Early in my career, a veteran consultant, arrogating wisdom, gave me some really bad advice—”Be humble and low key,” he said, “don’t overwhelm the prospect.” Shortly thereafter, the briefly low key Alan was facing a buyer who said, “You don’t seem very eager or excited about the project, and I need someone whom I feel will take charge and run with this.”
That’s when I changed my theme song, and when I realized that most consultants’ advice was pretty awful.
If you want to star without seeming boastful, there are some simple techniques to use. But leave the humility in your car along with your computer, slide show, and “pitch.” None of the aforementioned accouterments will help you close business.
- Be energetic, enthusiastic, and assertive. Buyers are surrounded by “yes men” and people worried about their retirement funds.
- Offer value and new ideas. Don’t consult for free, but do feel free to provide the “what” and not the “how.” (“The thing to do is to combine your R&D and sales meetings. I can take are of that with the proper preparation, coaching, and design if we go forward.”)
- Use evangelists. Seed every promotional campaign, networking endeavor, and marketing event with ecstatic clients. If you do this well, you’ll have to do very little else.
- Learn to use persuasive and enticing language. “Here’s what my most successful clients are doing.” “Here are some of the best practices I’ve distilled from global leaders.”
Stop hanging around with (much less listening to) those with a poverty mentality, those who feel that humility is the only proper route (they are suffering from low self-esteem), and those who claim to be veterans and doing better than you are but are flying coach and always looking for a discount. (In one famous instance, a “name” consultant and speaker offered his wireless mike for my use for one of my presentations if he could get in for free!)
Harsh? Perhaps. But that meteor over Siberia should tell you that life can be very short. My father was in the first parachute regiment ever formed in the U.S. I learned to scuba dive late in life and I drive some of the fastest cars in the world.
What have you got to lose in being assertive about your talents? My father is 97, living independently, and I’m told I can still feed myself without help.
© Alan Weiss 2013