Lindsay joined the local chapter.
I welcomed her by e-mail.
She is a newbie in multiple ways:
- A new college graduate
- A new MBA
- A new member of IMC (Institute of Management Consultants)
- A wannabe consultant
We’ll be Zooming next week because she has that innate need to find out how this business works and what it takes to be successful. She already operates on one of the basic principles she will need to be successful:
Trust but Verify
This simple statement which Ronald Reagan made popular comes from a Russian Proverb. It is an elegantly brief bit of advice that works well so long as the relationship is not the key element in question. For someone like Lindsay it is a way to gather a lot of information quickly without committing to any outcome based on that initial data gathering.
That is why it is so practical. The successful consultant is forever gathering data. They must, because of the nature of their calling reap the knowledge of a broad swath of sources. By joining an organization made up of people that do what she wants to do she quickly increases the number of sources easily available to her.
She can Trust in the interviews and based on comparing her analysis of the relative success of her contacts verify how much she should attend to their advice.
Impress but focus
When I was CEO of an ad agency I would do two or three informational interviews with youngsters, new to the trade, each week. It was a way to give back to all the people that helped me, a way to pay it forward. Early on I learned to employ a technique I picked up in a Xerox Selling Skills Class.
It is simple. Ask a question. When the person finishes, simply say Oh? Then wait. They will begin speaking again. Do it again. Do it as many times as the other person will continue speaking.
Employing this technique does two things:
- You will learn a great deal more about that individual than you ever imagined.
- You will find out just how capable they are of setting objectives and focusing on them.
They wanted to talk to you ostensibly to get some answers about the industry they want to enter yet they are afraid to say what is really on their mind, getting a job. So the real question each of them has is, “How can I take my education and my limited experience and convince someone to hire me?”
That is tough enough if you are just looking for a job. How do you take that resume out and convince someone to hire you as a consultant?
State a problem and your solution
One of the secrets of finding leaders is how they ask questions.
An individual may ask in one of these informational interviews, “How did you get to this position?” And in all likelihood they are truly interested.
Another might say, what positions did you have to go through to become CEO, President or whatever. They really want to know.
Leaders approach the person granting the interview as a resource that can advise them on the relative strength of their proposed solution.
Do you see the difference? The leader says, “I want to get started in consulting but I don’t think I have experience that business owners will think is enough. I’m thinking of offering my services at no cost unless we get results agreed to before we start work. Would that get me hired?”
Whatever you think of the solution you have had a demonstration of how someone thinks. More importantly you know how they will approach situations in the future.
There is no CEO worth her or his salt that doesn’t want that kind of thinking.
Be planned but present
You know you have a set amount of time for the interview. Don’t waste it. Come to the table with a list of questions. Work it. Ask them in order of importance to you.
But listen. Often a comment from that source will register with you and you will want to know more. Ask the unscripted follow up question and see where it goes. Listen. Pull that string that intrigued.
Often you will discover a creative way to solve a problem you have. Some that I’m aware of:
- New college graduate writes a laudatory one-page letter as his wife to personnel directors of ad agencies across the Midwestern USA touting his New York experience with no resume attached. He took the job offered by the personnel director that called one evening and asked to speak to his wife.
- A transgender woman encounters a meeting planner on an airplane looking for someone to do a keynote at an upcoming company meeting with diversity as the primary takeaway. She responded to the question, “What do you do?” with, “I take the fear out of being queer.” She got the gig.
- The founder of a world class direct marketing agency diagrammed on a napkin the difference between Brand and Direct. It sat in his desk drawer for a couple years and then he convinced a client to try it keeping track of a full set of analytics. Then he wrote a book about it. He keynoted at the worldwide advertising convention held in Cannes the next year
That’s some simple advice for a newbie. If you like this kind of information about consulting or brand or networking or CRM or writing to persuade you need to sign up for my newslog.
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And so it goes.
Jerry Fletcher is a sought-after International Speaker, a beBee ambassador, founder and CEO of Z-axis Marketing, Inc.
His consulting practice, founded in 1990, is known for on and off-line Trust-based Consultant Marketing advice that builds businesses, brands and lives of joy.