True story here. I had lunch with a friend of mine about a month ago. While we were eating, it was difficult to avoid overhearing the loud conversation in the next booth. A man and a woman, obviously employees of a large, well-known local corporation, were having a discussion about the drop in quality for their products.
My friend, a consultant, asked me whether or not I felt he should reach out to them when the employees finished their lunch and got up from the table. It was so obvious to him that their company had a problem and he knew he could fix it because of his consulting. I told him that, as far as I could tell, this was a private conversation.
I felt that these folks would view his professional overture as a violation of their privacy. What would you have done in a similar situation?
Sure enough, the couple got up to leave and my friend, with a “nothing lost nothing gained shrug” got up, introduced himself to them with his business card in hand, and told them he couldn’t help but overhear from their lunchtime discussion that there were some problems he knew he could help them fix.
So much for professionalism when allegedly consulting.
What amazed me was that my friend was shocked when the man cut him off, mid-sentence, telling him he wasn’t interested in the services my friend was offering and left abruptly with the other employee. Clearly, their lunch had been ruined. Clearly, in the future, they wouldn’t be airing company information in a public place where it could be overheard, either.
Clearly, my friend didn’t have a clue that his spontaneous “consulting pitch” wasn’t going to open doors for growing his business. Saying you are a consultant and acting like one are two different things.
Anybody see the real problem here? Consultants don’t pitch and sell. They perform consulting.
They are solutions providers who work with companies due to relationships, confidence and trust that have been built over time. And people with problems rarely admit they have them.
Consultants don’t “fix” problems. If you want a quick fix, hire a repair service.
Consultants walk the talk because they wear it, live it, breathe it, mean it and appreciate that timing and understanding the value they bring to the table are everything.
Another friend of mine was co-consulting on a project I had brought him in on. He sent me an email asking me whether he should call on well-known Company B while he was attending an out-of-town seminar near their corporate headquarters. This company, and a specific problem, had surfaced during discussions with our client, Company A. I asked him why he felt he could violate a confidential discussion and use the information to gain account entry into a major corporation where he had no prior history or credibility for that matter?
Consultants, the real ones, understand that the only way to build credibility – and their business – is to earn it.
Account entry and referral is won through a body of work and relationship building that merits one’s referral to other companies.
Using confidential information – either overheard or resulting from a single meeting with a client – is no different than buying a leads list and cold calling. And it’s not consulting, either. It’s just selling something without having done your homework on that particular company. And expecting someone to give you an appointment to talk about their company’s problems, because you are a “consultant,” is naive.
Consultants who act the act without embodying a code of business ethics cannot expect to acquire top clients. Think about it. What’s the basis for your consulting relationships?
Babette Ten Haken is a catalyst, corporate strategist and facilitator. She writes, speaks, consults and coaches about how cross-functional team collaboration revolutionizes the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) value chain for customer loyalty, customer success and customer retention. Her One Millimeter Mindset™ programs draw from her background as a scientist, sales professional, enterprise-level facilitator, Six Sigma Green Belt and certified DFSS Voice of the Customer practitioner. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. Visit the Free Resources section of her website for more tools.