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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for the Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #96: September, 2011

  • When you sit down with a buyer, understand that you're having a conversation with a peer, not making a sales presentation to a superior. If you can't do that, you're not ready to sit down with buyers effectively.

  • Don't simply accept opinions or beliefs. Ask, “What makes you say that?” or “What's the evidence for that?” or “What behavior have you observed to support that?”

  • Try to be diagnostic, not prescriptive, in initial meetings. You want to try to enter into a mutually exploratory conversation with an engaged peer, not an audition to prove that you have all the answers (because you don't). (“Why don't you determine where you fit on this range?”)

  • Stop others from rambling. Interject with “Excuse me, but can we return to that point you just made?” or “Excuse me, let me summarize what I'm hearing to make sure I'm tracking you correctly.”

  • Paint the buyer into the picture. Say, “My best clients have had the same issues,” or “That's not as unusual as you may think, since I've worked on at least three projects with that challenge.”

  • Laugh at yourself (“You're not going to stay forever are you?!” “Well, it depends how long you're willing to pay me!”). But don't accept condescension or insults (“So you're a consultant, which means you're between real jobs?” “Well, I've been between jobs for ten years now and I make more than 98 percent of the population, so I guess it depends on your definition of ‘real'.”)

  • Don't try to dazzle with footwork, but be honest and unashamed. “How many people are in your company?” “You're looking at my company. I've chosen to take on very few clients and immerse myself in their issues rather than spend time administering staffs and supporting overhead.”

  • Listen for inconsistencies. “You said earlier that you have a retention problem, but just now mentioned that you have too much ‘dead wood” hanging on. Are you losing your best people but keeping your worst?!”

  • Never leave without a definitive next step. “Why don't we both check our calendars for Tuesday at 10? I'll call you to complete the discussion and prepare a proposal. Do you have a cell on which I can reach you directly?”

  • Compare the results to your minimum and maximum objectives. How are you doing?
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