- I was wrong about consultants having an easier job. A consultant can have simultaneous clients in multiple industries, sometimes even a half a dozen. That means multiple industries and markets to become familiar—and conversant—in. On the corporate side, I had my company’s product line, and that’s it.
- As a corporate executive working with consultants, I held all the power and authority. Decisions were mine and mine alone and it was up to the consultant to satisfy my requirements. Not so in consulting. I had no experience at influencing without authority and at first I found it difficult. Clients didn’t automatically accept my solutions. I had to make a good business case to convince them. I have to admit this was a surprise—I’d just never thought about it. Fortunately, it didn’t take me too long to adjust.
- If you don’t like putting yourself out there and pressing the flesh, you may find it hard to develop new business. Whether you work for a consulting firm, as I did, or yourself, you usually eat what you kill. Sales are key. I never liked the rubber chicken circuit and it took a few years for me to discover a way to leverage my strength at one-on-one interactions into contracts. Because I worked hard and partnered with my clients, I got very good at retaining them. When I retired from consulting I still had many of the clients I began with. But my firm didn’t financially reward client maintenance. It was considered standard. New business was still the benchmark by which I was judged and additionally compensated.
Now that I’ve taught sales at the undergrad and graduate school levels, I see how much some training would’ve benefited me and allowed me to fast track my success at consulting. I’m a big believer in preparation. I think it enhances your chances of success and helps you get there faster.
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