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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