve the problem, and end up proposing a trumped-up solution that the prospect didn’t want.

When the consulting firm loses a proposal like this, they go through various stages of denial.  First, they assume they lost on price.  They’ll ask the prospect if they looked closely at the functionality they included.  They want them to understand that the high cost is reflected in the fact that they included more stuff. The prospective client probably understood that.

Then, the firm assumes that the prospective client didn’t understand the solution they proposed.  Because if they did, they would certainly have continued the dialog. Chances are the client understood the solution. It just wasn’t the solution they asked for, that they wanted, or that they were going to buy.

Gold plating happens once the client wins the business too.  In the software development consulting world in which I work, we contract with clients to write web software.  The scope of the project is defined around a certain set of parameters. Project managers need to monitor the work by the team members to make sure their work falls within those parameters.

See my related post: Consulting Priority: Billable Hours

Computer programmers, like many good workers, can have a tendency to get excited.  Writing code strictly within functional requirements gets boring after a while.  So why not make it a little fancier? Instead of having all these selection boxes as prescribed, they might create a drop down window option.  The users will certainly love that better.

When that happens, it’s well outside of the client’s expectations. Not only does the developer spend extra time doing work that wasn’t asked for, they spend more time reversing it after the user rejects it.

Going over and above the call of duty is admirable. But when consultants go too far, creating value that’s not valuable, they create the nuclear flyswatter that is not wanted, not needed and most likely, won’t be paid for.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms. 

Related Posts
How to Manage Client Perception
I was always taught not to worry about what people think.  That’s easier said than done. It doesn’t always work in a customer-facing scenario, particularly in the consulting world.  In a ...
READ MORE
Client Focus: Telling Him He Has No Clothes
  As you may know, the folk tale The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen is the story of two dishonest weavers who convince an emperor that they can make ...
READ MORE
The Arsonist and the Fireman
The City’s Hero The city was experiencing a rash of fires.  Arson was usually suspected but the source of the flame could never be proven. Fortunately, the city had a crack firefighting ...
READ MORE
Old School Consulting
Some of the concepts I promote in my book and blogs could be seen by many as an old school approach to consulting. Suggestions such as showing up to meetings on ...
READ MORE
Follow Through – Just Go To Benson
I grew up attending a small school district which was the consolidation of two small towns.  What is nowadays called middle school was called junior high school back then.  The ...
READ MORE
Estimating Your Work Like Ferris Bueller
I live in the Chicago area and I love the city of Chicago.  As an extension, I love the movies based in Chicago.  From The Blues Brothers to The Untouchables ...
READ MORE
Make Yourself Indispensable
Unless you’re an undertaker, repeat business should always be your goal.  Whether you are an independent consultant or serving on a large project from a large firm, your main goal ...
READ MORE
Being an Outsider at the Client Site
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from new consultants is the inability to fit in at the client site.  Going from client to client, they always felt like an ...
READ MORE
A Consulting Limerick
A man tried a career in consulting But his approach with clients was insulting He was arrogant and rude With the clients he’d feud And they found him to be quite revolting   The firm chose ...
READ MORE
Do You Deliver a Transparent Status Report?
I once managed a project for a multi-site organization to implement software at each location. I held a weekly status conference-call with the company’s executives which included the branch manager from ...
READ MORE
How to Manage Client Perception
Client Focus: Telling Him He Has No Clothes
The Arsonist and the Fireman
Old School Consulting
Follow Through – Just Go To Benson
Estimating Your Work Like Ferris Bueller
Make Yourself Indispensable
Being an Outsider at the Client Site
A Consulting Limerick
Do You Deliver a Transparent Status Report?