Alan Weiss on getting started in consulting

Weiss is author of Million Dollar Consulting and Getting Started in Consulting, two landmark reads in the consulting space. I sought to distil some of his key advice to inform how I can offer my consulting services, and thought it might be helpful to share.  

Assert yourself as equal
Weiss notes that many people feel like imposters going into firms. As such, they prostrate themselves in some way - they look for approval and start to act like employees. This is not helpful. You need to assert yourself as an equal to management. Because part of your role will be to challenge management. How you comport yourself vital. 

Relationships and handling rejection
Weiss stresses the importance of relationships - the lifeblood of his business. The relationships you need to strike up are with buyers within companies i.e. folks with the cause and budget to hire you. So not HR and so on. You need to come to be able to handle rejection and build a resilience and esteem. Failing does not make you a failure. 

Peer referral

People basically buy on the recommendations of people they trust. When seeking referrals, always ask for a NAME or a POSITION. Never say do you know anyone... All you will get by way of a reply is 'I'll keep you in mind', or 'let me think about it' (which is essentially the phone going dead)! Ask instead 1) could you introduce me to (specific position or name)? or 2) would you mind if I used your name when I contact them? 

Projecting success
Your language, attire and demeanor should be equal to the buyer. They ultimately want to be involved with someone who exudes success and competence - they want some of that action in other words. They most assuredly do not want involvement with someone they merely perceive as struggling. 

  • dress well
  • develop the right language
  • don't sit until invited to in client's offices, and 
  • know that if you must meet over a meal don't let it be messy finger food! 

Building your brand
Weiss focuses on writing and speaking. Another facet of this could be networking. I am well advised therefore to consider where I have opportunities to write and speak - in these forums I can showcase my capacity to think. Video might be another channel I personally could utilize. 

Transfer the labour to the client
You are there to determine where to go and how, but the actual doing must be undertaken by the client, because ultimately it is they that will need to have the knowhow after you depart. 

Give 3 options (for setting a meeting, selling in an idea etc.)
This is a rather brilliant insight in my estimation. Move the decision maker from should I do it to how I should do it. Meaning give them three options. This leapfrogs their considering to do nothing at all, and they get to make a decision there and then. For example, if organising a call, say I can meet you Monday at the office, Tuesday by Skype or Friday by phone call. Giving options greatly increases your chances of success. 

First, agree conceptually on business outcomes (metrics, value). Weiss bills by value created, not hours
Then write the proposal - 2 and a half pages max, and submit within 24 hours

Payment terms
50% on acceptance, and 50% on completion of project
or, if 100% at outset, offer a discount

Sales and going out on your own...
Remember, have the courage of your talent. You are not trying to sell something. You are trying to add value. This is a different dynamic entirely. You don't have to feel awkward or sleazy about making a legitimate value offering. 

Thoughts on work-life balance
Two biggest priorities are your time and your money. As Weiss puts it, you can always make another dollar, but you can't make another minute. So, determine what your true priorities are and put your time there, and you will be happy and successful. 


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