Category Archives: Consulting Philosophy

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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If You’re An Expert….

• You have opinions of value based on your knowledge and experience that are provocative and don’t have to be otherwise justified or substantiated.

• You are cited by others (positively or negatively).

• You create new intellectual property on a continuing basis.

• You are global in your impact, utilizing technology, appearing on varied platforms.

• You command high fees.

• You don’t need to cite others’ work to buttress your own.

• You are a contributor who creates better conditions for people and organizations.

If you’re not an expert, then why would I want to hire you when I could hire an expert for critical projects and needs?  Are you merely trying to make money by accepting any business you can obtain, or are you a contributor trying to make an impact?

© Alan Weiss 2014

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Are You An Expert Or A Delivery Wagon?

If you walk into a meeting with a buyer oriented toward a “solution” or methodology, you’re going to default to it like a homing pigeon no matter what the buyer says about his or her needs. If you walk in with the intent to remain “present” and in the moment, you’ll be able to respond to what the buyer is expressing as important.

I’ve heard consultants respond to a buyer who says, “We need to improve our repeat business from existing clients,” with, “We should talk about a 360° assessment approach.” Really? Why would that be? I’d guess it’s because it’s what the consultant has on his or her mind and/or it’s the only reliable offering they possess.

A true expert can provide and express that expertise in any variety of ways—coaching, consulting, training, writing, mentoring, facilitating, and so forth. The means will depend on the ends. But a limited consultant will rely only on the means at his or command, irrespective of whether they are best for the client and the client’s current issues.

When you default to an arbitrary methodology or approach you are on the road at best to a limited, ineffective project and at worst to a quick exit from the meeting. The best projects, after all, provide maximum value to an appreciative client with minimum labor for you.

© Alan Weiss 2015

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Consulting for Dummies

I’m told that this is an actual passage from the author and book listed below. Supposedly, he is using his “50 years of consulting experience” to instruct the reader on how to consult.

I’d say he’s 50 years (or more) out of date. You don’t bill by time units, you don’t find “solutions” (you create improved performance), and I respect my clients far more than to think they just want justification as to why they can’t accomplish things.

This is just enormously cynical, stupid, and wrong. That’s why you have to be careful about to whom you listen, and don’t equate years on the job with brains between the ears.

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The Secrets of Consulting: A Guide to Giving and Getting Advice Successfully by Gerald M. Weinberg

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The Daily Sabbatical

I’ve been fortunate to have worked and spent time with a variety of thought leaders: Walt Mossberg, Walter Isaacson, Dan Pink, Marshall Goldsmith, David Maister, et. al. Nearly all of them have talked of “sabbaticals” to recharge the batteries, work on the next book, relieve stress, and so forth.

What strikes me is that most people can’t afford to simply take six months off and hunker down on the Amalfi Coast or sail to Bora Bora. However, it’s also not what I’d recommend, even if you could do it (and I’ve spent extensive time in both of those wonderful places).

I try to stop any kind of work by 2 pm. In the summer, I hit the pool with the dogs. During other times of the year, I might take a drive, play with the dogs, have a cigar, read, play some games, or just sit and think. That’s my daily sabbatical. There are times I can’t do it—calls to Australia or a West Coast obligation—but I can usually adhere to that schedule when I’m not traveling.

If a “work day” is 9 to 5, that’s 15 hours a week, or almost a two-day sabbatical weekly. That’s about 8 days a month, nearly 100 days a year. You may decide to work a “full day” but never work on Friday or Monday, or take Wednesday afternoons off. It doesn’t matter.

The point is that you can recharge, reengage, create, and innovate regulary, because you’re taking a daily or weekly sabbatical. There’s no reason not to do this, as an entrepreneur.

Unless, of course, you left the corporate world to go out on your own and now you have a worse boss.

© Alan Weiss 2013

Note: I’m introducing a new personal development video series, The Daily Sabbatical, in 2014. Watch for it or drop a line if you’d like to receive information: alan@summitconsulting.com.

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Honest Arrogance

I think it was Frank Lloyd Wright to observed he had the choice between practicing honest arrogance and hypocritical humility, chose the former, and never regretted it.

In consulting, no one is going to break down your door and haul you over to their company while stuffing money in your pockets. They need to hear from you, of you, about you. You need to blow your own horn and encourage others to make more music in your favor.

Humility has its place—receiving an award, allowing others to shine, sharing credit. But it has no place in marketing, in convincing others or your value, in demonstrating to others that you are the expert and thought leader.

I don’t want to follow a tentative ski instructor, because I don’t want to spend my life on the bunny hill.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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Latest Interview with Me, on Born to Influence

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/born-to-influence-marketing/id773038982

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The Dog Star: Easing Into the Turns

When the dogs and I go for coffee in the mornings, the two of them race out of the bedroom and down the hall. They come to a 90-degree left turn to another hall in order to reach the stairs leading to the next level. The floors are wood and the dogs’ claws grow quite rapidly, undermining traction, despite paw pads.

Buddy learned years ago to ease into the turn. Bentley, seeking to be alpha dog and lead the way, used his only speed—flat out—and caused a wreck in the turn that would have brought the crash trucks out at Indy. After several of these collisions, he now eases into the turn. He reduces speed and, with his higher center-of-gravity than Buddy’s, leans into it.

Slowing down and adjusting your position can often accelerate your progress. I’m a believer in speed, but more so in success. Once you know the turn, you can adjust in advance. If you are unfamiliar with the turn, you have to be more agile and circumspect as you enter it.

I suggest that you continually test the road—see buyers, submit proposals, make speeches, try new methodologies—so that there are few surprises. After all, I’ve never encountered a road that goes straight up or forms a wall. After a while, if you drive often enough, you can accurately judge what’s coming. Therefore, no objection should throw you, no environment should threaten you, no buyer should intimidate you.

Of course, some of you may be on an eternal straightaway, avoiding all risky turns, and headed to nowhere. Perhaps now is a good time for a pit stop.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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A Person of Interest

The new TV hit show, Blacklist, is absurdly ridiculous. But James Spader is so good that we record every episode to make sure we don’t miss any. I saw him on Broadway in Race, where co-star Kelley Washington, the current star of Scandal, was nowhere remotely near his level of acting. (In fact, she was pretty awful.)

Do people want to be with you, hear from you, watch you because you’re so good at what you do, so interesting, so fascinating? If so, they’ll trust you to make the buying decision along with them. I’m not talking all “sizzle” and no “steak,” but I am talking sufficient sizzle to distinguish a steak that almost anyone else can cook. How do you stand out in a crowded field? You do it by being distinctly excellent.

I once heard an executive deliver a speech about a record bonus for employees so poorly that the audience believed they were taking a pay cut. I also heard CEO Steve Wynn, who swore he’d never leave the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City, tell employees why he was breaking his promise, and there wasn’t a dry eye—or any anger—in the house.

Are you someone others want to be near? Are you a person of interest? Or are you merely someone lowing from the middle of the herd?

© Alan Weiss 2013

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Create Some Perspective

As consultants, we often need to create perspective. That’s because if we simply and uncritically compare issues and performance around us, we may find we’re on the fast track to the lowest common denominator.

The media fill the air with bad news because that attracts higher ratings than good news. (Do you know that Apple just had a phenomenal quarter, but when results were announced the stock declined?) We become inured to volatility (the market hit a record yesterday). We lack the knowledge to make sound comparisons (compare the US and Canadian health systems or anything else all day long, but Canada is less than one tenth the population of the US, less pluralistic, and with far fewer global accountabilities).

The social media exacerbate the problem, because anyone with a keyboard and an opinion is suddenly an “expert.” (If I hear one more person describe themselves as an “internet marketing expert” I’m going to fall down laughing.) We have people running for school boards, state legislatures, even Congress who have no idea what they’re doing or supposed to do, and we have too many voters choosing candidates on a single position on a single issue (“Do you believe in grass feeling pain or not?”).

With our clients, we have to disabuse them of lack of perspective and false comparisons. What does “good to great” mean? Why would you think the customer is always right? Do you really need “world class” accountants? Why can’t you abandon a market?

Of course, this presupposes that you have an accurate and evolving perspective. That requires continual learning, the courage to voice an opinion, and intellectual firepower. Those traits will place you well in the front of the pack.

At least, that’s my perspective.

© Alan Weiss 2013

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Posted in Alan's Quest, Consulting Philosophy, Personal Improvement | 4 Comments