David A. Fields shares his journey from a teenager trying to save up money to buy a computer, to becoming a consultant, to helping other consultants with the business of consulting. He recently wrote one of the most useful books on consulting I’ve read, The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients: 6 Steps to Unlimited Clients & Financial Freedom. (Seriously, read this book, it’s not the typical 20 pages of content and 200 pages of filler.)
In this interview, David shares his story, and advice from his book, including:
- The critical lesson he learned selling shoes: it’s not about the shoes, it’s about the feet. (This sound really simple, but it’s not easy to pull off in practice, even for some of the 8-figure firms David helps.)
- How he “fell into” consulting, then got worried because his partner had to quit 4 weeks later, and how “on a lark” he started working with other consultants.
- Why he loves consulting.
- Why you don’t have to be super smart, innovative, or even better than the competition. (And why attempts at differentiation probably lose more business than anything else.)
- You have to show the client that they can trust you to solve the problem without hurting them. (And what you have to do with your approach to build trust.)
- Why consulting is bought, not sold.
- How to perform “The Turn” from marketing and relationships (social norms) to an actual sales opportunity (market norms) with 7 simple words: “are you open to a separate conversation?”
- How to structure and set fees, including using the “heart attack question” to bound the budget discussion.
- Some encouragement on building a consulting practice: “This isn’t a business about doing things perfectly, it’s about doing the right things.”
- Plus, David and Reuben get into details on structuring proposals.
A quick recap of the 6 Steps from David’s book:
- Think “right side up” (client first)
- Maximize impact with the prospects you have (the right people, the right problem, the right solution, at the right time, with the right fishing line) As consultants, “we don’t hunt, we fish”.
- Build visibility, with 2 of the 5 channels (speaking, writing, networking, trade associations, digital presence). However, 1 of the channels must be networking.
- Connect, connect, connect
- Become the obvious choice (“Discovery” is the key here, and will be the title of one of David’s upcoming books)
- Propose, negotiate, and close (including how to offer different options and how to handle price objections).
Reuben had some Marquis de Calon (Bordeaux, Saint Estephe 2010) 53% Cabernet sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. Plum, red current, coffee, earth. Yum.
David does not drink alcohol (despite trips to Bordeaux and Italy), but here’s his recipe for irresistible iced chocolate:
1 tbs cacao powder*
1 tbs carob powder*
1 handful unsalted cashews*
1 frozen, ripe banana for sweetener
20 oz water
Blend all ingredients in a high-power blender (Vitamix or Blendtec) for 50 seconds on high. Pour over glass of ice cubes.
*David uses raw, organic ingredients, but it’s not required.