What do you know today that you wish you knew when you were starting out? That to be successful in the consulting business you must be not only be a superb thinker, a truly exceptional listener and know your material inside and out – but you also have to be excellent in sales. If you are an independent consultant or the managing partner of consulting firm, a large portion of your time will be spent growing the business and cultivating new clients. If you do a spectacular job with your current clients, the vast majority of your future business will come from positive word-of-mouth referrals, but even then there is still going to be a portion that you have to go out and hunt for. So you need to be enthusiastic about being a highly professional consultative salesperson and positioning yourself as a true Trusted Advisor in order to keep expanding your business and moving into new markets.
What was your most important decision starting out (e.g., financial, organizational, marketing)? That unless requested by the client I would not use any contracts in my business. I’ve been a consultant, speaker and executive trainer for 18 years and have done probably 90% of my engagements… some in excess of $250,000… all on a handshake. I let my clients know that if I do a great job they can simply pay me what we agreed on, if I do an absolutely spectacular job they should feel free to give me a bonus, and if I did not live up to their expectations in any way – they should pay me nothing. This lets them know clearly that I’m focused on helping them and doing whatever I need to do to earn their business and deliver more value than they expected. By the way, after working for more than 300 companies worldwide, I have never had a single client failed to pay the full amount we agreed to… or more.
Can you offer one piece of advice to help a new consultant get through the first six months? Focus on two key things: 1. Be absolutely superb at what you do, spend hours and hours and hours in preparation, strive to be so incredibly valuable that the client feels like they would be a fool not to keep you around to help them. 2. People pay for results not for ideas. It’s great if you’re a fantastic thinker and have amazingly cool theories and ideas – but clients pay for results… ROI, increased profits, decreased expenses, new competitive advantage, accelerated processes, higher efficiencies, expanded markets, more loyal customers… never ever just for ideas.
What’s your elevator speech? I have built my entire career around making the very complex awesomely simple. I base this on what I call the three R’s. The first R is Research; I have read a minimum of 100 business books a year every year since 1989 as well as thousands of pages of articles and research in the areas I focus on… leadership, high-performance teams, building a winning culture, strategic thinking and superior customer service. The second R stands for Real Life; at the age of 26 I was named CEO of an international Rockefeller foundation with offices in 20 countries around the world and have owned or operated eight other companies since that time. The last R stands for ROI; in every speech I deliver and every workshop I facilitate I’m driving as hard as I possibly can for ACTION. It is nice to get motivated and excited about really great ideas and cool concepts, but at the end of the day it all comes down to turning those fantastic ideas into successful results in your business. That is what I do.
If you’re interested in John’s book, you can order it here (affiliate link):