Monthly Archives: March 2011

You Get What You Pay For

I think that people believe, for better or worse, they get what they pay for. They’ll excuse something cheap that breaks (“It only cost a few bucks”) even though it was clearly meant to last far longer. And they’ll cheer at mediocrity because if they paid a lot for it, well, darn it, we’re going to extol it.

That explains the exasperating standing ovations for arrant mediocrity, from regional theater to Broadway. I can understand a school production where everyone jumps to their feet for their kid, but I doubt that’s a house full of parents watching Zombies Dance At Midnight at the Helen Hayes Theater on West 44th.

This is why no speakers should ever speak for free, no matter who is in the audience (including their parents). “Exposure” isn’t worth it, because anyone who knows you’re there for free will not think you’re very valuable and may even believe you’re somewhat desperate. On the other hand, I’ve seen very high fees create enrapt audiences even for lousy speakers (many famous business authors are in this category). If I’m paying this much, they must be good (they’d better be good, or I’m the fool, so I’m getting on my feet).

There are exceptions, of course. I would think the production of Spiderman might come to mind, or the importance of a good, cheap cup of coffee.

Nevertheless, I watched Chris Brown lip synch worse than my Beagle could on Dancing With the Stars the other night. The crowd roared. I thought he was pathetic. But I guess they had paid a lot, or assumed he had been paid a lot. I watched it for free, and I wondered why anyone would spend five minutes watching him if they had to pay for it. But maybe if they pay enough, they figure he’s pretty good.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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Language to Use When the Buyer Asks About Fees

Language to Use When the Buyer Asks About Fees

• I have no idea, but I can give you some options and ranges as soon as tomorrow if I can ask you a few questions now.

• It would be unfair to you for me to cite any fee without understanding your needs and the scope of your expectations. I want to consider what I can do to most effectively minimize your investment while maximizing your return on it.

• Let’s look at value and impact, to see if the project makes sense to you. If so, we can talk about fees in that context.

• I don’t have fee schedules or time-based rates, because they’re unethical. After all, you’re best served by a quick solution, but a time-based consultant is best served by a slow solution. We should be partners, not competitors.

• I realize that past consultants have probably charged you by the hour or day, and that’s why you need me at this point.

• My fees are based on my contribution to the results you agree will be generated by this project, with a dramatic return on investment for you and equitable compensation for me.

• You’re not going to make a decision this afternoon, and I’ll have the complete proposal in front of you by tomorrow. You’ll be able to see your options in the context of the entire project that quickly.

• I don’t provide discounts for “exposure” or to “get in the door.” Do you do that with your customers? If you don’t, why would I? If you do, then you need me more than you can imagine!

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Business of Consulting | 5 Comments

My Latest Project

I usually build armored vehicles, but I decided to build a jet, which I haven’t done in 20 years. Here’s an F84, along with a photo of the real thing.

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Psychic Chooses Beer for Me and the Boys – Redux

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Psychic Chooses Beer for Me and the Boys

So the boys and I hit a bar famed for its burgers and for a psychic who chooses the beer for you. Unfortunately, the boys just can’t drink well.

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Episode 55: My Recommendations for Government

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Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 03/28/11

March 28, 2011—Issue #80

This week’s focus point: In a workshop, I once asked participants what they would do with an extra million dollars of income. Many people had a hard time deciding about this. A “million” had become an empty metaphor, a superficial goal. TIAABB: There Is Always A Bigger Boat. Think about the outcomes you want to accomplish: family support, education, retirement, travel, philanthropy, and so on. Don’t worry about the input side: X clients, Y sales, Z bank account. Real wealth is discretionary time. You can work so hard merely making money that you erode your actual wealth.

Monday Morning Perspective: Neurosis is the inability to tolerate ambiguity. — Sigmund Freud.

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© Alan Weiss 2010. All rights reserved

I remember a meeting with a boutique consulting firm that had fallen on hard times. The debate was whether or not to sell their magnificent conference table. “Where would clients sit?” asked one partner. “We have no clients,” stated the advocate of selling. You can’t cut your way to renewal or success. Top line growth is the key to bottom line achievement, for you and for your clients. Today is the time to invest in the future. Once you cut muscle, you’re powerless.
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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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Eight Things To Do When You Enter A Buyer’s Office and Before You Leave It

When you enter a buyer’s office for the first time, here are some useful behaviors to discipline yourself to follow. They’ll help you understand the person, the environment, and your own actions, as well as calm you down if needed.

1. Look around.

What is the office like? Large or small? Is there comfortable seating or merely a desk and chairs? Are there mementoes, photos, and awards, or is the place institutional and sterile? Is it neat or does it look like the aftermath of a shipwreck? This will tell you a lot about the person with whom you’re meeting (assuming it’s the buyer’s personal office!).

2. Shake hands firmly and smile.

Press the hand you’re offered with equal pressure back, whether male or female. Smile when you repeat the other person’s name and your own. If the other person says, “I’m Jane Anderson,” it’s fine to say, “Nice to meet you, Jane.” But if she says, “I’m Dr. Anderson,” then your reply is, “Nice to meet you, Dr. Anderson.” If she says, “Dr. Joan Anderson,” reply with “Dr. Anderson” and see if she says, “Please call me Joan” or not. I always ask people to call me “Alan.”

3. Be seated quickly.

Don’t unpack as if you’re checking into a Ritz-Carlton. You should have left any coats, baggage, computer cases, and mining equipment with the secretary or the receptionist (or in your car or limo). Sit where indicated by your host, take out something with which to take notes, and start listening carefully. (Note: Don’t accept the offer of refreshments, unless you’ve just arrived from the Gobi Desert. Trying to balance coffee, or figure out where to place a tea bag, or wait for the assistant’s interruption, and so forth, just get in the way. You don’t go to a coffee shop to build business, and you don’t go to a business meeting for coffee.)

4. Follow the buyer’s lead.

There’s a huge difference among, “How can I help you today?” and “What can you do for me?” and “Tell me something about yourself and how you’ve come to me.” Answer what you’re asked, but briefly. Tell the buyer what the buyer needs to know, not everything that you know (“I was born in Madagascar….”) You’ve now been able to observe the office, your seating arrangements, body language, and opening conversation, all in about 60 seconds.

5. Take the initiative.

Once pleasantries are briefly exchanged (which could be 30 seconds or five minutes), say something like this: “Both of us appreciate the need to make the best use of our time, so why don’t we set a brief agenda? I have three items I’d like to discuss, and I’d like to hear what your expectations are, and then we can utilize our time accordingly. I think you said we have 45 minutes, is that still the case?” This exchange immediately establishes you as a peer and allows you to actually lead the discussion and avoid becoming a performing seal. Make sure you know what your minimum and maximum objectives are (min/max) for that meeting.

6. Take notes.

Don’t trust your memory, but be judicious. I’ve seen people write everything down as if they’re auditioning for a court reporter’s position. Just note the salient points for your purposes of exploring a potential partnership. I find this easiest to do with a pen and paper, not electronic pecking. Ask for clarification when needed, and paraphrase and summarize regularly.

7. Watch for changes in behavior or language.

The buyer is going to do one of only three things: Stay the same as when you arrived; become less cordial and communicative; become more cordial and communicative. You want the last. Make mid-course corrections by observing what, if any, changes are transpiring. “You seem more enthusiastic about this last point. Should I infer this is your top priority?”

8. Create definitive next steps.

Building trusting relationships takes time. But the time can be shortened if there are clear and agreed upon actions and dates. Never accept “Let me get back to you,” or “Call me in a couple of weeks,” or “I’ll need to get some more information for our next conversation.” Make definite times and dates while you’re sitting there.

Never overstay your time unless explicitly invited to do so and it’s necessary for your purposes. It’s always fine to leave early once the mission (min/max) has been accomplished.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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Posted in Business of Consulting, Consulting Philosophy, Personal Improvement | 20 Comments

My New Custom Designed Briefcase

From Mitchell Leather in Milwaukee (through an introduction by Alex Goldfayn), designed to hold my 17″ Mac laptop, iPad, iPhone, assorted files, even pen holders built to the circumference of my personal writing implements! Finally, no more compromises!

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