Asking for Referrals: How It’s Really Done


Most consultants misunderstand the referral process.

You see, there are two kinds of referrals:

a) The ones you initiate;

b) The ones that come to you.

The vast majority of people think about referrals as the ones that come to you.

That’s fine if you’re business is well-established, you have a pipeline full of business and a busy schedule. If a referral comes to you and it’s a good fit, you accept it and follow it through.

However, if you’re just getting started or don’t have enough clients it’s unlikely you’ll be getting referrals that simply come to you.

If you want more clients you can’t sit back and wait for referrals to come to you.

It’s up to you to initiate those referrals.

How can you do that?

Here’s the secret sauce…

Make a list of all your friends and colleagues. Your past employers, clients and contacts.

Now one-by-one call them up and ask them for a referral. Continue Reading

Stop Giving Advice Away for Free


Have you ever noticed that when you give someone advice for free they don’t take action on it?

When someone pays you for that same advice they are much more likely to use what you’ve shared with them and benefit from it.

Those kinds of people do exist. They just want to get what they can for free and aren’t serious about hiring someone.

This isn’t a universal truth that applies to 100% of people. It is however what happens in the vast majority of cases.

It happens so often in fact that what’s revealed is a bigger issue…

People don’t value what they get for free.

When you give your advice for free, people may say “thank you” and “I appreciate your time”. Pleasantries are nice, but you’re not giving advice to have your ego stroked (at least you shouldn’t be).

You’re giving advice because you want the person to benefit from it. To take action on it, to implement and to get the result they are looking for.

Consultants often ask me, “Michael, my clients and prospects always want my advice but they’re not willing to pay for it, what should I do?”

My answer…

Get a new client!

Sounds harsh, yet it is a real option.

You see, if you’re dealing with a client or prospect that is just looking to be a leech and suck away your time and knowledge they may never be willing to pay you for help.

Those kinds of people do exist. They just want to get what they can for free and aren’t serious about hiring someone. They’ll try to do everything themselves and will end up taking three times as long to get where they want to go and often won’t ever reach their destination.

Instead of giving away all your advice for free, ask the buyer as many questions as you can to understand their situation.

If you sense that’s who you’re dealing with, it’s time to move on and find a real client and buyer that needs help and wants to hire someone that can deliver great value. Continue Reading

Get More Clients By Getting the Word Out


Would you like to get more consulting clients?

How about more people mentioning your name?

If you sit back and wait for the phone to ring you’ll be waiting a long time.

Would your business be better off if people were calling you and telling you that they heard about you from someone else or that they were referred to you?

If you said “yes” to anyone of these, you need to step up your game and start telling more people about what you do.

From a young age many of us are told not to ‘promote’ ourselves. In many cultures, this is frowned upon.

There’s a Japanese proverb Deru kugi wa utareru which is the English equivalent of “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.”

If you want to succeed in the consulting business you need to be “the nail that sticks out”. And I can assure you there’s no hammer coming.

Start promoting…

The best place to start promoting what you do is with all your family, friends and colleagues.

Most consultants don’t take the time to connect with all of their contacts and let them know what they are doing.

Friends and family often think you’re a ‘consultant’ or a ‘business owner’. That doesn’t help you attract clients.

You need to have a conversation with every contact you have to let them know what you do. Continue Reading

How to Get Better At Saying “No”


Your kindness and generosity can be a great threat to your business.

As your business becomes more successful, as your career rises to new heights, you start getting a LOT of requests from people…

The better you get at saying “No” the more productive you’ll be and the faster you’ll reach your goals.

…friends, colleagues, people that read your materials or saw you speak at an event…all kinds of people start asking you for “just a few minutes of your time” to help them. To answer their questions. To show them what they need to do to become successful.

You may be inclined to say “Yes” to everyone that makes this request.

If that’s the case, you may be hurting yourself and your business more than you think.

It Feels Good

I consider myself a kind and generous person. I often go out of my way to help others. I do it because it feels good to help.

At the same time, if I took a few minutes to respond to every single request I get I’d literally have no time left in the day for productive work – work that moves my business forward.

We all face distractions throughout the day. Those of us that learn to eliminate as many of those distractions as possible get the most done.

That’s why the most prolific authors can write a book in less than 6 weeks – while it takes others a year or more. It’s not that the first author is a ‘better’ writer. It’s because they know how to manage their time and focus on writing without letting other distractions creep in. Continue Reading

4 Ways to Get Closer to Your Clients


I recently read an article by Roy Osing, the former Executive VP of Telus, a large Canadian telecommunications company.

Roy made some great points in his article in BIV and so I wanted to share them with you.

By focusing on your current clients you can better serve them, have them spend more with you and generate more referrals.

#1 – Mass markets don’t exist anymore. “Marketers need to focus on what makes people different from one another to attract their attention and entice them to buy.”

#2 – Don’t push your products or services to make a sale. Instead, Osing says “No one appreciates getting products shoved down their throat with little regard for their personal space.” Akin to Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing, Osing suggests “If you want to push anything, push value.” What he means here is think about what value and education you can offer to your ideal clients and push and promote that. Don’t lead with your sales talk.

#3 – Get closer to your clients. Most people misunderstand marketing. Spend the majority of your time catering to your current clients. Provide them with more value. Don’t dedicate all your resources to landing new clients only. Osing says most acquisition programs are flawed. He offers an example from Telus’ market, “‘Leave your present company and come over to us and we will give you a 46-inch LED TV’ propositions are common place. These programs have two serious downfalls. First, to someone who moves to a company for a free TV will definitely go elsewhere for a better offer. Second, the loyal customer who doesn’t qualify for the free TV will be furious and start looking for another supplier.” Continue Reading

Become a Standout Consultant

I just finished watching Seth Godin walk off stage.

He gave a great presentation.

Parts of it I’d seen before yet it’s always great to see him speak in person.

One of the lessons he shared that stood out in my mind isn’t a new one. In fact, he wrote about it in his 2011 book “We Are All Weird.”

It’s an important concept and one that continues to become more and more relevant with each year.

I believe it’s especially important that consultants take notice of it.

As the above chart shows (via, back in 1955 the vast majority of people would be considered ‘Normal’.

This includes your ideal clients and most buyers of consulting services. If you were marketing back then you would focus your efforts on this great ‘normal’ majority.

As time went on the bell curve start to flatten out and by 1975 the ‘normal’ majority was seeing a significant decrease. As Seth Godin put it, there were more “WEIRD” people.


This increase of smaller market segments made marketing to each segment a lot more attractive. The market was growing…and still is.

By 2011, the original ‘normal’ group has gone from majority to minority or close to it. Marketing is no longer about muscle and forcing messages on people. Continue Reading

Why You Can Become a Consultant at Any Age


One of the great things about becoming a consultant is that you can take the step at any age.

I’ve heard all the complaints, concerns and excuses…

“I’m too young. No one will listen to me…” and “I’m too old, everyone is younger than me…”

Here’s the thing, we can all come up with reasons for why we won’t succeed. What we’re really doing is trying to mask our fear.

The question you really need to be asking yourself is am I confident that I can provide value and results to the marketplace?

As you can see from the image above from Funders and Founders, some of the most successful brands and companies were started by people that some might consider “too old” to ‘start a business’.

I consulted for Billion dollar companies when I was in my early twenties as I wrote about in this article.

Consulting At Any Age

You can consult at any age because real clients, serious buyers, don’t care about your age.

They don’t care about your race, culture or gender.

They only care about one thing…

…and that one thing levels the playing field for all. Continue Reading

5 Stages of Successful Meetings for Consultants


Do you want to make the most of your time and gain the best result from every meeting you have with a prospective client?

You don’t want to make your initial questions too specific. Let the buyer talk so you can learn more about the real problems they are having.

I’ve always found it helpful to follow a simple framework for meetings. Let me share it with you:

Stage 1 – Get the conversation going, also known as “small-talk” – keep it relevant and to a topic that you know your buyer enjoys or has an interest in. Don’t talk about yourself, ask some questions about them.

Stage 2 – Ask an opening question that focuses on the reason you’re there. For example, if the buyer is looking to increase sales, you might get things going by asking “So Tony, when we talked last, you mentioned that you want to increase your sales by 10% this quarter, tell me more about that…?”

You don’t want to make your initial questions too specific. Let the buyer talk so you can learn more about the real problems they are having. Continue Reading

Why Some Consultants Struggle to Get Clients While Others Succeed


He got me thinking.

I was out for a morning walk. The sun warming the cold street and keeping the wind at bay.

It doesn’t matter what situation or country you’re in, or what industry you serve. Figure out what you need to do to reach the level of success you want and take action on it.

He was sitting on the ground about 10 meters in front of me.

His hat lay on the ground about a half meter in front of him. It contained a few coins. Just enough to look like someone had contributed them but I could tell he’d put them in himself to encourage others to give him money.

His position was relaxed. He didn’t try to get my attention. It seemed as though he’d already decided how successful his day would be.

A few blocks down the same street another man stood playing his harmonica.

He was about the same age as the first. He hadn’t shaved in a while and his clothes were stained with dirt – likely from calling the park bench or alleyway door his home.

At first glance both these men shared similarities.

But not everything was the same…

The second man played his music. He wasn’t good at it, but it looked like he was doing his best to enjoy it. He engaged eyes with everyone that passed and gave them a smile.

The other difference was that the second man’s hat had a lot more money in it. A few bills and at least $25 worth of coins.  Continue Reading

How to Use Twitter to Get More Consulting Clients


Social media can be a complete waste of your time.

Simple conversations can and do often lead to more serious discussions that turn into business.

It can also be a great way to build your business and land consulting clients.

Obviously if you spend your time on Twitter, or any other social network for that matter, engaged in meaningless time consuming banter the result will be meaningless.

On the other hand, if you take a strategic approach to your social media, it can directly lead to more clients.

Today I’m going to share with you a simple, yet powerful strategy on how to use Twitter to land more consulting clients.

Here’s how it works:

1. Make a list of your ideal clients and who your buyer will be. Aim to find out the name of the person at the company. The more detailed and specific you can be here the better.

2. Spend 20-30 minutes searching for each of these buyers on Twitter. You may be able to find them through Twitter’s search directly. Or you can hop onto Google and search for them there. For example, let’s say I wanted to connect with Maria Pergolino, the VP Marketing at Apttus (formerly Marketo). I would simply do a search for “Maria Pergolino Twitter” and this is the result: Continue Reading