The Compleat Consultant

1. Never assume the other party is damaged. Assume they are as healthy as you and intent on improvement unless they demonstrate otherwise.

2. Never focus on a sale, a fee, or “business.” Focus on the value you provide and the extent to which you can improve the client’s condition.

3. Do not develop close relationships with non-buyers, including virtually everyone in human resources and training, or you will be seen as their peer, and they are virtually never buyers of consulting services.

4. Hold a conversation, don’t make a “pitch.” If you’re using any kind of slides or visuals, then you’re making a sales call, not having a peer-to-peer conversation.

5. There is no such thing as an “elevator pitch.” Anyone who helps you perfect one is an amateur.

6. If you can’t quickly cite the value you bring to people and who the most likely clients are, then you haven’t thought carefully about your business or its impact.

7. Be prepared for success. Most consultants prepare for failure.

8. Self-worth and efficacy are independent variables. That is, you can be good at something and not feel that you have much worth, and you can be bad at something but nonetheless feel good about yourself. The point is to have both where it counts.

9. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying. If you’re afraid of failing, then you’re in the wrong business.

10. Language skills are by far the most critical, particularly in the use of proper grammar, wide vocabulary, metaphors, and analogies. Language controls discussion, discussion controls relationships, and relationships control business.

11. Never listen to advice from people who have not done in quality and quantity what they are advising you about.

12. Ignore unsolicited feedback. It’s for the sender, not the receiver. Find people whom you trust, and solicit feedback from them.

© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.

14 thoughts on “The Compleat Consultant

  1. “Compleat” is a variant of complete, generally used to denote a quintessential or highly skilled example of something. Most of us know it from the book “The Compleat Angler” by Izaak Walton (published c.1650, which everyone mentions but nobody reads anymore). Alan fits the definition obviously, and as always encourages us to be equally “compleat” as we expand our professional growth. Not there yet on my end!

  2. OK, so in the spirit of “learning community,” can you explain the difference between #5 and #6? I thought the purpose of an “elevator pitch” was exactly to “quickly cite the value you bring to people”.

  3. You quickly cite your value to people in situations where it is normal and expected to do so, such as an introduction to a third-party by a mutual friend at a meeting, or at a networking opportunity. Trying to “sell” people with a “pitch” on an elevator or in a plane or while standing on line someplace is bizarrely amateur. Would you listen to a stranger “pitch” you with something they’re selling in a public place? It’s rude and intrusive, especially if you agree that consulting services are bought by executives, who certainly aren’t going to engage in this with a stranger.

  4. Thanks for that, I see your point. I wouldn’t listen, and I wouldn’t buy, and I do agree. I had taken the “elevator” part of “elevator pitch” to be symbolic of being able to explain your value propsition it the time it takes to ride an elevator, not literally to pitch it to people in an elevator. But taking the analogy to extremes, as people are wont to do, does introduce the issues you mention and I confess an unexpected relief now that I realize I don’t need it to be a standalone sales-pitch in a win/lose situation but rather a concise value statement within a conversation as part of an aspiring relationship.

  5. You don’t need to be in such a hurry, and what you really want to do is begin a conversation in which the OTHER person talks, not you. That’s why people who espouse these are not really successful, so they’ve become “coaches”!

  6. on Compleat – Thanks Bob L. Maybe everyone else was too afraid to ask, but it wasn’t in my dictionary – I appreciate the insight and have a new dictionary on order.

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