Category Archives: Business of Consulting


Anyone who has ever seen and heard me speak (or perhaps even merely conversed with me) knows that I use stories to illustrate my points. In a typical keynote, I’ll use about 10. The “story index” I maintain on my computer (so that I don’t repeat any for the same client or group) is now at 126.

Stories help people to identify with you and with your point. They enable the listener to think, “I’ve been there and done that, I know exactly what he means.” They may add humor, or pathos, or texture—but primarily they add understanding. They are the short cut to comprehension, avoiding dreary narrative and explication.

However, they also create something more subtle and surprising, in that they slightly “rewire” the listener’s brain.

At Princeton, neuroscientist Uri Hasson posits that the patterns in one brain are often matched by another. Think speaker and listener. After the speaker tells a particularly engrossing and relevant story, the brain patterns in the listener tend to match those of the speaker. His research validates his point.

I’m not quite talking about Spock and Vulcan mind melds, but I am suggesting that effective stories create an empathy and even synergy between listener and speaker. We’ve all seen fascinating works about influence and persuasion, and the techniques and tactics to create them. Perhaps, however, the real secret of influence is a carefully crafted story.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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How Do You Begin Your Day?

If you begin your day worried about paying bills, finding business, and meeting “quotas” you’re going to behave as if you’re trying to get money from people and be hesitant about calling them because they don’t want their money taken.

If you begin your day confident that you have tremendous value that can help others you’re going to behave as if you’re obligated to contact others in order to help them and they’ll be happy to hear from you because they appreciate value and help.

The way you begin your day is your choice. It’s not about competition, the economy, technology, demographics or any other factor. It’s about how you see yourself and what you believe about yourself.

Your success is dependent on how you view your worth, and whether you see yourself as a “taker” or a contributor.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Have you ever tried to leave a theater and found that a small group of people have paused in the doorway to chat about the play, blocking everyone behind them? Have you experienced people getting off an escalator and stopping dead to try to get their bearings on the new floor, creating a potential human pileup? Have you experienced the terribly clever person who usurps all of the server’s attention, while others are waiting for their meals?

These are the terminally self-absorbed, those who are oblivious to the world around them.

And so it is in business, with too many people paying no attention to the customer, or the quality, or the opportunities, but merely focusing on their particular task and needs at any given time.

That’s no way be admired by others, and it’s no way to run a business.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Don’t Look Now, But Good Times Continue

These statistics are from Citizen’s Private Bank & Trust:

• The economy showed growth in Q4 2013, better than expected, despite a government shutdown, Federal Reserve uncertainly, and the new healthcare system.

• GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was revised up from 2.8% to 4.1% in the third quarter.

• The manufacturing sector is dramatically improving. The ISM index has improved every month since mid-2013, correlating with increased job growth.

• Consumer confidence had increased at year end to 78.1 after two straight declines. Spending and income growth for consumers are improving at modest rates.

• The consistent, average monthly gain for non-farm jobs is almost 200,000.

• Inflation is well below worrisome levels.

No, things aren’t perfect, but they are looking pretty good.

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Prospect Discussion Sequence

IF you’re confident your meeting is with a buyer, here’s a suggested sequence to organize a first encounter around meeting your maximum objective: agreement to consider a proposal and discuss it in the next few days.


▪   Opening. Niceties, greetings, etc.

▪   Intention (why are we here?). Objectives, agenda, timing, etc.

▪   Rapport building. Their time in position, where from, view of the industry, etc.

▪   Structured conversation. Listen for key issues you can help with, move to focus on them.

▪   Value. Provide ideas and provocation around “what” (not “how”).

▪   Pivot point. Suggest your help with priority concern(s) and offer a proposal.

•  Disengage. Agree to next time, date, and action.

You’ll find that you may have opportunities to “jump ahead” in the sequence, but don’t get fooled by “What can you do for us?” or “We need a strategic retreat.” And if you find the buyer agreeing very rapidly and offering no objections, then the odds are you’re simply being softly ushered out.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Hold the Backup

Stop thinking you need validation and, worse, taking the time to provide it whenever you speak.

• You don’t demand to see the collegiate records of your dentist, nor the last inspection reports from the board of health.

• You don’t demand a personal conversation with the invited speaker before you attend the  event.

• You don’t read an author’s book before deciding whether or not to pay for it.

• You don’t demand to see your money each day on deposit at the bank, nor test the night alarm system.

• You don’t ask for a résumé of all the top managers in a company in which you invest.

Why not? Because you use your judgment, have faith, trust in others’ judgment, believe that people are competent or wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, and that others–at appropriate junctures–ARE checking for quality and safety.

So just give us your opinion without citing ancient Greek philosophers, a book by Peter Drucker, or a survey from the New England Journal of Canine Psychology. If you’re an expert, I’ll trust your opinion and decide whether to use it or not. If you’re not an expert, then maybe you should go lightly on having opinions.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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The Difference Between 1 and 7

I was graduated number 9 academically in high school, and number 7 in college. I tell you this not to brag—I don’t want to recreate Facebook here—but to explain a significant difference in labor.

I studied with my own discipline (I read every word in every book) and prepared for tests and exams in my own way—an minimally as possible. Those who finished at higher rankings than I did also used FAR higher labor than I invested. Without having thought much about it, I was sanguine to be near the top with not too much labor than at the top with excessive labor.

We need to leverage and scale our efforts as solo practitioners and boutique firm owners in the same way. Too many people publish an article, then spend a week promoting it. The better approach is to leave it alone and publish another article all the time while also getting in front of buyers.

Make your priority success, not perfection. Because in terms of labor, the difference between 1 and 7 is zero.

© Alan Weiss 2015

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DASM The Tonight Show: Everything Old Is New Again

My wife was with me in the audience when a “famous” speaker used material that was 20 years old in his presentation. “I recognize that as ancient,” she said, “and I’m not in the profession.”

Monday night, after enough fanfare to think we had created colder beer, Jimmy Fallon emerged from the curtain to begin a new era on the tonight show. And that’s where the problem began. He emerged from the curtain, had a band on his left, an announcer on his right, a couch and chairs, an overly- and artificially-stimulated studio audience, and a lame monologue.

Except for the “lame” part, that’s exactly what Johnny Carson did 50 years ago. And everyone since. This is a new era only in the sense that it’s a day after yesterday.

With all the money and supposed talent in the media, this weak clone is the best they could do? No thought of changing the set, or the format, or the material? The same guests trailing along, trying to be funny? (Will Smith was just dreadful, sliding from A to D list.)

Too  many of us are doing that with our clients: same old “pitch,” same tired methodology, same ancient fee structure, same emulation of other mediocre approaches. Age isn’t the issue (Fallon is young). Vision is the issue. Boldness is the issue.

If you’re going to perform to the same tired music with the same hackneyed approach, then people are going to turn the channel and prospects are going to turn to someone else.

© Alan Weiss 2014

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You Don’t Need An Olympic Effort

These athletes at the Olympics are dealing with treacherous hills, dangerous runs, tough competitors, psychological pressure, and so on. In a split second they can forfeit years of tough training and a lifetime of aspirations.

When you deal with a buyer, there is no clock, no competitor next to you, no judge in collusion with others, no tricky ice. There are only your own head and someone who has agreed to meet you.

Stop “competing” and trying to pass a test. Enter into a helping conversation, building trust and providing value. That’s all it takes, unless, of course, you insist on turning this into a ski jump in the wind.


© Alan Weiss 2015

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You Can’t Even Fool Some of the People Some of the Time

Of all the useless items I receive, the “newsletter” from the political candidate running for reelection which arrives a week before the vote takes first place for transparent pandering.

Why didn’t I receive some update over the past year or two (or five)? Are you trying to really sway my vote with a “newsletter” just prior to the election date, as if you care about me and are trying to communicate? (Have you ever tried to get a fast response from a politician’s staff, let alone talk to the incumbent?)

The same applies to our consulting work. If you only approach the buyer when there’s a problem, or at the conclusion of the project, you’ve lost all the good will of the initial relationship (when the buyer first “voted” for you). Stay in touch with the buyer in person, by phone, and by email, both on a scheduled and casual basis. Let him or her know that you care, your available, and that you’re responsive.

In our profession, “reelection” is retained business and referral business. If you’re thrown out of office, you’re going to lose all of it. How  hard is it to say in touch on a sincere and frequent basis?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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