Monthly Archives: May 2008

I Did Not Misspeak — You Misheard (Episode 21)

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© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Ah, The Middlemen

I’ve been receiving about three aggressive requests a month to participate in someone’s great program/web site/resource community—you name it. It’s always a “great deal” for me, yet there is never any money up front and I’m immediately to lend my name and brand to their endeavor.

But the “great deal” is so alluring! After all, I’ll get a buck or so every time someone listens to intellectual property of mine. And I’ll receive free DVDs, or CDs, or eight-track cassette recordings. And I get a fifty-cent commission if I send people to their site! Oh, yeah, and then the benefit-cum-insult: I can have my demo DVD redone for free, since mine is unquestionably not as good as their version would be.

I always write back to say “no thanks.” Not everyone understands either “no” or “thanks,” apparently. One guy wrote back to me urging that I reconsider, and dropped names like snowflakes in a bad January storm around here. I had actually done this guy a favor years ago, working at below my rates for sessions he set up for people I felt couldn’t otherwise get to hear me. He made a profit of course, and returned the favor by booking me in the cheapest, filthiest hotels he could find and not bothering to provide any local transportation to the suburban sites he used to save money. Now he comes back to me after years of no communication because he wants something. He was bitterly offended when I told him that I don’t participate in these middlemen gigs, and that he apparently hadn’t even bothered to investigate what I was doing these days. (He offered to help me build a community, and to build my brand. He could get me into varied media.)

He was so appalled that I would refuse him that, besides calling me names and suggesting I needed psychological help, he sent me photos of his home to try to prove that we was doing better than I! I don’t care if he is, but that he’s doing it as a middleman parasitically leaching off others is appalling. And who needs the shrink?

You and I can make a case that a realtor, or an insurance agent, or a financial expert, or a literary agent are learned intermediaries who lend value to potential transactions and enhance the results for buyer and/or seller. But I can’t make that case for brokers, and agents, and assorted other middlemen in consulting. If this is a relationship business, why put someone in the middle of the relationship?

Moreover, why provide your hard-earned brand and repute for someone else to profit from? The allure of quick bucks based on volume (“They will download this a thousand time a day!”) is false 99.99% of the time. The ego of being with other “names” on some site is important only if you perceive you are not of value yourself and believe that osmosis builds business. (In effect, you’re an unlighted ornament on that tree.)

Just because you don’t invest money (“It costs you nothing!” he proclaimed) doesn’t mean you’re not making a major investment. If your value is profound and needed, you should be able to provide it for people directly, or have someone pay YOU as the talent to provide it through them. Up front. In advance.

Resist the middlemen. Ask yourself if they are truly adding value or just trying to siphon off some of yours. I mean, come on, if they had real talent, why would they need you?

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Memorial Day

It is Memorial Day here in the U.S., and once again I’d like to take the opportunity to honor all those who have served in uniform in all countries in defense of freedom and human dignity, and who have responded to their countries’ call; especially those who have been injured, and most fervently to the families of those who, as Lincoln noted, “gave their last full measure of devotion.” May we all earn and honor that sacrifice.

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Let’s Not Make A Deal

Are your customers asking you to reduce the fee or give them a deal? Are you passing that vibe? Listen to Alan discuss what to do about it. And finally if you don’t want to deal …

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© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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I’m pleased to announce that my daughter, Danielle, and her husband, Jan, are expecting twins later this year. Koufax and Buddy will finally be uncles.

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In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning

Who was Sinatra’s great love and what exactly was he singing about? Lessons learned and who truly needs an introduction.

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© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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Who’s On First

NOTE: This originally appeared in RainToday on today’s date, which is worth your subscribing to for excellent sales and performance articles.

Abbott and Costello, the legendary comedy duo, are best known for one of the classic dialogues in comedic history, “Who’s on First?” The entire six-minute bit comprised Abbot trying to explain to Costello the names of the players at each position on a baseball team. The problem was that the guy on first was named “Who” and the rest had names such as “What” and “I Don’t Know” and “Why.” (Here’s an audio and a print link for those of you who have somehow missed this: .)

It’s a classic case of one person knowing exactly what he means and the other totally bewildered by the certainty (and inflexibility) of the first.

Say what?

When a consultant says to me, “I work in the premium value space, and my Upstairs Growth First lead generation system creates competitive gaps for indirect retailers,” I look for the nearest bar. And I’ve been around the block a few times, consulted with the best and the brightest, and have created enough intellectual property to have supported 27 books and a thousand articles and columns.

If I’m bewildered, what are prospects, recommenders, and possible referral sources thinking? I’ll tell you what: “Get this person away from me!”

My dentist on occasion says to me something like this, “The checkup was good but we’ve placed a ‘watch’ on your interior, shoulder, dorsal at number 7. There’s a shadow, though no catch. Do you feel anything there?” No, I wouldn’t know where to feel, but I am getting an intense headache, does that count?

My tree expert is constantly talking arboreal to me: “We have a Dh-7 Mialithone which will treat the fungal issue, but I’d like to use an evanescent where the superior fork is. Would that be okay with you?” I don’t know. Does it mean you’ll spray the trees and they won’t turn brown?

In a recent ballet review in a paper called, appropriately, The Phoenix, the reviewer wrote phrases like this: “The dancer was unstable in her fritz-gorman reverse, and the tantaloose a la deux was unfortunately performed a trois, with the corps inexplicably on position 5 in the Pfifeer reverse.”

Okay, but what about the dancing?

How am I better off?

If you want to sell professional services, here’s a conceptual breakthrough: You have to be clear, yourself, and in plain English (or your native tongue), about how you can improve the client’s condition. Then you have to be able to explain it so that the client understands it.

As a rule, that will have zero to do with methodology, technology, and approach, and everything to do with output and result. I don’t care about your Upstairs Growth First, I care about whether my sales people will close larger amounts of business more quickly and at less cost of acquisition. Would that be a “yes” or a “no”?

Tell me that my teeth are fine and that I should keep flossing and come back in three months, or that my trees will stay green once you spray them with whatever stuff is in your truck, or that the dancing was wobbly when it should have been steady. Don’t show off your own, narrow, erudition, and don’t obscure the point.

Just tell me how my condition will or won’t be improved. There are too many mediocre consultants who are doing quite well because they know how to emphasize results, despite the fact that they may be weak in methodology. There are too many good consultants starving because the emphasize their quite meticulous methodology and ignore the client’s actual, probable results.

Then there are some of us who have made a fortune by simply stressing the value of the improvement in the client’s condition, and setting about achieving it as quickly, and with as little labor intensity, as possible.

It’s the final score that counts

No one waxes rhapsodic about the great plays of the losing team. No victory was every overturned because the losing team showed more graceful moves or more athleticism. Please don’t tell me that it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about how you play the game, because otherwise no one would keep score. (The last time I checked, the Olympics, bearer of that noble phrase, still gave out the gold medals for winning, and no team was shouting, “Well done, it’s how we play the game!” or “Go for the bronze!”)

The improvement in the buyer’s condition is all that matters, which makes the $80 billion or so spent on training in the U.S. last year all that much more suspect. Most of that only improves the condition of training venders, not the client, which is why that industry (and the HR department, which funds it) is so avoidant of metrics and ROI calculations.

In consulting, we have the great responsibility and opportunity to improve the client’s condition daily, in return for equitable remuneration (which is why fees should NEVER be time-based). We should relish that. That’s what comes first.

Ignore it, and you’ll never get to second.

© Alan Weiss 2008 All rights reserved.

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What’s With This “Profession”?

The word “profession,” I believe, comes from the Latin professus, which means “proclaimed publicly.” Uh, oh!

Who and what constitutes public proclamation? In law, it seems to me it’s passing the bar exam. (Being graduated from a law school is simply a precursor, and one wonders why it’s necessary if someone might pass the bar exam without attending law school. Isn’t the bar the “public proclamation”? Why require an arbitrary precursor?)

In medicine, there are academic, experiential, and residency requirements, as well as various board approvals and continuing criteria to be met. In accounting, the CPA is a clearly designated course of study and mastery, as is the CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter) in insurance. To separate these from some bogus honorifics used to confuse consumers and clients (“chartered elderly financial planner”), the granting institutions are recognized and accredited by the government.

Thus, architects must be registered and certified by the state in which they practice (just as lawyers must meet separate state bar requirements), but having “AIA” after their names, (American Institute of Architects) simply indicates they have paid their dues and are a member, not that they have higher legitimacy or special accreditation. A professional engineer (PE) has similarly passed muster in the states in which he or she practices.

Thus, some things “proclaimed publicly” are sanctioned by impartial, objective, and governing bodies, and some things result from the paying of dues, or attending a private, idiosyncratic event (chartered life coach), or simply attaching some initials to one’s name. (I’ve passed muster as a Certified Management Consultant, a Certified Speaking Professional, and a CPAE Hall of Fame® member of the National Speakers Association. Those are 10 initials right there, which will get me on the subway if I also pay two dollars. I recognize that these are internal sources of recognition within the professions, not public proclamations, at lest in my view.)

Thus, the good and bad news about consulting is that there is virtually no barrier to entry. You don’t have to pass muster with the liquor commission, the gaming board, the chamber of commerce, the food and beverage people, the sanitary commission, or the school board. You just have to hang out a figurative shingle and “proclaim” yourself.

Fair enough, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I don’t want to be “approved” or regulated by people who wouldn’t know the first thing about my work, results, and methodology, but rather are only concerned with their own bureaucracy. (I’ve always wondered about those coaching universities and boot camps and such: Who certifies the certifiers?)

But that means that our responsibility is to represent the “profession” well, in that we should:
• Act ethically and always in the best interests of the client.
• Police our own profession by being honest about frauds and nonsensical methodology.
• Create intellectual property which improves the profession and its approaches.
• Work to help others attain these standards through sharing, coaching, and pro bono work.
• Ensure that our accolades come from clients and results, and not self-adulation and self-aggrandizement.

The best public proclamation comes from the delight and repeat business of our clients. That’s the only accreditation that will stand the test of time.

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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New: The Self-Esteem Workshop

December 2-3

The intent is simple. Building on my work with individuals around the globe, I want to help you: Identify the uncertainties, perceived vulnerabilities, and situations which cause you to perform at less than your optimal capacity; understand the causes of those dynamics, and receive timely yet non-threatening feedback about how to resolve them; master and apply techniques that will help you maintain and manifest a high self-esteem level “in the moment” when it is most needed; avoid the debris and detritus in your life which tend to damage self-esteem, and focus on the routes of least resistance to self-worth and its manifestation. In brief, personally and professionally, you will be able to deal with daily routine and exceptional circumstances; with varied and often tough personalities in your life; and to overcome the problems caused by pressure, unfamiliarity, and perceived threat.

Accompanying photos show enthralled people just anticipating this workshop.

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The World Doesn’t Always Comply

My friends, one of the fundamental problems with planning is that the world has a different idea about how things are going to happen. Your assumptions, visualizations, projections, forecasts, and suppositions turn out to be wrong.

Get over it.

If the world always complied with your expectations, this would be a highly predictable, vanilla, and boring place. People don’t respond as expected, the environment undergoes radical change, group dynamics reverse course, your supporters really aren’t, you get rained out. Stuff happens.

I’m bemused by people who claim “genius” for themselves when they’ve had the good fortune to profit from a few lucky “hits” with clients who, in turn, recommended them elsewhere. Or those who are mediocre but are elevated by a strong, rising economic tide.

But when things go south, where are they? If they haven’t marketed themselves and don’t know how, where is that “genius” now? If tougher times decrease demand and only the top talent is pursued, where is the “genius” then?

We should all hope for the best but prepare for the worst. True talent is able to excel in all economies, in a multitude of environments, and with a great diversity of people. It’s not hard to sell hot dogs on the route of the great parade, but the real question is how many you can sell during the other 364 days of the year. It’s nice to find a $100 bill on the sidewalk, but I wouldn’t advise that method as a daily pursuit to feed the family.

By all means, make assumptions about the future and act upon them. But also be prepared to anticipate and handle deviations from the path. You may have an uncanny view of what the future holds.

But the world doesn’t always comply.

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

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