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Episode 158: Selling Your Consulting Services to Human Beings—with Deb Zahn

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. On this podcast, I'm going to talk about why rigid formulas for getting consulting clients doesn't work and doesn't make any sense. And look, I'm not a huge fan of debunking things because everybody's got their version of the things that they do, and for some folks, that's helpful, and for others, it's not. But I do keep seeing this, "If you do these exact seven steps or these exact eight steps precisely as we tell them to you, it's going to work every time, and you're going to be able to repeat that every time to get clients." And it's almost as if it's this rote repeatable process that you don't have to engage with or think about. You just do it, and then boom, you got clients. Don't even worry about it.

And the problem is, is it's not like that. It's not even a little bit like that. So while there are critical steps and critical principles that you need to know, you need to apply, I do think there are some must-dos. I certainly think there are some really good to-dos. And things like that make perfect sense to me.

But there's a reason why very rigid formulas don't always work or rarely work, and that's because there is this thing that seems to always gum up the systems when you try and prescribe an exact formula for how you do things, and it's really simple. It's human beings. Right? So we're not selling to a company. We're not selling to an organization. We're selling our services and our products to humans, and we are working with humans. And unless you figure out a way to change that, then you have to embrace that that's the reality, and you have to embrace all of the uncertainty and messiness that goes along with that.

And don't get me wrong. I don't mean to sound like a misanthrope. I love humans. I obviously love humans. I work with them all the time, but we got to be honest that we, as creatures, often bring a lot of uncertainness and a lot of messiness to situations. And groups of humans forget about it even more so because now you're going to be adding group dynamics, you're going to be adding cultural norms, shared norms and congruency among how they do things and how they function. And so all of that then gets added to the personal dynamics of a single person. And that's true for us. It's true for our clients.

And the more we know that and the more we embrace that as the reality and we're able to adjust to it and respond to it, then the easier it's going to be for you to build your consulting business and for you to be able to ultimately have the life you want to have as a consultant. You just got to know that this is part of the deal. And I'm going to talk about what that is, and I'm going to talk about what that means and how embracing that and developing skills relative to it is ultimately going to help you build that business you want and have that life that you want. It's going to make your consulting journey so much easier.

But I do want to say one thing before I get into that, and it's certainly related to this, is I wanted to let you know that I am, again, accepting applications or new members to my membership. So you may recall, a while back, I launched a membership and I had a first group of folks that were going to join me. And then as soon as they joined, I closed the membership so we could figure out what the membership was going to be together and build it. And we've had a fabulous time and built something pretty amazing.

So I am going to open it up again. I'm going to open it up for folks to apply to it. And this is a membership where I work with members ultimately with a goal of helping you get more clients more easily, and wouldn't this be nice with more confidence and focused very much in this community on getting results?

So the goal is that you're going to have the support, the guidance, the tools that you need to be able to get clients faster without a rigid formula, and I'm going to talk about that. But the other benefit is you don't have to do it by yourself. You don't have to figure everything out by yourself and build your business in isolation. And that's really one of the benefits that the existing members have enjoyed is they've got folks in their corner, including me and including the other members, and not again by teaching some prescribed process, but by really getting back to what are the business basics, and then helping them decide what do you do in this particular situation, how do you adapt to this when this shows up and this is what you have in front of you.

And you get all kinds of goodies by being a member. So, first of all, you get personalized fast answers from me. I'm in the membership all the time. So if you've got a question, I answer it with a video. I answer it in writing, or I give you some tool that's going to be helpful. You get in support and guidance, as I said, from me. You get it from other members. And I love the members we have in there now. It is such a good group of people.

There are monthly trainings. Occasionally, there's popup trainings. If I see that folks really need a particular type of skill or knowledge, then I'll do a popup training. There's monthly "Ask me anything" calls where you can get on and truly ask me anything. And then there's a ton of resources and tools.

So my membership is where people get a ton of direct personal support from me and from others, and I'm kind of obsessed with helping people get results in my membership, and also just to feel better about the journey and not feel like, again, they're isolated and they got to figure it out all by themselves.

So if you're interested and you want to know more about the membership and see if it's right for you, I am currently accepting applications. I'll be accepting them on an ongoing basis. But once you enroll, if you get accepted, you get your first 30 days free. And the reason for that trial period is I want folks, including you, to be able to get in there and say, "Is this right for me? Is this the thing that's actually going to help me on my consulting journey, build my business in the way I want to build it, and get the results I want?"

So there's a link to that in my show notes. It's also on my website. Top menu bar, look under membership, you can find out more about it. But I'd love to have you join us. We are having a great time in that membership, and folks are progressing in the way that they want to. So it's fabulous.

Anyway, enough about that. Let's talk about the pesky human being thing when it comes to consulting. So this is really the people part of consulting, and it's important because the people part of consulting is a huge part of consulting. So it makes selling and it makes serving clients a really dynamic process. And I'll give you two, I'm going to give two examples from my own consulting that I do because I'm obviously still a practicing consultant, and you'll sort of see the difference between the two. And the difference was really all about what human beings said and did.

So I'll give you the first one is, so back in the beginning, when I still didn't have a lot of clients and I was working at a wonderful consulting firm, a few of us came together in a team and we applied for an RFP, and this was an RFP that was for a strategic planning process with a client that we'd never worked with and in a state where we hadn't done a lot to business. And lots of other folks applied. It wasn't just us. So we definitely had competition, and it was a multi-step process. They had laid out a very particular process that this was going to follow, and they said what that is ahead of time. So we knew that.

And they didn't have to, I want to point this out, they didn't have to do an RFP. There are some organizations because of regulations that they're under, that actually have to get a certain number of bids. They didn't have to, but that's how they did things. So this group of humans decided this is how we are going to hire consultants for this very particular process, and it's tended to be how they hired people. This was their shared norm. And it was also important to the CEO because she also wanted to see sort of who was out there and what type of talent they might be able to bring in.

So a proposal was actually the first step. So they had an RFP. We looked at it. We saw what they wanted. And the proposal had to be good enough to get you to the next step, which was going to be meeting with the potential client. And we knew that we had a really good shot of getting the gig, if we actually met with the potential client because we tended to do very well in those situations.

Now, I'm not going to go into all the details of what we put into the proposal. If you're not sure, listen to podcast 156. That's how I describe how to construct a winning proposal. But we developed a proposal that was very responsive to the RFP and outlined the various ways that we could help them and what our unique approach was. It was a very good proposal.

So we actually got to the next step. So they read that. We did good enough that we got to the next step. And so we were going to meet with their leadership and a few of their board members. So now, we're in front of people, and that's when you know what you have in writing or what they put in the RFP isn't going to be exactly as you would always imagine it because now you have different people that have come together who have different thoughts and feelings and, again, different dynamics.

So they were going to decide who was going to make it to the final two. Everybody who passed the proposal test was going to get in front of them, and then they were going to pick two. And ultimately, from that two, there would be another meeting, and then they would figure out ultimately who they wanted to work with. And there might be reference checks and other steps along the way.

So we had a team of several people because we compiled folks that had the type of expertise that they were looking for, that were used to working within the particular sector that they were part of, but only two of us actually went to the in-person meeting. And one is we didn't want to overwhelm them by having a whole bunch of people there, but also because two of us were geographically close. So simply because of geography, I ended up in the room, even though I wasn't going to have the biggest role in the project. I just happened to be close by.

So I went, and the client wasn't exactly a perfect fit for me. It was in a sector that I knew, but it wasn't a sector that I worked in all the time. So when I had finally figured out how to define my ideal client and what my services were, this was in my wheelhouse for my services because I did a lot of strategic planning, but it wasn't a sector that I worked with a lot. So I wouldn't say it was an exact fit for me. I was drawn to and interested in it for a lot of different reasons, but there were people on the team who had much more experience with that particular sector.

So I show up. Somebody else shows up from the team, and we had about four or five consultants who are actually on the phone, including the folks who are going to be the leads on the project, or at least what we thought, given the best we could assume based on what we had seen in writing to that point. And we prepared. We thought about what they would ask us. We're really good at doing that.

And we were right on a lot of those. So there were things that we definitely had assumed that they would ask that they definitely did, but then they also asked things that we hadn't anticipated, things that mattered to them, that you couldn't get from an RFP. You couldn't get from anything that you had necessarily seen, but it was based on their hopes and desires and past experiences, which we couldn't have anticipated. So we had to be prepared in the moment to actually answer those.

And one thing that they did is they said they were worried that we had so many people. Now, we had so many people because they asked for several different things. And so we brought in who was the experts in those particular things. But what they were worried about was something that a lot of consulting firms often do, which is, it's called stacking teams, which is basically, you have a whole bunch of people who are unoccupied. So you basically throw them on teams to be able to get income coming in.

Now, the firm I worked for never, ever, ever did that. We always formed teams based on our responsiveness to what the client needed, but they did know that. They had had past experience with consultants, or they heard things about consultants that created a different dynamic in that room that they were responding to, and then they asked us to respond to. So again, that's more people stuff. They're bringing in their experiences, their knowledge, things that they've heard, and we have to respond to that.

Now, the other dynamic that happened is since there were two of us in the room, they ended up talking to us. So this was way before everybody was used to doing things remotely and having things that were just on conference call. It was before Zoom became a big thing. And so they were just sort of disembodied voices on a call, really tough to connect to. It was difficult for the folks on the phone to really hear anything that was going on in the room because they had everybody in the room. So they ended up just talking to the two of us.

Now, aside from those technical reasons that they did it, they also did it because part of the norm within this organization is the person-to-person connection. That really, really mattered to them. And that's not true for every organization. This was a big value of theirs. Something that was important to them. It was important to their board members. It was important to their CEO.

And again, we didn't know that. That's not why we did that, but we had to, again, address whatever was presented to us, and that was one of the things that was presented to us. So we weren't just judged by our knowledge and our skills and our capabilities, which we laid out very well in the proposal, but they were also sniffing us about who are you as people. They were judging us as human beings and essentially asking the question, do we want to work with these people? Do we trust them enough that we're willing to put our fate in their hands? Because one of the things we didn't know at the time is some of the things that they were contemplating as part of their strategic plan were really existentialist questions. What are we going to be and become, and are we willing to make some big bold moves?

And so they were asking, do we trust not just that they've got the chops to be able to do this, but that these are the right folks we want by our side to do that? And of course, that's easier to do when they can actually see you. So that was the dynamic that was in the room that we had to contend with. That didn't follow any particular formula that we could have anticipated ahead of time. We had to respond to what's in front of us.

Now, spoiler, we got the engagement, but even then, it didn't go as we expected. The CEO called me, even though she knew because I was honest in the room, that this was a sector I hadn't done much work with, and she wanted me to be the lead. And the main reason she wanted me to be the lead because I'd been in front of her and she liked me and we hit it off. We had sort of this great instant connection, and she appreciated my honesty. She appreciated the way I talked things.

And the person that was with me, she also thought he was great. So she wanted him to be also one of the main people on the team, and she actually didn't want everybody who was on the call. Well, we couldn't, again, have anticipated that, but we had to roll with it when it happened. And so I told her I'd be happy to do that, but I do want to be able to tap into the expertise as needed for the other folks, but we won't make them the main folks, and that's OK. So again, we had to switch things up.

And then interestingly enough, they changed their process, which they didn't do all the time. They decided not to do a final two, and they instead wanted us. And there was very specific reasons about certain capabilities and knowledge we had, but also because they felt like when we were in the room that we really cared about them and we understood them enough that they'd be willing to trust us with their fate.

So yes, we prepared, and that was absolutely critical. We took certain steps that were required in the process because the RFP laid out, at least, what they assumed their formula was going to be, but we had to respond to things that were unanticipated because of the people that were involved and because of the flavor and the culture and the norms within that particular organization, and that happens all the time.

Now, I'm going to contrast that with another engagement that was kind of textbook. So if there was a formula, it would kind of look like this, which is organization had a particular scope of work that they wanted a consultant to do. So they already knew that there was a reason that they were going to hire a consultant. So it wasn't just like, "Hey, let's discover if I can help you something." They already knew. They asked people they knew, who would you suggest for this type of work? Someone referred me to that organization. They said, great. They checked with somebody else. That person said, "Yeah. Definitely, you want to work with Deb."

We had a discovery call. We figured out the specifics of what they wanted. They asked for a proposal at the end of it. We gave them one. We talked one more time to walk through it. We made a few adjustments. Contract was signed, and we started the work.

So if I thought all engagements were going to look like that, which is great, right? That can be wonderful when they work like that. Sometimes, they're not because then you'll get surprises later. Luckily, this is a fabulous organization, but that would be sort of the textbook example, and the reality is I've had lots of those that look exactly like that, and that's how I got the business, but I've had tons of other ways that has actually happened and always because of people.

So again, even in this instance, it wasn't because people didn't factor into the equation. They absolutely did. These folks collectively valued the experiences and the assessments of those that referred us. So they asked people they trusted and they felt like that was good enough to make the next step. They aren't the type of organization that feels like they have to have a big, protected process, if they trust the people that they're asking. They're more of a cut-to-the-chase type of organization. That's their flavor. That's how the humans who are part of that organization like to do things.

So they don't really do a lot of hand-wringing about the right choice. There's not a lot of drama among the leaders trying to figure out sort of what should we be doing. So if I was saying, "Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, that's the formula. Maybe that's what that would look like," but then what we'd be missing is all of the other examples where there's a different culture, there are different personality dynamics, there's different things at play that are related to human beings that aren't going to match that.

And there's a couple problems with that. One is if all you think you have to do is apply a formula, you're not going to have as many hits, or you're going to be surprised and you're going to be in situations that you won't know how to handle until you'll end up getting less business, or you'll end up in situations where there's just a lot of messiness that you weren't necessarily prepared to deal with. So that's why yes, I think looking at steps is really important, key principles, must-dos, things like that are important, but not get locked in that there's a single way to do things.

So instead of a formula, what I tend to like is I rely on skills that I have very deliberately cultivated over time. So I've gotten much, much better over time at asking questions that get them to reveal the things that they care about, get them to reveal what their priorities are, get them to reveal if they know what their priorities are, get them to reveal the things that are really significant risks for them or aspirations that would make a huge difference to them and why those aspirations matter so much. So asking those types of questions that truly reveal what they care about.

Deep listening, I can't even say enough about that, is being able to ask those questions and then listen, truly, truly listen to what they're saying, so I can be responsive to what they actually said and not just think about, "OK, what's the next question I'm going to ask? OK, when do I get to say that they should hire me?" But to take that off the table and instead, really deeply listen to them because that's how you get to understand what matters to the humans that are in front of you or the collection of humans.

Self-reflection, big one because if all I'm doing, when I'm talking to someone, is looking at a mirror of myself and my issues and my feelings of self-worth or whatever it is, or I'm interpreting things incorrectly because of what I'm bringing to it, then it's going to be really difficult to develop that rapport and that relationship on a human-to-human level, which is ultimately what a lot of clients are looking for.

Being able to detect issues and then trust when I see it. So if I see an inkling of something that I want to probe a little bit more on or it's going to help me develop a proposal and a price that's actually going to match what I think it takes to get them the results, I actually have gotten very good at trusting myself when I see something, that it's probably there and it's probably more than what I'm currently seeing. And so developing and cultivating the ability to not just see something, but also trust yourself when you see it, that's a huge skill in being able to get clients, and it's a huge skill in being able to get engagements that are going to work within your timeframe, your price, your scope, etc.

And then things like conflict management or just relationship management in general, so that when I'm in discovery calls or when I'm working with clients, whatever the version is, that I know that I am ultimately building and fostering relationships and I've got skills to be able to manage those. Those are things that I put into my toolbox because that's my approach, is not a formula. I got a toolbox. I got a whole bunch of cool tools in there, and I'm constantly adding to it so that if something comes up or something goes off the track, I can look in my toolbox, and chances are I'm going to have something that is going to help me address that situation appropriately and towards a good outcome.

Now, these are tools that let you more skillfully adapt to whatever it is that's presented to you, but what they aren't is they aren't permission to wing it. I'm not a fan of winging it. I'm a fan of responding to what's in front of you, but that doesn't mean you're like, "Ah, well, I can't anticipate anything. So I got my toolbox. I'm going to go in, and I'm going to see, is it plumbing? Is it electrical? Am I building a house?" I don't do any of that. I don't wing it, but I do bring those with me.

So you still have to nail down the fundamentals, as I said. So you need to be able to answer questions for your consulting business, like who do I want to buy my services or my products? What do they care enough about that they would actually buy something? So forget about me, what would they actually have a demand for such that they're willing to pay for that particular outcome? And then why would they buy from me? And I need to think through that because those are things that are going to differentiate me in the market, and I'm going to talk about things differently when I'm in front of clients, if I know that. Instead of trying to be present in the moment and just say something, I've actually thought about it ahead of time.

And then based on that, I'm going to know, OK, well these are then the folks that it makes sense for me to reach out to because that's who I want to buy. They want to buy something, chances are, and I've got something that I think is going to make sure that I'm the person that they ultimately hire because I'm going to give them the exact experience, results, whatever it is that they actually want.

But then you also fundamentally have to think through. There's a whole bunch of folks out there that don't know who you are today, and that's a shame, right? So what you want to do is you want to have clarity about what is the path that you're taking them down from how do they become aware of you all the way through some portion of them ultimately becoming your clients so that you can serve them and you can do really great work for them.

Those are fundamentals, and that last one is this called a sales funnel. Those are fundamentals that you actually do need to nail down for your business. Those aren't formulas. Those give you clarity to take action and to make good choices. But you still need to have that toolbox, and that toolbox should have that business clarity that we just talked about, but then also the adaptive tools, the adaptive skills and abilities that I talked about earlier. And the combination of those will help you build your consulting business faster than anything you can imagine, is being able to combine those.

And I'm going to give a few examples for my membership, so you can see sort of, aside from me, what does that actually look like? So there was a member who got a meeting with a prospective client, and they were super happy about it because this was a chance, finally, to get some business, but instead of getting an hour, which is what they wanted, they were offered 30 minutes. And chances are they weren't necessarily going to ever get an hour. So the answer was an obvious, "Yes, we'll take 30 minutes." Now, that really condenses a discovery process considerably, right? You can't do, in 30 minutes, what you can do in an hour. So what do you do?

And so this was something that was raised in the membership, and I will tell you what to do in that situation what I find to be really helpful because I've been there and that's happened to me, is the first thing is you got to get rid of waste. And this is where you, as a human being, matters because what often happens, particularly if we're rushed, is we want to just still say everything we wanted to say, but we want to condense it in a period of time, and you can't do that because then the experience isn't going to be good for the prospective client. They're going to feel rushed, and no one likes to feel rushed. And I'll tell you, if they only had 30 minutes for a meeting, chances are they're already feeling rushed in the rest of your life. So you don't want to do that.

So one way is to change you're human behavior, and this is where you want to nail down very precisely, briefly, and I do mean succinctly and brief how you introduce yourself. And this is where you could lose 15 or 20 minutes of your 30 minutes, if you haven't nailed that ahead of time. And so think about how you're going to introduce yourself that is relevant to them, practice it out loud because again, and I've said this before, if I don't practice it, I've introduced myself hundreds and hundreds of times, if I haven't practiced it, I will babble. It will be at least double the length that I would want it to be and not nearly as relevant to the client and not nearly as coherent. So that's where you can get rid of waste is to be able to have practiced and succinctly say who you are and introduce yourself.

And then you want to get to the part where you're focused on the client. Remember, you got a human being in front of you and what you really want to do in that 30 minutes of time is get them to talk about what matters to them. What are the things that they care about? And to be able to make that happen in a relatively short period of time can be tricky, but that's really what you can do in 30 minutes.

So you have to have questions ready that sort of progress towards them revealing more and more. So you got to start with something that doesn't feel too intrusive, but often, people will be like, "Oh my gosh, somebody's actually asking me what matters to me. No one ever does that." And they'll just start spilling the beans in which case, that's fantastic, but you want the majority of that 30 minutes to be them talking because I will tell you, it is a fascinating thing. Even if you say very little, they will walk out of that meeting feeling like they had a great meeting because someone actually listened to them.

And this is where the deep listening adaptive skill comes into place because whatever you respond to what they're saying, you want it to be very precisely based on what you just heard them reveal. So you need to have those questions ready. You're not going to read them off like, OK, question one, question two, question three. There are questions in your toolbox, and you're going to pull out the ones that are most relevant based on your ability to do that deep listening.

The other thing is that you're going to watch the clock, right? Because part of your job in any discovery call, but certainly when you only have a short period of time, is you need to guide the conversation carefully and you need to be paying attention so that you don't run out of time, and then they're like, "Oh my God, I got to go." And boom, you're done, and there's no next step, and you don't know what's going on next. So you don't expect them to do it. Again, there's probably a reason they only had 30 minutes. You want to respect that. You want to show this human in front of you that you care about that enough that you're going to guide the conversation.

Then the last thing is, is you know in that 30 minutes, before you get into it, that you have to have a clear next step. You have to have that language ready, so when you get off of the call, there is a next step that is going to be perceived as helpful to the perspective client. So language like, and this is one I use quite a bit and it's always adapted and customized to what I heard, is I will say, "I heard two things that I think I could help you with. Would you be interested in talking about those on another call?" And so I've asked them permission if we can talk.

Sometimes, what happens is they're like, "Well, you know what, let me cancel my next thing and let's talk about it now." Or they'll say, "Absolutely," in which case, now I have to do the follow-up to make sure we get on a call. If I've managed the time wisely and we can book something immediately, that's even better. Tough to do in 30 minutes, but if it's possible, do that. But I know ahead of time that my goal in 30 minutes is not to close a deal as chances are that's not going to happen, that my goal is to get a call where now we can go a little bit deeper into the discovery process because I impressed them enough and I showed I cared enough in the first brief discovery call that now they're willing to do another one with me. And I'm really clear what those goals are.

So that's an example of somebody who showed up to something in the membership and had to think about it from the perspective of a human being, being on the other side, and how do you now adapt what you're doing and not try and just shove everything you were going to do in an hour into 30 minutes, how do you adapt to make it a good experience for the prospective client and hit the notes that you need to hit so that you get your next step.

And I'll give another example, which, oh my goodness, this happens all the time. So this is somebody who had an initial meeting with a prospective client who wanted a proposal quickly, and that does happen sometimes. Sometimes, you can push back and say, well, I really need to know X, Y, and Z, but there are some folks or something happening within the organization that sometimes you got to roll with it, and I think that that's fine. So really fast turnaround time.

So this consultant had to decide how to structure the proposal with the information they had, and the information they had wasn't complete because it isn't often complete because you're not going to necessarily be able to anticipate everything in the first call, but the prospective client had said a deadline wanted to be responsive and actually show that you care about that. And so had to make quick decisions about what was actually going to be presented and presented in a way that would show, "I heard you, I understand, and this is how I'm responding to it."

So even if this wasn't the final proposal, it had to be right enough to keep the conversation going. And the person really wanted this engagement not just because it was income coming in, but because this was work that just lit them up. Right? This is exactly the type of work they wanted to be doing, so they didn't want to do anything that was necessarily going to jeopardize this opportunity. So they had to decide how to structure it. They had to decide the language that they were going to use, so that it actually match to what the perspective client had talked about, so that it would look responsive. And they had to consider how to get the client not to focus on the price or get locked into a price that might change once there is more complete information, and that happens a lot. Right?

So we'll talk about a couple strategies that came out of this. So first of all, they were wise enough that they told the prospective client, "I'll give you some price ranges," and they set that expectation with the client. So the client knew that they were going to see that, which is actually exactly what I would've suggested. And then in this case, when we talked about it, a tiered proposal made the most sense based on very specific things that the client had asked for. So I had a template for that. I gave some feedback. And ultimately, what the proposal did is it clarified for the prospective client, the outcome that they were going to get, and the value that they were going to get, and the context for that value up front, and then the scope, and then the price, and the price ranges.

And that did a few things. So first of all, it shows the person that I heard you. It showed that they understood what they said and what they wanted, and that they could actually state it back accurately. And again, I go into this in more detail in episode 156. But two, it also said, "I understand you. I got you," and that they had enough of an understanding of why this work was important and why this work was so important at that time and why there was an urgency in actually moving this forward and why it mattered so much. So that was the first thing that the prospective client saw.

And then three, by putting the price further down, it linked the price ranges to the value. What often happens is if you just throw a price out there and the price is not linked to the value and it's not linked to the scope, then what people often do, so again, this is where the human being part comes in, is that they will just look at a number and decide whether or not they like it or they don't like it. And if it's not contextualized by you, as this person very wisely did, then really that's all they're left with. Do I like the price or don't I like the price?

And so you want to couch it, so that by the time they get to the price, by the time they've taken that journey with you through the proposal, that they're like, "Oh yeah, this makes sense. It's worth that for me." And so this is, again, an example of something very specific that we worked on in the membership until she had something that she was able to give to the perspective client.

So both of these are examples about having to adapt, given what presents in terms of what the people want, so either a person who's like, "Look, I've only got limited time. You got a half an hour," or another person who's like, "Look, I need this fast." And sometimes, you just have to roll with that, and it's not an anomaly in consulting that you have to adapt. It is typical, and it is expected as part of consulting and certainly part of building a consulting business.

So when you think about the business side of consulting, the adaptive skills that you have and abilities and recognition that you need to do that, one of the most powerful assets that you have in building your business. And again, it doesn't mean you don't look at steps and say, OK, I need to get the fundamentals right, or here are generally the steps that I hope to follow, so I have some sense of being able to progress with a potential client, particularly if I think I can truly help them. But you don't stick rigidly to it because again, you're going to take yourself off the board for a lot of potential business that you could get.

So that's why this is so important, is honing your awareness, your discernment, your skills related to that human part. But then of course, and this is the last thing I'm going to say about it, there's us. Right? We're humans, too. And so we need the same attention and attending to that we do with prospective clients or with clients that we're working with. So that means shedding unhelpful or even harmful mindsets that we have, so the ways that we think and we believe and we feel about ourselves and about the reality that surround us, being able to discern what's actually happening versus what we think is happening based on what's going on inside of us. So if we have doubts, we have fears about ourselves or our abilities to really build a consulting business, is that what we're viewing this through rather than do we have a pretty good idea of what's actually occurring?

There are desires. This is a big one. Often, the desire to please people. Oh man, I used to have this problem. And the problem is, is if that's paramount because we have not attended to that human need within ourselves or people to like us, or for us to please folks, then it can cause us to do things that we don't need to do. It can cause us to do things that aren't really helpful to our business, and you know what I'm talking about, things like artificially lowering your price or agreeing to a timeline and a project that isn't possible, all kinds of ways that we end up sabotaging ourselves because we have that desire to please, and we have prioritized that often without knowing that we're doing that. And so that's why we have to pay attention to that human part of ourselves, so that we don't actually getting in the way of our success.

One of the big ones that I see all the time is not reaching out to people we know. So the people who are more likely to hire you are people who already know and value you, who actually already understand your value. And often, particularly if they're friends, that's the last people that we want to reach out to because we don't want a peer pushy or salesy, even if we know we could help them.

And I had an experience with someone I was talking to at one point, and again, this is the human stuff, is they weren't getting a lot of traction in terms of getting business and were feeling really uncomfortable about reaching out to friends because they had been in their sector and their industry for a long time and had really great relationships with people. So people that they'd worked with had ultimately become their friends, which actually is great. That means people like you and they like what you're doing.

And they were hesitant to reach out because that's so awkward, having conversations with friends. And so I said, "Well, forget about the selling for a moment. What are these folks who are your friends? What's going on with them? What's getting in their way? What's causing them to struggle? What kinds of things are they suffering with right now?" And they had a huge, long list. I said, "Great. So what kind of things are they aspiring to? What would just make them so happy if they were able to accomplish X, Y, and Z?" And they had a whole long list of things. And I said, "OK. So of those, what could you actually help them with?" And they sort of looked down and said, "Well, pretty much all of them." And my answer was, "Why are you talking to me?! Go help your friends."

And so this was simply sort of that human need to want to hold sacred our friendships and hold sacred our relationships. So I don't think that that was a wrong way to think about it, but they required some reframing so that you understood and so that this person understood that reaching out to them to see if they want to hire you to help them with some is actually and can be, if done well and done with good intent from the heart, an act of friendship. And so this is, again, the human parts of us that can make it kind of tricky to move forward with our success if we're not attending to it.

So these are all the types of things that we work with in the craft of consulting membership. I'm there. Other members are there. And what we talk about a good chunk of the time is what are you presented with? And then how do you adapt? And we talk about the fundamentals so that when you have to adapt, you at least have the basics in place, so now you don't have to fuss and fuddle around with those. You can now just deal with what's presented with you and whatever arises. And so again, helping each other and my helping folks make the best possible decisions given what they see, given what they know and given the human beings in front of them or what's going on inside of them because it's often mixed in there pretty much most of the time.

So if that sounds like something that is helpful to you, then I do encourage you to apply today. So if you apply and your application is approved, then it's kind of risk-free because you get your first 30 days for free. That's a trial period. And that gives you a chance to see is it a fit for you? You can see if does it actually help me make decisions? Does it help me adapt when I need to? Does it help me get my fundamentals right? And ultimately, the proof has to be in the pudding, right? Does it help you get results? And you can see if you feel like, yeah, consulting and being successful feels closer. It feels like it's within my reach. Does it feel easier, hopefully with more joy because you're not doing it by yourself? Because that's ultimately what you want your consulting business to look like.

And so I'd love to help you make that a reality sooner. So if that sounds like something that's of interest to you, check out the show notes. Check out the membership page on my website. You can find out more about it. And I welcome you to apply with a great group of folks in there, and we're having a good time and we're getting results. 

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or if you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content and I don't want you to miss anything. But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is, if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those.

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