Observe Your Own Thoughts - What Is Holding You Back?

Interesting title for a blog designed to enhance and help building a base of long-term, repeat, profitable clients - Yes?


Wait. What?

Observe your own thoughts? What kind of nonsense is this?

How often do you really sit down and take the time to observe what you are thinking about? We know you are a genius - or near genius. You make rapid decisions, split second decisions based upon instinct and experience and knowledge.

Faulty Thoughts?
But have you considered, that some of your thoughts are actually - get this - faulty? Did you ever consider that some of the thoughts you have are from beliefs that your parents, your teachers, your relatives, or religious figures may have passed onto you? And these beliefs are operating underneath your conscious - just under the radar - hard to detect - but are filtering out things that are true (potentially helpful to you) yet you can't see them?

Our beliefs serve us well in most cases. They do filter out things that may not be pertinent to what we need. Or if they didn't we would be able to count the dots in the ceiling tiles in our office in a split second like Rain Man (Dustin Hoffman).

Self-Limiting Beliefs and Concepts
Yet there are self-limiting concepts that we acquired that may not be true for us that we have reinforced throughout the years by believing they were/are true, that really don't serve us well.

Let me give you a couple:
"I am not a good speaker."
"I am not good in front of clients."
"I cannot write well."

Okay. These are somewhat bland and not juicy, like, "I can never find a date." But those kind of beliefs get somewhat personal and this is not an Ann Landers (I know she has passed on) blog site.

But what thoughts do you have swirling around in your head to which you are viewing the world right now?

Are you a little less than confident? Are you a little unsure, unsteady, wobbly?

Rewire Your Thoughts
Observe your thoughts. Capture them in a journal. Ask where did I get this from? What evidence do I have that this is accurate? Rewire yourself. Rewrite the self-limiting thought patterns and design them into a more positive, self-affirming thought pattern. For example, taking from the above: "I am good in front of clients." Then go out and find books and articles and CDs on this subject and read and study how to become good in front of clients. Immerse yourself - flood your mind with the new ideas and strategies. And believe it or not, over time, you begin to put into practice these little ideas you have picked up along the way. And voila, you are now much better in front of clients.

Can it be that simple? Yes. It is that simple.

The Power of Optimism and Positive Action

The Story of John
John is assigned some tough accounts. He has emailed and called 10 people - and none of them are there. No one is answering the phone calls or emails.

He is distressed. It's now 10AM. He is thinking: "What's the use? People are so busy, how am I to get into see a prospect?"

He doesn't want to make anymore calls, so he pretends he has an appointment, and he leaves the office.  What else is there to do?

I don't know where he goes but he comes back in the office later that day at 4PM, shuffles some papers on his desk. He talks to the people around him in the cubicles. Can't help but like John - he is jovial.

He leaves but is back in the office the next day. Similar routine to the day before.

The Story of Megan
Megan is John's competitor across town. She is in the office about 30 minutes earlier than John is.

She too makes 10 calls - no luck either. She too is distressed.

She thinks a little differently and she tries to figure out what to. She all of a sudden recalls something she read some where in a book that some managers have a tendency to come back to their offices around 11:30 to get somethings cleared off their desk before going to lunch.

She decides to give this a try.

So she prepares her list of prospects to call - it's now 9:30. She has two hours. She doesn't have an appointment for the morning, so she asks herself, "What's the best use of my time right now?"

She ponders the answer: I could go down and get a cup of coffee. I could go about calling more prospects - but that won't be fun. Or will it be fun?

She remembers what someone once told her - "Attitude is a state of mind that one chooses. And you can chose a positive or a negative state."

She thinks: "Let's make this fun. Let's see how many more calls and emails I can send out before 11:30AM." She creates a little contest with herself.

So she gets her list of prospects and calls. And sends emails.

She calls one prospect and he answers the phone. "Unbelievable, finally!" she thinks to herself.

She goes into the, "Can I have two minutes to explain who I am" speech? This client says "Sure." But then says "I am not really interested right now. Call back in a few weeks."

Megan, is a little discouraged and then she remembers: Attitude is a chosen state of mind. 

She decides to "trick" herself to look for the good in the situation. She looks at what was accomplished: she got hold of someone! And looking at it from a positive perspective, she believes she should continue to call and email.

She gets two more "hits" - one is a full appointment with a prospect.

It's now 11:30. She goes through her list of prospects and sends the emails of introduction and makes phone calls up until 12 noon as she committed to herslf. Except at 12 noon, she decides to keep calling and emailing people.

She gets two more appointment. One person she called at 11:45AM and the last one was at 12:10PM.

Why did she not stop at 12 noon? She was preparing to stop at 12noon as everyone has probably gone to lunch. But before she stops, she recalls a client explain how often he misses lunch and just works at his desk during lunch most days.

So, she figures, "What the heck, I will give this a try." And she sticks around making calls during lunch time hoping to catch managers eating lunch at their desks.

The Difference Between the Megan and John
John is experienced. John used to do all the right things. He has just drifted into some bad habits. He has a hard time recovering from his pessimistic thought patterns.

Megan is processing her distress a little differently. She is incorporating new ideas to get around obstacles. She is not only persevering, she is incorporating different approaches to her routine. She is viewing her work from a perspective of a student and is detached from it being a personal problem.

John is on the border of making this personal and pervasive. He is using escapist actions to avoid the unpleasantness of the difficulties to getting appointments.

How to Become More Optimistic - Quickly
First, when your brain is getting wrapped up in taking something personally - stop the thought pattern. It's not personal. In the case of John - no one on the other end of the phone or email even knows John. How could it be personal then? It's not - unless you begin to think of it as a personal affront. Which is very easy to do.

Second, don't allow something to bleed into everything else. If you had a bad appointment - it doesn't mean your next appointment will be bad or the meeting with you boss later will also be bad. Look to see what happened: Was I unprepared? If so, next time I will be prepared. Was the client in a bad mood? Then this was the client's problem not yours. Don't allow it to become "Personal and Pervasive." Don't allow the feeling (or vibration) or "failure" to be picked up and carried to the next event.

Third - don't stew over things. The word is ruminate - to chew. We sometimes allow our mind to think about something negative. It then becomes "pervasive" in a larger way. The negatives start "piling on" like a football game, and we see things negatively - almost everything. The person who cuts us off, the rude waiter, our boss who cancels our appointment to catch up and so on. It becomes "me."

Last - look for the good. And then get into some positive action. Do something positive. Like in the example with Megan above, she made a game of calling prospects (how many can I call?). She did something toward her goal. She acted. The positive action stops the thinking, the pondering, the ruminating. This is very important. Note - it is positive action toward the goal. Not going for the beer at 5. Although, going to workout (not the beer) can be positive action, if you explain to yourself you will be back to do the positive action - and that you are using exercise to workout the stress.

To recap: Don't allow things to be personal. Know that this was only temporary (it was not forever and pervasive and always). Do look for the good. And act - do something positive to move you in the direction of your goals.

A Little Humor - Murphy's Law on Work Assignments

The Law of Work Assignments
If you are good, you will be assigned all the work. If you are really good, you will get out of it.

Measurable Business Results - Differentiate or Die

Why is it that We as Professionals Don't Do this One Little Thing?
Most companies providing professional services "forget" what the client is ultimately buying.  Frankly, client also forget!

Both the seller and the client get wrapped up in the technology and how it works too often.  The provider of professional services actually "trains" the client this way though. If you review marketing literature most companies provide - large corporations and small firms - you will probably find more discussion on how things are done or what was done rather than what was actually achieved.

My Experience with MBRs
Several years ago the firm I was working with went and visited Gartner.  It was a long meeting, in which we talked about SLAs, how our model worked, who we were, who our clients were, and did I mention SLAs?  It seemed like we mentioned SLAs over and over.
Most clients want results.
And then later, they may want to
know how you are going to do it.
Toward the end of the meeting we brought up results we acheived for our clients.  I mean, real, tangible results.  We coined the term "MBRs" or Measurable Business Results prior to our meeting, as I kept on saying to our COO and CEO and anyone else that listened, that the work we were doing was far, far different than our competitors.

Our Competitors Talked Certifications
While our competitors were talking about certifications of ISO this, and ISO that, and SEI CMM certifications this (and in reality there were no such things as a SEI certification!) and that and this, our firm was able to go in and talk to a client about what they needed done - or more exactly achieved.

Sure some of our competitors could talk about results from a cost reduction, but they could only talk about this from a "labor arbitrage" point of view as they were just swapping out US labor costs for offshore labor costs.  Jeez, anyone can do that.

The Value Prop We Didn't Know We Had!
Our firm was able to guarantee in writing that by this date they would have X amount of customers, at least this amount of revenue, and depending on the type of client they were dealing with they could get even more specific to the industry (i.e. hotel bookings, airline bookings, car rental booking, gas and oil trades, etc). 

Now here was the real kicker: They were able to guarantee this in the contract, before they even began the project.

When I got there, we really did not tout this as a real distinction. But that was because they were so accustomed to doing this, that the some of the people there did not see this as important or a critical market distinction.  Because I came from the outside and looked in - I saw this as a critical differentiator.

So when we got to Gartner - we started talking about these MBRs.  And this made us unique to Gartner.  All of a sudden we stood out. We were different. They, like I, could not believe we would contract, up front, to drive MBRs in our contract.

To Stand Out - Well, Just Stand Out
So, if you want to be unique, understand the value in what you do.  I know MBRs are "risky" if and only if you don't know how to drive them and achieve them.  In reality - results are what the client is buying.

We Train Our Clients To Pick Us Apart
But because we are used to selling features and benefits - the old way of selling - we actually train our clients to buy from us that way.  And what do they do?  They try to understand the only thing other than price. That is - how are you going to do what you are doing?  This is allowing the client's technical staff (IT, legal, procurement) to pick apart the proposal. 

It's All More or Less - "Death by Duck Bite" 
Death by Duck bite looks like this - which you may have seen before:
  1. Who are the people on this project? Can I see their resumes? Can I interview them? I don't like Jack, you need to replace him.
  2. What is your approach? Don't you think you should start with this group first? Don't you think this should take two weeks and not five weeks? How come you have four people doing this - can't you get just two people to do this?
  3. What is the price? How much per hour for these people? What - are you kidding me?  I can get them for one-third of the price -
  4. Your competition says that they can do half of this off-shore at $22 per hour. Can you match this?  They also are saying this and that - can you do this and that?
Get the picture? If you want to avoid the trap of being picked apart - avoid selling features and benefits and get into selling results.

How to Be a Consultant to Clients - Differentiate Yourself

Many sales professionals, advisers and even consultant realize that they have to act more like a consultant to clients in order to trusted and have credibility.

While this is not news, what is troubling is that just because one sees themselves as a consultant, the client may not view you as one.  So how do you go about being viewed as a consultant?  First off, it take time and it takes a thoughtful approach to how you go about doing your work.

In this post I am going to layout a few guidelines that you can follow and put into practice immediately so you can become that elusive "Trusted Advisor" everyone always is talking about.

  1. Know your business (consulting services, professional services, solutions, accounting, etc) cold.  Know it inside and out.
  2. Related to the above - Know the 10 reasons why your services fail. Be able to articulate these to the client.  Most people are afraid to say: "This is why it won't work" because they want to come across as positive, upbeat and optimistic.  But your clients are smart. If you tell them why it won't work - they will understand that you know your business and you are not just selling them.
  3. Understand the 10 reasons why your services do work. And under what conditions. 
  4. Be able to articulate these - to the client - very, very well.
  5. Take the time to understand the client's business issue. Meet the people, hit the issue head on, pick up all the information you can.
  6. Understand the people's personal concerns and their professional concerns related to the problem at hand. (personal example - I cannot get home by 6PM to watch my son's Little League games as the problem is keeping me here at work; professional example - I want to be seen as a fixer, doer, and reliable - if I hire you will that make me look weak?)
  7. Above all else - the client's interest is Number 1.  It is not making the sale.  It is about placing the client's interest above your personal interest or your firms interest. Every decision you make is viewed from the client's interest first - when proposing work and when you are performing the work you were contracted for.
  8. Related to #7: You may have to walk away from work because someone is better suited for the project. Or you have to walk away because the client is just going to be a bad client.
  9. Be able to articulate clearly what you have done for clients with similar problems. This means being able to talk about results or what I refer to as Measurable Business Results (MBRs).
  10. Don't talk technology - if you have to talk about your technology (your project plan, your software, your approach, your tools, etc) and how you do what you do, you are either talking to a technician (you're at the wrong level in the organization) or you are still a technician and have not learned how to talk results.
  11. Related to #9: You may have to talk technology only to "validate" that the assumptions and approach will work in the client's environment. But don't allow technicians to pull apart your solution. Stand your ground if you know your approach works. If you allow the technicians to pull apart your solutions, you are not results driven or your results are weak.
  12. Be a Peer to the person making the decision. It is the Economic Buyer who ultimately decides. Act as his or her peer; not as a lapdog, puppet, or syncophant.
  13. Remember - and this is key - clients DO NOT want to be sold. Put away all your books on closing techniques, enticements, special deals of the month, and so on. What client's want is they want to be helped.
  14. Be perceived as state of the art, cutting edge, knowledgeable and understanding of the latest rules, compliance issues or whatever is facing your market and creating challenges for your client.  Leverage all the latest and greatest - why these will work or why they won't. What the government is saying regarding compliance or what the industry is now doing. Be up on the events and issues in your field as it relates to the client issues and your services.
  15. Be an authority in your field or niche. Do you have a website? Do you have a white paper? A position paper? Do you speak at conferences? Do you know the ins and outs of whatever is going on in your field?
  16. Never come across as desperate or needy. Carry a small air of indifference - act as if - you have business, even if you are starving.
  17. Never let your guard down. We all have chinks in the armor, but telling the client where they are is not going to help you. Don't talk about your company or other professionals.
  18. Never talk out of school - never talk about previous clients or prospects - especially - not negatively or in a joking manner. "If you talk about others, will you talk about me?" the client thinks.
  19. Bury your ego. Be a little humble - but be confident. Strike a balance between the two.
  20. Referral marketing - market your firm, yourself, based upon your image and reputation by heeding the advice outlined above.  Get your name out there by speaking, writing, networking, researching, making a contribution to your field.  Cold calling is dead ("Hey John, you don't know me but can I have an hour to talk to about me?).  But that doesn't mean you can't call people or email them - given you do this properly.
  21. Have a strong air about you - that you can help the client - It's like knowing the client has a curable disease and you and your firms is one of only a few that can get them the help they need. It's about a doctor specializing in a certain area and is one of the world's leading physicians - and this patient (client) has the exact ailment you have cured others for.
I hope this helps you and provides you a path to run on.

What is this Site About and Who is this For?

What this Site is About and Who is it For?
Professional consulting is about providing advice and solutions to client problems.  They can be small engagements ranging from $5,000 to 10,000 in size to larger multi-million dollar engagements.  These types of engagements can run the gamut. They can be;
  • Heady - strategy-type - consulting engagements: direction setting, working with the C-Level
  • Mundane - still vital - setting up policy and procedures, providing legal advice, regulatory advice, working with the people who keep the organization going and out of hot water
  • Transformative - implementing solutions that align with the business strategy: marketing processes and best practices, BPR, IT cost improvements (ie: outsourcing, new technology, process reengineering, quality improvements), IT new application development (ie: revenue generating, compliance) etc.
The site is for professionals who want to go "From one-time customers to life-long clients" (SM) . 

Professionals include: IT Business Development, Practice Managers, Consultants, Advisory Firms, Law Firms, - anyone providing services to clients who want to improve their relationships through the application and deployment of proven best practices designed to keep a customer coming back to you for more services.

Professionals Need to Market Themselves

This post is for professionals providing strategic services to clients, this includes: any consulting services, advice, or strategic solutions.

The title of this blog makes sense.  Who could argue with this statement?

Well, I have an answer for you: Just about everyone.  You may ask: "Are you kidding me? Really? We all know this!"

Yes. You may know it.  Because, it does seem logical: that is, we do need to market ourselves.  However few professional rarely do market themselves. And if they do market themselves, they don't do it in a repeatable, habitual manner, and maybe the most important of all, the tools and methods they deploy are not the right tools and methods.

In fact the tools and methods they use - let's call these things "strategies" for simplicity - are not the kind of strategies that actually work for consulting services aka providing professional services.

Professional Services Marketing
List of "What It Isn't" or
Things That Will Kill You
The marketing of professional services is an indirect type of marketing awareness that takes time, attention, and frankly, creativity.  This kind of marketing is "against the grain" of the marketing you learned at Harvard Business School. 

Let's get into what it isn't.  Getting into "what it isn't" is a good way to start looking at how to market your professional services.

The List of "What It Isn't"
  1. It's not placing ads in the magazine (sorry Fortune Magazine)
  2. It's not buying up billboards on I-95 (sorry Ted Turner)
  3. It's not walking around downtown NYC with a Sign around your neck "Will work for food." (Sorry every college grad)
  4. It's not getting your resume on the Job Boards (Sorry CareerBuilder, Monster, 100,000 Dollar Jobs, and all you Job Boards that are out there)
  5. It's not answering ads
  6. It's not cold calling CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs.  (Frank you are right on Cold Calling is Dead)
  7. It's not a "One-Minute Elevator" pitch that you are told you should develop in college. Who in the world are you going to pitch to in the elevator?  People will think you are absolutely insane. And maybe you are, but you don't want to tell them this - they'll find out eventually.
  8. It's not sending out broadcast emails with everyone in the BCC line. (Eat spam, don't do spam)
  9. It's not being slick, unhumble (okay, not a real word but you get it), loud, commanding, "seen"
  10. It's not running around a Tech conference or joining The Speakers Association or some other event where everyone is trying to get in front of these so-called buyers of services
Now for my consulting question: "Does this make sense?"

It should make sense. Only because you probably tried at least two of these and you probably failed miserably.  Am I right or am I wrong? 

If nothing else that you remember from this writing: Stupid marketing makes your look stupid. Doing these things, repeatedly, will eventually kill you.

The Underlying Factor to Marketing Professional Services

The marketing of professional services is vastly different from the marketing of most product and services. For the professional, whether you are working as an individual, a small firm or a large firm, marketing is challenging because on one hand you want your target audience to know who you are and that you are available.

Yet, on the other hand, you don't want to come across as pitching your services which comes across as hungry for business.

It is a matter of being needed versus being needy.  

Wrong marketing strategies
will wreck your business and
make you appear desperate.
The above statement is critical to your success. Coming out looking like you are needy has this look of being desperate. And we all know and have been around people who look or are needy.  They are not people we want to be around.

This is directly related to how you market your practice, your capabilities, and your services. It is, in the end, the underlying factor to everything in this blog.  It is the foundational principle to marketing and selling your professional services.

Consulting Zen

Okay today is a consulting zen day. 

I read a little quote this morning. I modified it a little bit to fit. If you are like me, which may be a bigger issue, you spend more time thinking about the future.

Keep this in mind for the remainder of the week:

If you think about what might have been,
or what might be,
you ignore what is.

And all there truly is - is what is. There is now. And then it's gone. Now. And then that's gone.

Nothing wrong with planning. It's when you are so busy living in the future you forget that the only thing you can control is you in the present or now. You (no one else and nothing else) and now (not yesterday, not tomorrow).

Take your eye off the now, go into the future or the past in your mind instead of just being and doing in the now, and you split yourself. This splitting of yourself, causes a lot of stress on your body. It ages you. It gives you ulcers. It raises your blood pressure. It makes you sick.

Stay in the moment. Focus and concentrate on the task in front of you. Let go of the outcome. And life becomes, frankly, better.  I am not sure how it works. I know it just does.

As professionals we are split. Living in the past: "I wish I would have . . . " Or "I can't believe that happened . . . " Or split living in the future: "When I get this, then I will take a vacation (be happy)."  Or: "I hope this happens (or doesn't happen)." 

Do you do this?  You are splitting yourself.

Our society, our work ethic says, do more, have more, then be. Focus on the outcome, the result, the end.  However, be now. Do now. Focus on the task in front of you like a mountain climber watching where he places his feet, looking up now and then, to see if he is still aimed at the right summit.

Keep your attention and focus in the present moment. That is
all there truly is. Where are you? Are you split in the future,
the past, and sometimes in the present? Talk about stress . . .
When you are too focused with eyes on the summit, you take your eyes off where you are (your footing), and you loose your balance as you lose your hold on where you are today. And you stumble. Perhaps even fall.

This practice is probably one of the hardest to teach and harder to absorb and make part of our daily regimen.

Try it by practicing it.

You Cost Too Much. Really? Differentiate or Die.

When working with clients, depending on who you are talking to and at what level, you can see them turn pale when you tell them your rate.

The Org Chart - similar to the food chain -
but by no means inferring someone is a snake or rat! The point
is to know where you are in the decision-making food chain! 
The story will go like this:

Customer: "So, tell me your hourly rate."
You (consultant): "I don't have an hourly rate."

Customer: "Well, how do we know how much you cost?"
You: "It depends on the project."

Customer: "Well, it will be a short project."
You: "How short?"

Customer: "Real short."
You: "My price will be probably be real low."

Customer: "How low?"
You: "About as low as the project is short."

Sound familiar?  Sounds like a little bit of Dilbert here.  Clients at the lower levels of the organization want to know your hourly rate. They also want to know how you will do it. They will dig and dig to find out the hourly rate in an attempt to save money. 

However, clients who are at the upper deck of the food chain want to know that you can solve the problem and how soon. This is how that conversation goes:

Client: "Can you solve my problem?"
You: "Yes."

Client: "How long will it take to get done?"
You: "About six weeks.  However, there are some people from your staff that need to be available. If they aren't available for information, then it could take longer."

Client: "I'll make sure everyone is available."
You: "Great."

Client: "When can you start?"
You: "As soon as I wrap up this other project, I can probably start the preliminary work next week and be full time on this the following week.  Will that work for you?"

Client: "Yes."
You: "Let me get the paperwork in order and I will send it over to you by noon tomorrow."

Client: "Great"
You: "Okay, thanks for your time."

Client: "Oh yes before I forget. What are the costs for this project?"
You: "It's a flat fee of approximately $35,000.  I will run the final numbers tonight and have that to you as part of the paperwork."

Now, life doesn't always go according to plan. And these conversations don't always go like this. But the people in the upper decks of the client's organization are more concerned with a few things:
  1. Can you get the results?
  2. How soon?
  3. When can you start?
Often, in these cases price is hardly part of the decision equation. It's about the result: can you get it done and how soon.

In the lower decks of the organization the things that matter most are these concerns:
  1. What is your hourly rate?
  2. What if my colleagues think I should be able to do this and can't?
  3. Is there anyone else who is cheaper?
  4. Should I get two or three more companies in here for quotes just to be safe?
  5. Do you have references and can I talk to them?
  6. Have you worked in the same environment with the same technologies in the same vertical industry?
One group of people is concerned with results. The other group is concerned with lower level needs: security/self-esteem, failure, and looking bad.

It pays to deal with people higher up in the food chain.

Increasing Professionalism - Trusted Advisor? Part 1

If you are in sales or delivery, you know that the relationship with the client - when you really have a relationship that is - is very much like a patient-doctor relationship (except you don't keep the patient waiting in a white barren room without any clothes for 20 minutes).

When you have a high value relationship, it is the highest form of professional interactions that can take place.  In fact, the relationship involves more trust than the traditional customer-sales representative relationship.

Never Talk Out of School
You are in fact a consultant to the client.  And he (or she) respects and regards your opinion and solutions highly.

In order to be a client, the client decision-maker must have a high degree of confidence that they can place confidential and proprietary information into your hands.

I have been in situations where the consultant (the seller or seller's team) would receive information that was proprietary or confidential and the information would leak out.  I have had consultants work with me and say "Everything we say here is between the two of us" and then a week later the President of the Company call to ask me about the exact situation that I described to the consultant.  Obviously, this only has to happen once before one shuts down and never tell information to the consultant again.

If you want to be valued, to be part of the team, you should be very careful with what you do with ANY information someone tells you. If the information is vital, if it is critical to the company, you have some moral and ethical obligations to consider regarding whether you raise them up the organization's hierarchy or not.  However, you are a "trusted" advisor.  Yes, we have all heard the term, a lot, and who doesn't consider themselves a "trusted" advisor?  But it is not you who gets to decide whether you are a trusted advisor or not. It is decided by the client.

In order to move a one-time customer to a life-long client,  be professional, be discreet, and be, frankly trustworthy by not talking out of school.

Increasing your professionalism is critical to your success whether you are a consultant, contractor, in delivery, in sales, or management. And that goes for whether you are dealing internally with your firm or externally with the client.

Be someone others can count on not to gossip or talk out of school.

Increasing The Personalization of Consultative Selling - Part II

This is Part II in the series.  This section is called . . .

Increasing the Personalization of Consultative Selling

Central Role of the Seller
The key and central component to the selling process is the seller of consulting services.  This goes for any service (IT, accounting, consulting, management, etc).  The seller is the irreplaceable operating element in the process.  Please note the term "selling process." Selling process is about the client experience which ultimately defines the level of confidence the client has about the firm itself.

The consultative seller exerts control over the selling process, bringing the right people into the sales process at the right moment.  He or she facilitates, guides and leads the process. The consultative seller becomes the focal point for all client interaction.  The more complex the sale is or the more value in terms of the sale, the consultative seller's role becomes that much more important to the relationships with the people in the client organization.  The role takes on a personalization element between the client and the firm - managed and led by the consultative salesperson. 

In other words, the seller becomes the leader of the sales process because of the control he or she must bring in order to move the process along to closure and implementation.

Pressures to Perform
The seller of these services has an extraordinary amount of pressure to meet both the client's expectations and the need of the firm that he or she represents.  For the most part, the pressure usually stems from the firm, not the client, surprisingly, and these pressures determine the success of the sale.  The pressures can be numerous, as cited below;
  1. Right Support Staff - does the seller's firm have the right support staff to match the client's needs (technologies, operations, etc) and match the client's personalities and culture?
  2. Leadership control - is the seller continuously second guessed or is the organization supportive in making the transaction happen?  Is the support team (from management to contracts to technology to delivery) truly a support team and cooperative or combative?
  3. Communication vehicles - are there easy methods to communicate the client's situation, updates, needs etc or are they cumbersome, internally focused creating a burden on the seller?
  4. Competing Priorities - is the staff facing competing priorities?  And of course they are, but how is this managed and by whom is this managed? By the seller?
  5. Quarterly revenue and profit objectives and related pressures.
  6. Contract Language Acceptance and Reviews
  7. Project/Product Pressures for time, cost, staffing, and scheduling
Of course the client is unaware of all these internal pressures, and yet still the seller needs to be the outward, calm, Rock of Gibraltar - the leader in the sales process.

Personally Involved in the Sales Process to the Client
The client only cares about getting the project complete and meeting the objectives in a timely and cost efficient manner. And the client only sees the seller as the leader is the seller meets the following four conditions:
  1. The seller must become personally involved in the client's current operations and future desired state and help determine how the solution will help the client bridge the gap.
  2. The seller must become involved personally in preparing and presenting the client solution, defining solution objectives and if possible, measurable business results. The client must sense the seller's confidence in the solution being proposed.
  3. The seller must act like he or she "owns" the process. This means the client expects the seller to actively manage the selling phases and has the responsibility for getting the tasks complete.
  4. The seller must "express measured confidence" in the solution - which is different from the extreme of; "exuding enthusiasm" and on the opposite side of the spectrum "cautious yet guarded hopefulness."
The personalization of the seller's role plays an important part in selling complex high value consultative sales.

Next - Part III

OK - For the Self Esteem Deprived - Here's Something for YOU to Consider . . .

Just what the doctor ordered . . .

Moving From Product Selling to Consultative Selling

Article #1.  Read this first before moving to Article #2
Going From Product Selling to Consultative Selling
In this post I will begin to outline what it takes to move from product selling to a more consultative approach.

Taking a Consultative Approach
A consultative selling approach is about how you sell a solution.   This is really about how you provide service to the decision-maker once you understand there is a need or a problem you can help the decision-maker solve.

Let's first define "solution." If a client has a problem or a need, your recommendation is the solution. Let's not overly complicate anything at this stage.  I realize this might be a little simplistic, but for now let's leave it a that.

This goes for providing a person (called contract staffing) to providing a specific piece of hardware or software or a combination of all of these.

Solutions become more complex as one adds more of these (people, hardware, and software) to meet the client needs. As you add more of these component, by the very nature of adding more, the more customization is taking place.  The complexity of the solution has variables including not only price, but also time to purchase (decision-making time), number of people in the decision-making process, the time to implement the solution, the number of staff required to implement the solution, number of hardware and software components, the Measurable Business Results (cost saving, revenue generation), and the risk (what if something goes wrong, how hard is it to fix)?

Transition From Product Selling to Consultative Selling - Three Attributes
In order to make the transition (in some cases it would be a transformation) from a product-centered sales person to a consultative-oriented sales person there are essentially three key core attributes that need to be developed.

These three core attributes will affect the seller's relationship with the decision-maker in terms of what is sold, the type of relationship that get cultivated with the decision-maker, with the value that is received and perceived in the relationship from the decision-maker's viewpoint.

This transition will also affect future purchases by the customer and how he or she interacts with the seller's company as well as the seller.  The net result is that the purchase will be made more on the sales process rather than on the product itself.  The selling is based on how the seller manages the sales process and helps lead the customer to a decision.

By using the sales process, there are many benefits. One that I will jump right into is that the customer moves to a more loyalty based decision. That is future purchases will become more preferentially- based, rather than shopping around.  The process becomes a buying/decision-making experience. It become "experiential" much like some commodity companies have packaged their commodity goods.  In this case think Starbuck's.  You are not just buying the coffee, you are buying the experience as well. From the music they play, to the greeters, to the ability to sit and plug-in your laptop to coffee variations. 

Here the relationship moves from customer - someone buying a one-time product based on price - to a client - someone buying because they feel the seller has their best interests at heart and will protect them from failing.  Note the words "protect them from failing" which may seem pretty strong, but I assure you they are not.

Three Relationship Attribute Changes - An Overview
Here are the three attributes of the changing relationship with the client from product to consultative;

  1. Increased Personalization of the Relationship. Product sales are based on the performance and price of the product only. Consultative selling is based on the performance of the seller during the decision making process and the seller's ability to control or at least influence and participate in the steps of the process.
  2. Increased Decision Maker Participation in the Relationship.  The word that comes up is collaboration.  When the seller just provides the specs and the price of the product and walks away - this is the old model of selling.  And the customer has expended a minimal amount of time in the process before getting a solution.  But in a consultative approach, the more participation from the decision-maker(s), the better informed the seller is about what the decision-maker is looking for and the decision-maker is buying into the end solution that is being proposed.
  3. Increased Professionalism of the Relationship.  Product sales are based on the older traditional model buyer-seller relationship.  This is where the buyer is on the opposite side of the table.  And "all buyers are liars" adversarial point of view.  The newer more is the client sees the seller as a consultant, and the seller sees the consultant as looking out for his best interests and protection.  The word that comes up - is trust.
Will will explore these three attributes in greater detail in the next upcoming posts.

Admit When You Are Not the Best Solution for the Client’s Problem

Remember the consultant's creed is much like a doctor's; "Do no harm." So admit when you are not the best solution for the client’s problem.

Your client is not stupid. He or she has been around he block and has seen it all. When you try and fake it the client sees right through your attempts to be all things to all people, he will not be able to tell what really are your stengths.

By admitting to the client that you are probably not the best choice, the client will more than likely be impressed with your candor and honesty that he will remember this and will probably try to find other things he needs done that you can help him with.

The worst thing for you to do is when you try and fake it – that is you try to make your solution fit the client’s problem – you wind up with a client who is harmed by your inability to deliver.

Allow Others To Be Your Teacher

Not Knowing Everything
In our profession, we tend to believe we should have all the answers. While intellectually we know this is impossible, we can get defensive if someone tries to tell us something we are not quite ready to hear.

Defensiveness Harms Us All
It is this same defensiveness others have when we try to "enlighten" them. When we tell others something or try to get others to change, we meet resistance, and we return their defensiveness with our defensiveness.  All of this happens in micro-seconds and often, without our awareness.  But we transmit our feelings with our body movements, microscopically, that the other person picks up subconsciously.  It can be a series of minute body movements of the eye, lips, shoulders, breathing, hands . . .

I have digressed a little - but I know you've read enough about psychology that you know what I am referring to. It's just that we forget these points when we are meeting with clients, peers, manager and even our family members.

Becoming "Enlightened"
We have to become even more "enlightened" in our jobs and roles. The ability to listen is one thing. The ability to suspend judgement is quite another.  The ability to suspend judgement and not leap to labeling this item as good or bad, true or false, expensive or cheap, etc., can be critical to becoming better in our roles and work.

If you can walk away from this with the thought "I will listen deeply and allow new contradictory information to flow into my mind without judgement or evaluation, so I may learn something new" is the critical thought pattern that allows you to go from good to great.

Suspend Judgment
We should allow others to be our teachers.  This doesn't mean that we have to accept everything they say, but it truly is to our advantage to listen to them and see if what they are telling us is important and of value.  And determining if this is important and of value does not have to be decided right then and there in the moment as they are telling us this.

A Side Benefit
A side benefit of listening and suspending judgement other than that of learning something new which in and of itself is of great value is the fact that it makes the other person feel good. Yes. When we listen, the other person's self-esteem goes up. They will want to communicate with us more, they will feel better about themselves and therefore be more confident in their work. And when we listen, the other person tends to listen to us.

Amazing. Can it be that simple? Yes. Most of the time it is that simple.

Allow others to teach you. It is usually when we are in a rush and can't listen that we cause harm. Or it is because our self-esteem is low (permanently or just for that moment) that we refuse to listen and evaluate the information as wrong, bad, incorrect, etc.

I hope you listened and suspended judgement upon reading  this today!

How To Become a Consultant - 50 Things You Do Right Now

Here's the 50 Things List on How to Become a Consultant . . . as I promised!

First and foremost, you are already a consultant.  That's the thinking you need to wrap your mind around - even if you are working for a large company.

I was asked - "So where do I start in becoming a consultant?"

I am going to list out the things - while not totally complete - you need to do to move you toward becoming an independent consultant.  Don't let the length of this list "fool" you. It is not scary. And the things listed out here are things you should be doing ANYWAY to become better in your profession!

The Best Place to Start is Right From Where You Are
This is a list to start with right from where you are.  AND any managers looking at this - do not be afraid to share these with your staff. A good professional and a good consultant have almost exactly the same skills and attributes. Who could argue with these?

The Consulting Starting Point List
  1. As you are working for a company - think - I deliver value to the client (end-user, my manager, my division, my company - YES - all of these entities).
  2. What is the VALUE I do bring? Is it programming, or Business Analysis, or Reengineering, or WHAT?  Define it.
  3. Translate that VALUE into Money Savings, Money/Revenue Generated, Time to Market - something.  If you cannot - keep this in your mind.
  4. What do I know? What have I accumulated in the way of knowledge or a process or a program or a product - that says I am a little better, a little different, that can be leveraged (used) in other jobs or projects?
  5. What is my knowledge in the industry or sub-segment of the industry? How is my knowledge different or better or more than others I know?
  6. What is my knowledge in my area of expertise - as it lays against my industry? Am I a strong accountant in the Health Care Industry that understands Patient P&L and Health Care Profitability? Or something along a similar vein?  Do I know iPhone Application Development in the Banking industry?
  7. Can I write? Can I build proposals?
  8. Can  I develop strong, short PowerPoint Presentations that encapsulate what I am recommending? And what I have done? Can I incorporate diagrams that denote what I am trying to convey?
  9. Can I speak publicly?  Have you gone regularly to Toastmasters, or Dale Carnegie or a Public Speaking course?  Can I present and get my points, my facts, and my opinion across?
  10. How do I look? Do I dress professionally appropriate? Am I uncomfortable with stepping up my appearance? Am I willing to work on how I look?
  11. Can I run and facilitate a meeting? Do I capture notes well and am I willing to incorporate them into a document and share these publicly in a Word doc or an email?
  12. Do I work hard? Am I willing to get up early and stay later?
  13. Am I a proficient Time Management person? Do dwaddle? Or do I work from a list that is prioritized - every single day?
  14. Do I read and study my field? Am I trying to become an expert on the things here listed out?
  15. Have I created a Blog and do I write regularly?
  16. Am I concerned with perfection on things that don't need to be perfect and therefore this keeps me from trying in the first place?
  17. Do I know how to get and keep clients?  Have I done any type of business development in the past? Can I transfer to a group that is more front line facing to learn how to win business?
  18. Can I write on a whiteboard and explain my thoughts in a diagram?  Can I capture the thoughts of the group on a whiteboard?
  19. Do I know how to run and participate in a meeting?
  20. Can I talk without rambling? Can I get to the point and not waste managers time?
  21. Do I and can I - ask powerful questions when meeting with a user or client?
  22. Do people go away from meeting with me and say "That was a worthwhile meeting?"
  23. Can I translate what the client issue is into root causes?
  24. Can I translate what the client issue is into ancillary problems?
  25. Do I recognize when I talk to the client and gather information that I need to go out and survey others and verify issues and then clarify issues to make sure we are addressing the true issues and get the desired results?
  26. Do I have confidence but not arrogance?
  27. Can I run a project?
  28. Can I create project status sheets, identify risks, identify best practices, build a project plan, identify interdependencies, get the right people on the team, create communication plans, etc etc etc?
  29. Do I understand - it's about delivering results.
  30. Am I likable to some degree?  I am not talking about becoming a beauty  pageant queen or king. And I am not talking about being a sycophant or lapdog or Ms Popularity 2012. But do you have a good demeanor? Do you smile often? Care about people? Do you have an understanding of what I am talking about here?
  31. Are you PASSIONATE about what you are doing?
  32. Are you PASSIONATE about YOU?
  33. Are you a complainer? Not a good thing by the way.
  34. Are you a leader? Can the client (your manager, end-user, etc) depend on you?
  35. Are you RELIABLE?  Do you do what you say you will do?
  36. If something goes wrong - will you state "I was responsible and here is what I am doing to correct the matter?"
  37. If something goes wrong - do you learn a lesson and incorporate it into the project or your repertoire?
  38. Breath. Stop. And just relax here. It seems like a lot - but these items can be incorporated into your slowly and surely . . .
  39. Are you building a roll-a-dex of people you know in the industry? What is a roll-a-dex?  Jeez - okay, all I am talking about here is capturing names and contact info, as well as likes and dislikes.
  40. Are you looking to network with peers in other companies and ancillary companies or industries?
  41. Are you looking for opportunities to publish your findings internally and externally?
  42. Are you continuing any sort of education? You don't need an MBA or PhD. Sometimes it helps. But it is not required.
  43. Are you positive or negative? Are you looking for what's right or what's wrong? A good consultant looks for what might go wrong and this is very important. However, they have a positive positive, can-do attitude.  By the way - it is stupid to be positive about jumping out of an airplane with no parachute. So, if you have a project assignment that you feel is impossible, this is tough love stuff, get it out on the table with your client. Don't wait to go splat on the concrete by being positive and jumping out of an airplane.
  44. Back to 43 above.  Can you identify the risks and build out risk mitigation plans.
  45. Can you bring a team together?  Can you rally a team and not rail at them?
  46. Can you identify the different types of personalities in the room or project team or your clients and communicate in the manner they need to be communicated with? In other words, a CFO is going to want to be factual and analytical. She will want fact based information with stats or numbers. An HR EVP will want facts but will probably by more concerned with the morale of the group, department and corporation. A division head if they originated from sales will have a little bit of both but will lean toward the future and sales growth and needed processes and staff.
  47. When things go wrong (and they always will) can you keep your head?
  48. Can you eliminate defensiveness? Can you eliminate anger?  Can you keep your mouth closed at the appropriate times? Sometimes our passion and desire to do well - gets a little misguided and comes up as anger and defensiveness. It's a thing to keep in check. It's too much PASSION misguided and misdirected.
  49. Do you volunteer for tough assignments? Are you willing to continually stretch yourself?
  50. Will you set a goal today? To do one or two of the things on the list? And start?
Last - take this list - place it in a spreadsheet (why do we love spreadsheets?) and give yourself a rating. Go to your boss and give the list to him and ask him to give you a rating. And go to a client (not a friend for Pete's sake! (who is Pete and why do care about his sake?)) and ask him or her to rate you.  On a scale of 1 to 5 or I prefer the big numbers 1 to 10.  You can get some feedback as to where you are and what areas you need to work on.

By the way - start now and 12 months from now you will not realize what has happened.

There are a host of other things that are not listed like Negotiating. I know this.

I will make it a list of a 100 soon. I told you I was not done :-)


You Shouldn't Bid or Propose on All Work That Comes Your Way

As a professional consultant there is a great temptation to bid and propose on any and all work  you hear about.  You must become very disciplined as to what you are bidding and proposing and why you are doing so.

Everyone likes to be busy in consulting, contracting and providing professional services. We must be billable in order to be making money.  And this sometimes translates into a bad practice where you bid and propose on things you have no business bidding on.

Wasted Energy, Time, Money and False Hopes
I have seen small companies make proposals and large companies make proposals on things they should not even engage themselves with because they are not a fit. But the mere act of proposing makes one feel like they are working.  A manager once said, "It feels like work, but it's not work."  Don't get caught up in this whirlwind.  You can spend a lot of money and especially time and get no results.  And worse, dilution in the marketplace what you do perform well by the mere act of bidding and proposing on everything.

Two Principles To Ask Yourself Before Proposing
There are really just two principles to follow along these lines. Have you met with the client and his or her staff regarding their needs?  And have you done this type of work before?  If you can answer "Yes" to at least one of these questions you may want to propose.  Of course there are a host of other questions to ask yourself once this is established, such as; "Is this what we want to be known for?" And "Is there follow on work?"  And so on.

So with these two questions, you can quickly surmise that the two ingredients needed for a success proposal come down to "Can you address the client's needs and does the client recognize this?"

Here are the two ingredients:
  1. A relationship with the buyers of the services. Is there one? Have you met with each one of he decision makers and influencers who are going to be evaluating your proposal? And I mean relationship where they really understand your capabilities and you have a viable solution for them. Sometimes you have to ask them straight out these questions.  No use proposing if they are mealy mouthed about the answer.
  2. Have you "Been there, done that" before?  In other words, do you have the qualifications? This means do you have the ability to get this project complete without risk to the client?  Or, and this is the 800 pound gorilla in the market question; Do they know you and your firm, so well that they know you can deliver? Are you that well-known? Of course this is what branding does for you if you are meticulous on what you are working on, so that you are well known in the market that people call you! And this is really tied into NOT trying to win projects you have no business trying to win.
Learn to say "No."
Learn to tell the client "No" and then explain why your firm does not have the right experience or expertise needed to help them. You will be one of a handful of people willing to tell the client this by the way and this will make you stand out.

And beware, sometimes clients want 30 or 40 bidders so they can say they did their due diligence. It sounds far better to say, "We had 30 proposals" than to say "We had only two proposals."  The immediate thought on the second response is: "What did you do wrong that you only had two firms responding. This is known as becoming "cannon fodder."

The second area to beware of - is that some clients send out RFIs and RFPs and RFQs to do market research.  They may not want to have a firm come in to do something and are looking for reasons why something should not be done.  We see this in outsourcing a lot.  Also they may be just getting information together to figure out how they can do the work internally.  I am not saying this always happens, but yes it does occur. So beware!

How to Become an Expert & Gain Influence

Gaining Influence
I have not met too many people who don't want to have influence of some sort. The influence I am talking about is the kind where we can help others achieve their objectives and goals for their businesses and their professional well being.  I am also talking about the type of influence where you can gain more control over your own business life.  That is, you can influence decisions that are beneficial to you and your clients (or manage, colleagues, etc).

A Central Point to Becoming An Expert and Gaining Influence
One of my chief ideas that I promote to people around me, and when I coach people, is the idea that for their career to take off, and for them to have any kind of influence, is that they need to become an expert in their field.  Whether they are in sales, management, consulting, programming, project management, etc.

No one is going to listen to you - if you don't have some sort of expertise which is knowledge and application of the knowledge.

I am going to jump right to the solution today . . .

Things You Should Be Doing Right NowIn order to become an expert, there are several things you should be doing every single day. I have used these methods myself and have taught these to others. The costs are minimal - time is all you need. And a little will power to stick to it.

The first thing to do is to develop your knowledge of what it is you do.  The more you know and the more you are able to articulate what you know, the more others will perceive you know your subject. When they perceive that you know your subject, the more they will respect you, and the more they will be influenced by your opinions.

The highest-paid people in every field are those who know more than the average person. These people are recognized as experts - industry experts.  They have developed what is called "expert power."

Because of this superior knowledge they have built up, they are looked up to and listened to. Clients want to do business with people who know what they are doing.

Don't be average in your work. People often ask me, "Where do I start?"

My response is something only 10 percent of the people I talk to take to heart. And here it is;
  1. READ everything you can get your hands on about your field. If you are a professional surgeon, know the latest in surgery and surgical techniques, and good bedside manners. If you are in Health Care selling supplies and instruments, know everything about the way people buy, know your competition, know your products and services and how they work.  Whatever you do, read about it. AND - this is important - take notes. Write, write, write.  Buy a special notebook and copy the ideas and concepts into the book and review these notes.
  2. Get up one hour earlier every single day and read for one hour and take notes.
  3. Listen to audio programs in your car on your way to work or if you are taking the train, listen to your IPod.  There are great downloadable programs from just about everywhere including YouTube, iTunes, HBR, TED, etc. Why listen to talk/trash radio that serves no purpose except to rile you up and eventually bring you down?
  4. Take courses from people who have been on the front lines.  Not necessarily those who have just studied the subject and never applied it.
  5. Apply what you have learned. And look for feedback. Take the feedback and adjust.
  6. Being willing to make mistakes. Failure is a better teacher than success.  Except for the surgical doctors - no failures here please.
  7. While this is not true for every profession, in 90% of cases being able to articulate your point of view is critical to your success. So, not only study your field, but study communication and leadership so you are able to convey your thoughts. Join Toastmasters.  A good weekly meeting that you attend can help you drastically convey your points.  And it is just about the cheapest and best investment you can ever make. Now, not all Toastmaster meetings are equal.  They all are a little different because of the set up and the personalities. Find one that works for you. But join and attend regularly!  If you know all this stuff and cannot articulate what you know, you cannot become a person of influence - ever!
Most people never think about becoming an expert. Or worse, they think they are, when in fact they are clueless.

When you become an expert in your field, you will make more money, have more fun and have a higher self-esteem and self-liking. You will in a term - feel good about yourself. 

It does take time however. One hour a day reading builds up over the course of 5 or 10 years. Do the math (365 hours a year multiplied by 5 years = a large number of 40 hour weeks).

Follow the 7-Steps above and in 5 years no one will understand what happened to you!

Ten Tenets To Follow When Negotiating with Clients

Ten Tenets To Follow When Negotiating with Clients
If you follow these ten tenets to negotiating with clients, you will have better client relationships.  Here they are, laid out for you and your team.
  1. First off all, and I mean ALL, negotiations must start from a WIN-WIN point of view.  The moment you take advantage of a client, you will lose in the long run. And probably in the short run too.
  2. Always negotiate from the client's point of view before you walk in to meet with the client.  Argue their case from their perspective.  Try to understand not only their point of view, but their fears, concerns and issues. Empathy, empathy, empathy. Be empathic.
  3. Never take a subservient role. Act as an equal. This does not mean you are arrogant or superior.  Be yourself, but be an equal. And treat the client as an equal.  Even when you may have the upper hand when you have something they need.
  4. There must be mutual respect for each other.
  5. Try to work together to craft a solution.  This means the client needs to understand what is WIN for you as well. If they understand your position, they will more than likely try to accommodate you in some fashion. At least if they know what you can and cannot do, they will understand why you are not bending on a certain point.  If they don't know why, they will just think you are obstinate or worse, manipulative in your negotiations.
  6. Always start with the mindset that this successful negotiation will lead to further negotiations.  You want to leave the client with a good taste in their mouth for you.  The concept here is make the client wanting to work with you in the future.
  7. List out what you want, what you need, what you can give up.  With each item try to quantify its value in terms of money, risk, time or some other quantifiable criteria.  Have your best case scenario outlined, your median case scenario outlined and your worst case - what you will accept and live with and not be resentful of. Anything less than your third scenario, is your walk-away.
  8. Never get emotional.  When you feel your temperature rise, take out a pen and start writing what you are feeling - if you can. If you need to - remove yourself from the situation by asking for a break. Another method I learned from a great book, from one of the authors of "Getting to Yes" is see yourself in a row boat on a lake, rowing away from shore.  The author also suggests "Going to the balcony" which means stop and see yourself going to a balcony overlooking the negotiations - see yourself removed and look at all the players in the situation as just that - players or actors on a stage.
  9. After the negotiations, when you deliver, deliver - if you can - more than you promised.
  10. Remember this - things will either work out, or . . .  they will work out. What happens sometimes is the best for all involved. 
Good Luck and Good Consulting!

    Great Questions - Six Honest Serving Men - A Consultant's Tool

    I was with some good consultants the other week.  We were talking to a large prospective client. We were assessing the client's problem.  We asked for some data and they presented the statistics and numbers to us.  The client had several Directors and Vice Presidents sit with us around a conference room table as we reviewed the numbers that was being thrown up on the wall from the projector. With the numbers in clear view - we could see - as they could see - several obvious problems. 

    But the numbers told one story.  There is a story behind the story.

    We asked questions about some of the obviuos numbers that were showing there were some problems.  Then we asked questions about the numbers and how they were captured. Then we asked questions about the effects of the problems on the organization and who this affected.  And then in what manner these problem affected the people around the table AND the end users. 

    It was all very enlightening.  But it gave the client and specifically the people around the table, a level of comfort that we knew what we are doing and have "been there done that" just by the questions we asked. 

    Diagnosing The Problem
    If you are a consultant or a great professional working as an employee, your ability to diagnose the client's true problem is a chief skill you have to develop.

    Getting to the root cause of the problem requires you to ask great questions and the ability to listen for "hidden" issues. These hidden issues are typically not identified by the client as a component of the problem. And yet, may be the cause of the problem or - could be affecting other parts of the organization.

    You already know that asking great questions is critical to solving the client's problem. Yet most consultants do not ask questions as well as they think they do. 

    What Not To Do
    Yes, the consultant will ask one or two questions.  They hear what the client believes is the problem. And then they stop asking.  For some reason, most consultants and for the that matter, sales professionals who sell consulting type services launch into possible solutions. The consultant feels compelled to start telling how they might solve this with their processes and tools.

    Now I am not saying that you should not discuss how you would solve this problem, but you may be solving the problem prematurely - that is - without all the facts at your disposal.

    Six Honest Serving Men
    One of the tools I recommend for any consultant is Rudyard Kipling's poem called; "I Keep Six Honest Serving Men ..."   It goes like this . . .

    I KEEP six honest serving-men
    (They taught me all I knew);
    Their names are What and Why and When
    And How and Where and Who.

    Now the poem goes on.  But the important fact is the words; What, Why, When, How, Where and Who.  If you keep these six words in mind when questioning and when listening to the client you will begin to get a clearer picture of the problem what and who and where and how and when and why of the problem. 

    Now great questioning skills are much more complex than this. However and this is a really big however, if you are truly able to think while the other person is talking and you are taking down notes, you can apply these six against anything you have captured - like an analytical tool.

    An Example or Two
    To give you an example.  The client says, "This problem of hiring a Project Manager is taking too long."

    You could immediately talk about your Project Managers that are available or how you can recruit for Project Managers and the speed in which you can find them.  All because your interpretation of the trigger words "too long."  Your assumption of "too long" triggered something in your mind and this assumption was what was in your mind, was also in the client's mind.

    If you instead asked "Why is it taking so long?"  or "What is taking so long?" You may get the response of "My manager does not have the budget approved yet."  This is a totally different problem than one you might be able to solve.

    You may get the response "The Project Managers we interviewed do not have the exact software tool experience we need."  You now have another piece of data that you can use.  You could follow up with questions as to why the tool is required and/or what is it about this tool that is so unique. 

    If you follow-up with a question to the client and ask, "How does not having a Project Manager affect the implementation of the solution?"

    And of course - you listen to the response.

    Now I realize that the example above is pretty basic - but it should give you a good idea of what I am referring to.  We will talk more about good questioning skills in later blog posts. 

    It is important that you start somewhere.  And Rudyard Kipling's Six Honest Serving Men is a great diagnostic tool for you to use and add to your repetoire.

    Good Luck!

    Click here for your Kindle ebook on Amazon: Clientize--Who Gets In, Stays In, and Why

    Why Do Consultants Fail to Make the Sale? Reason #3

    Why do consultants and contractors fail to make the sale? Reason #3

    Reason 3: Proving You've Been There Done That
    Okay. So here we are. A critical piece in providing consulting services.  Once we have identified the buyer and we have explicitly agreed that there is a pain (PROBLEM) and the client/buyer wants to alleviate that pain - it's time to PROVE you can do it.

    How often have you had a problem whether is be a leaky faucet, a car problem, a problem with your body - such as a knee injury or an allergic reaction - and you went to the - where?

    You went to the Internet.  You Googled the problem. You looked for solutions.  You may have asked friends.  But you became somewhat - albeit - superficial - and here's the key word: KNOWLEDGEABLE.  You became a little dangerous.

    What you were looking for was - who has has the same or similar problem - and what did they do about it. In other words you were looking for someone with - that's right, you got it: EXPERIENCE.

    Been There Done That
    Can you demonstrate clearly you know what you are doing - that is - you have the ability to solve the problem? 

    Sounds simple.  But most contractors, professionals, and consultants FAIL here. They cannot prove to the buyer that they can depend on this person to get the job done.  Why is this? Why do so many consultants, professionals, contractors - or anyone - fail here?

    A Few Simple Reasons:
    1. They cannot communicate very well.  They cannot stand up and deliver - (I don't mean literally stand-up) how they have solved this same or similar problem in the past.  There is a whole method to delivering this kind of information to someone.

    2.  They don't try to understand the client's problem and how this problem of theirs is unique to the buyer's organization/division/department. In other words, they don't get on their side of the table and see the problem from their perspective.

    3. They cannot explain the risks of multiple methods and approaches to solving this problem.

    4.  They fail to close on a start date.

    5. They fail to diagnose the problems caused by the problems.  So, what heck does that sentence mean? 

    It means - that if I hurt my knee there is pain - yes. But that isn't the real problem.  Right now as I write this I did hurt my knee. But one of my real problems stemming from the knee injury is I cannot run right now.  And that means I get grumpy. It means I cannot go to the running trail (they call the one I run on a "Green Way") and enjoy the run and be alone for 40 minutes and rejuvenate myself. 

    These are the affects of the problem that are really the problem.  If someone understood this I would be more apt to "bond" (not the feel good relationship bond - but maybe this is not true - maybe it is) and begin to trust the other person.

    6. They can't explain the procedure or better yet for us in the business world - the process of solving this problem.  And the ability that you really have a bonafide process to resolve - and provide a solution.

    These are just the tips of the icebergs listed above here. But these give you a great foundation to begin building your arsenal of how you are going to "sell" the buyer on why you can deliver and start building that trust that you are competent.

    Why Do Consultants Fail to Make the Sale? Reason #2

    Why do consultants and contractors fail to make the sale? Reason #2 . . .

    So, in the last article, or a.k.a. Reason #1, I wrote, we often go to the person who pays us the most attention - rather than to the person who is the ulimate buyer. We mistakenly assume that this person who is paying us attention by giving us their time, is the buyer.

    So hopefully you got it - get to the buyer.

    Why Get To The Buyer?
    Why is it you have got to get to the buyer?  And this is Reason #2: You have got to determine if this person actually wants to get this project started and completed AND do they actually have the funds for it.

    This is really about understanding the size and scope of the problem they are trying to address.  And yes I said the word, "problem."  I know you have probably read some bull in a book somewhere in your life about selling and there was some crap that went like this:

    "Never say the word 'problem' to a client. Keep it positive. If you have to say anything negative say the word 'challenge.' This will keep your client happy." 

    By the way, you have to read the above quotation in some sort of goofball voice to have the effect I want to have in undermining your old, conventional thoughts about selling - which is not selling by the way - it is working with clients by educating them about you.

    Problems, Problems, Problems - I Want Problems
    Only real problems need to be fixed.
    Here is a simple and cautionary piece of advice: If it's not a problem - then there is NO SALE!!!

    Only problems get money these days. And the bigger the problem - the more important it is going to be to find a solution.  Note: I did not say: "The bigger the problem, the bigger the sale."  Understanding the impact of the problem - how big a headache the problem is - is really about understanding the client's priorities. 

    Competing Priorities
    And all clients have priorities.  And unfortunately, a client has multiple priorities that are "competing priorities" which basically means that these "competing priorities" are fighting for his or her (here we go again with this awkward gender thing - is there a word that can say both at the same time?) time and attention.

    You have got to make sure that this "problem" is important to him/her. And that what you have to offer can take it off the buyer "worry list."

    And now we are drifting into Reason #3 - of; Why do consultants and contractors fail to make the sale? Making sure the client understands YOU can take it off their worry list. Meaning: You can demonstrate your knowledge, acumen, skills, etc that you have; "been there done that." 

    10 Reasons Why Consultants Fail To Make the Sale - Reason #1

    Why do consultants and contractors fail to make the sale? Or job? or if you want to get fancy and charge more per hour - let's use the word "engagement."

    The reason or reasons are pretty simple.  I have been studying this subject for years. There are 10 primary reasons.

    Here is Reason #1.  They Fail to Understand Who the Buyer Is. 
    Yes, it's that simple.  Often a consultant will not understand who the real buyer is.  Let's face it - we all - and I mean all - go to the person who we feel likes us and that is usually the person who will pay us the most attention usually by giving us an appointment. We gravitate to the person who is "available."

    Too many times we meet someone and they tell us that they have a need.  We listen hard and explore. We ask all the right questions. But we ask questions about the project.  We meet with them face to face or knee to knee.  We tend to gravitate to the technical side of the project - by asking technical questions.

    What we forget to do is ask questions about who is buying.

    What Do I Mean by WHO?
    Who are they and why are they important? Er, um, let me rephrase that - or this - "Why are they important?" I should have written: Why is this is important to them?  And by "this" I mean: "the project."

    Well I am starting to drift into another reason why consultants fail to make the sale - which is; Why is this important to them." So, allow me to get back on track with the "who."

    Who you are talking to is not necessarily the ultimate buyer. The ultimate buyer or the "economic buyer" as per Miller Heiman's Strategic Selling book and process, is the person who has the budget and can write the check.

    Okay Let's Be Real
    If you are working in a big organization  - like say the likes of an IBM and you are trying to make the sale to this Goliath, you may never, ever, get to the guy (or lady) who cuts the check.  But you should be able to get to the guy (or lady) who has the budget and give the thumbs up.

    Even if it just for a minute - you should be able to get to this guy (or lady).

    Why do you need to get to this guy? (or lady - and just for the record, I am getting a little tired of typing both guy and lady - so I may use "guy" as gender neutral in the future).

    You have got to ask them a few questions about the importance of the project - and be able to explain to them what kind of "pay-off" the project will provide.  Read "pay-off" equals "return on investment."

    Well now we are into the next reason why consultants fail to make the sale - or - Reason #2. 


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