This one is for potential future clients, as well as other working consultants, and those considering jumping into the field.
I just read Alan Weiss' book Million Dollar Consulting Proposals. Wow. Don't let the clichéd title fool you – I don't think I've absorbed such a pure transmission of knowledge in book form since... Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power?
Weiss is compelling in his claim that consultants can make $1-million-plus per year, if they obey his cardinal rules. If you have doubts, I'd recommend – just listen to the man talk.
Here are 10 takeaways from the book:
- Consulting is about one thing, and one thing only: "Improving the client's condition."
- The single most important asset to the consultant is the mastery of language(ooh ahh).
- Process expertise is more important than content expertise. Peter Drucker famously cited that his ignorance is one of his greatest assets as a consultant.
- Never accept "no" from someone who can't say "yes". The "yes people" are: founders, executives, the director of marketing, etc. The "no people": HR people and many managers are not buyers. They can only say no. You want to get in front of the decision-makers.
- It's okay to go over the heads of the gatekeepers. They may simply be trying to protect the status quo. It may be their job to say no to most everyone who comes through the door. If you can provide value, then do it. Find the buyers, and ask the right questions to see how you can provide value.
- The consultant needs to ask the appropriate questions get past the immediate wants of the client to their underlying needs. Why? Because that's how a consultant can produce a value-rich proposal that gets to the heart of the clients organizational problems. Being able to help a client on a more fundamental level in turn justifies value-based fees, as opposed to hourly fees.
- Hourly fees are a lose-lose for both the client and the consultant. Hourly fees require the client to make an investment decision each time additional work is needed, creating a precarious environment for the consultant's project and it's outcome. Hourly fees are riskier for both client and consultant.
- To further elaborate on value-based fees: they are based on the results you can produce, not on the hours of labor that you put in. If I can increase the ROI of your email marketing by 50% and I can do it within three months, does it really matter how many hours I'm putting in, as long as I produce results?
- Value-based fees prioritize speed. Instead of hiring a freelancer that is juggling many projects, hire a consultant with a proven track record for turning in projects that produce, on time. The quicker you get results, the faster the effects of those results compound and benefit the clients bottom line.
- RFPs are a waste of time. They are only worthwhile if it's part of a possible client's process for hiring new consultants. In that case, if you are able to build a relationship built on mutual trust, you can get them to design the proposal around your unique skill-set and value offerings.
Note: I receive no profits from this posting about Mr. Weiss book. It's helped me define my consulting practice, and so I felt compelled to write a blog post about it.