1) Beauty parade at least three alternatives.
2) Allow your incumbent advisor (if you have one) to re-pitch for the job. If nothing else, it will keep them focussed.
3) Insist on meeting the full team that will actually look after you. Some such professionals will send their top sales people (senior partners) who will do a perfect pitch but then you will never set eyes on them again.
4) Ask them what their competitive advantage is and why that is relevant to you. If they use “blah blah” words like service, quality, contacts, reputation, move on to the next one. These should be givens.
5) Ask for at least three references and speak to all of them.
6) Ask for hourly rates of all staff who will be working for you, agree budgets and, if relevant, caps on fees.
7) Ask how they develop their staff. A sure sign of a good firm is their commitment to their own staff training.
8) Ask how they will make a difference to your business.
9) Ask them to tell you one thing now that has made the meeting worth your precious time.
10) Ask how many new clients they have engaged in the last 12 months, how many they have lost and why!
Jo Haigh is head of corporate finance for MGR