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Selling Consulting Services Using High-End Value with Mark Pierce
I’m very excited to have Mark Pierce joining us. Mark, welcome.
Thank you, Michael.
For those who don’t know you, can you share with us what you do?
I’m Mark Pierce. I’m a former welder. I’ve never been to college. I’m the owner-operator and Founder of a company called E5 Leadership Academy. For 35 years, I’ve been in the coaching, mentoring business and consulting. It’s been a great ride. I’m married. I got four children. My wife and I were childhood sweethearts. I’ve been teaching, training, educating and motivating people how to be successful in life through a platform of five pillars: spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically and financially. I’ve found this success through my own implementation in my own companies, which I’ve sold two of them since. I decided one day that I would teach people how to fish rather than giving them a fish. That’s how I got into the consulting business.
You and I certainly share some commonalities in that path. Let’s start going back in time a little bit. You’ve been a consultant and a coach since the early the ‘80s. Let’s look at how you got your first client. Do you remember who that was and what that looked like?
My first client ended up turning into one of my first mentors. I was working for General Motors and I got hired in to help them build and develop a very specific, unique manufacturing process. I had some manufacturing background with welding. I had met Art Pastewie through a relative of mine who thought that the two of us would do well together. I’m very young guy but very ambitious. I just started my own business at the time. I was looking for a client. Art presented this great project that he had and asked me if I could help them find the vendors to do it. I said, “Absolutely.” That’s how my first business was born.
You got that first client, what about the next? Especially in the early days, what was the best way for you to get clients for your consulting business?
I’m old school. 35 years ago, there was no internet, email addresses and stuff like that. It was all about influence. I realized early on that leadership was influence. I had to lead myself in a certain way and behave a certain way in order to be both appealing and have credibility because I was so young. It was through that process of how I behaved and how I led that I influenced others. That influence then led me to referrals. My first 25 years in business was mainly referrals. I, to this day have not advertised. Most of my business was word of mouth. The people had heard what I was doing, what I was able to do. They contacted me in that very small sphere and it started to grow over the years.Leadership is influence. Click To Tweet
What you mentioned there about leading by example, I often heard this being referred to and I’ve talked a little bit about this idea of a mirror. You want to make sure that your actions are the type of actions that you want. If you’re going around and trying to hide little prices all the time. Push someone down to the bottom to get a lower price, that’s probably the clients that you’re also going to attract. I’m interested in knowing your approach to this. A lot of people understand the idea of leading and how it’s important and how to be professional and so on. Specifically, what were you doing and what was your mindset at that time that then allowed you to have people reach out to you and get more referrals because of that?
There are three major keys that were apparent to me. I can’t explain why or how, but they were. Number one, is I needed to change my language skills. I came from the shop and I need to relate to high level business people now. I had to learn to speak their language. The second thing that I needed to do is I had to remain accountable at all times. I had to learn to live in glass house. There was no second chance a lot of times working with larger corporations. I also knew the value of what I was doing. I never compromise that value. Instead, I used back then it was a counter cultural sales approach of selling high end value. I did that through my raw experience. I knew what I could save them. I knew what the projects will work. I knew what value it was to them. I always made sure that I tied a little percentage of my value add to them as a performance incentive. They might buy a project for $68,000 or $100,000 but I might have $400,000 payoff at the end because of performance.
How did you get there? How did you know to do that part? There are a lot more books and information available now for people to learn about different consulting fees, pricing models and so forth. Back then, it will be a little bit harder to come by. How did you get to that place?
I had mentors. Art Pastewie was one of my early mentors. He taught me the art of negotiation, understanding your value. The proposition of value was what could you add to the situation? What was the situation or the market demand willing to pay? What were you willing to work for? Oftentimes people are willing to work for so much less than what they’re worth. We’re human beings. We’re priceless. You can’t put a price tag on who we are and what we do in our uniqueness. He taught me that and instilled that confidence into me. That’s how I learned was through this experience and then seeking out other people that had been successful in mentoring.
Why do you think that people don’t charge what they should charge? They’re not exploring and putting forth the value that they’re creating. What do you think is going on? What do you think is holding people back from your experience in doing that when it comes to their fees and value?
The number one thing is fear. It’s fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of loss and fear of exposure, “Maybe I’m not worth what I think I am.” That’s all self-image. For you to have a proper self-image, sometimes you’ve got to clean the house quite a bit. I’ve made my career on personal development and professional development. That’s what I teach now is how to help people value themselves. I had to learn how to do that. I did not come up from welding and start talking big deals in front of General Motors. That was a huge leap for me. I’ve never even wore a tie before that.
What are the examples can you offer around being a leader? When people often hear the word leadership or leader, they think about someone in a larger organization, leading a team. What you’re referring as a big proponent of this is leadership of self. I’m interested in a few more examples that you can offer, either back in the early days or even now that you practice, that you believe if other consultants practice as well, they would get real benefit from.
When I understood that leadership was influence and that influence was power, you can do anything you want to do. You had to have a game plan. Part of the game plan was being able to set your goals and what I call dreams. These are things that are at a higher purpose or higher level than just making money. You had to know what your end game was. You had to set down those goals and write them down. It’s only about 2% of the population that writes down their real dreams, goals and sets a plan to that. Talking to consultants, they might all say, “We do all that.” I say, “If you do all that, you’re not getting where you want to go, then you’re stagnant. You’ve got to get there and dream bigger.” You have to be able to dream and dream big. Know that the responsibility that comes with accomplishing or achieving that dream is huge. It’s going to make an impact.Know the value of what you’re doing and never compromise that. Click To Tweet
When you start to understand the value of what that impact is going to be, that’s when you start building confidence. That would be one example. I can give you a great example about a situation that I was in. I was in a meeting and where I was called on off the cuff to start giving some quotations and some numbers, trying to cut this deal right there. I said, “It wouldn’t be proper and I wouldn’t be giving it due diligence if I just shot off the cuff. I need time to investigate. Make sure that what we’re doing is the right thing.” I had to have their best interests at heart. I want to make sure the deliverable that I’ve given you, I can deliver it. I don’t want to be one of these people that says, “I’m going to do something,” and then like the FedEx commercial go, “How am I going to do that?”
The accountability thing became huge. You better say what you mean and mean what you said. Those two things were part of the journey in a big way for the conversion into leadership. You have to lead yourself with accountability and to lead yourself with character. You had to lead yourself with morals. You had to lead yourself with a teachable spirit, for example, you had to understand what you didn’t know and not be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, it’s not a dumb question. There are so many people out there who are willing to share and sow seeds to all of us to help us achieve our dreams and goals. Especially when it’s a purpose or a cause that’s greater than ourselves.
One of the things that you’re talking about is you need to slow down sometimes and ensure that you have the right things lined up, the actions, the steps you’re taking to get to where you want to go to. Whether that’s the accountability or whether that’s having an opportunity to come your way and saying, “This may not be the right opportunity.” Before I say yes to this opportunity or give a quick response to fees, maybe I need to slow things down a little bit and look at it. Make sure there’s good alignment and there’s the right value being set. Someone who’s at the earlier stages of their career or their consulting business might hear that and say, “I need to make sure that I’m bringing revenue in.” Do they have that luxury? What would you say to someone who maybe feels that they don’t have the luxury of being able to slow things down? They’re so focused on just winning those first few clients.
There’s nothing wrong with winning the first few clients. Keep in mind when you sell short, you have to sell more. I’d rather do less and make more than do more and make less. I made an early on decision that I’m not going after these small-minded contracts. I’m qualifying people before I get there. I’m making sure that the contract value is commensurate with what I want to make. That was the first decision. Back then it was a six-figure sale, which to extrapolate that now, what’s that worth? It’s worth a lot. You have to first know your client and know what you’re dealing with. As far as putting food on the table, that’s great but when you get a sense of urgency or you fail in a presentation to show confidence or you fail to show the value, people get that. They catch that right away. They all discover that you’re desperate. Desperation is not an attractive quality when people are buying into your credibility. I flat out recommend you don’t ever do that. It’s easier to smile and say, “I don’t think this is going work out for us and go find another one,” than it is to get involved in contract doesn’t enough and nobody wins. You’ll cut corners to get out of it.
The interesting thing about that as well is typically when someone knew inside that there’s something not right about the situation and you end up saying yes to it. Those are the ones you always regret. Those are the ones that are always the pain in dealing with. At the end of the day, you hope or wish that you wouldn’t have said yes to it even for the money.
Here’s another point too, I only have so many hours on a planet. I only got so much time, when you understand that, I can’t afford to waste time and neither can you. You have to maximize your time, your potential and your output. That makes it worth X. If you spend a lot of time making less than X in your consulting business or in the world that you’re in, no matter what you are, whether you’re a top-level CEO professional or what you do, those wasted movements are gone forever. You can never get them back.
You talk also here about qualification. What you’ve referred as ideal client selection. This is so important, yet even those who are running quite successful businesses don’t practice it to the degree that they could. I’d be interested in hearing your approach to qualifying clients. Ensuring that you’re saying yes only to the right people and allowing yourself the opportunity then to say no to all the wrong ones.
It’s changed a lot over 35 years. Hopefully, I’ve learned and I’ve grown and I’m not the same person I was.We're human beings. We're priceless. No one can put a price tag on who we are and what we do in our uniqueness. Click To Tweet
Give us the best practices that are working for you.
The thing that I do is when I talk to people, I give them a qualifying question. From my question is this, now my market that I’m working with is predominantly 45 to 55-year-old. They’re all top level, top 2% performers. They’re CEOs, presidents, entrepreneurs and business owners. One of the number one questions I give them is doing what you’re doing as good as you do it, day-in and day out, are you getting everything you want and need and desired in your life? If your answer’s yes, God bless you. Good luck. If your answer is no, then I can help you. Maybe we should talk a little bit. My second question is this. I bring up faith because faith is very important to me. I have deep faith life. I’ll talk to them about their lives from a spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and financial perspective. I’ll start asking them some questions about that.
If they hiccup, they get uncomfortable or they’re not willing to engage in that conversation, I know I got a project. Projects take a lot of time. I’ll back up and go the other way. I’m trying to decipher with those five areas, how far along in development are they? I don’t want to startup. I want somebody that’s having a real challenge moving through what I call the four levels of life. We go through survival, stability, success and significance. Most people get stuck at success. I’m looking for highly successful people who want to move to significance and don’t know how to do that. My qualifying question is, make sure that they’re in the right vein that I need them to be. Hopefully, that answered your question.
The point there that is worth a little bit more exploration as well is based on some of those questions, Maybe you’re attracting the right people from the start, but some people are going to self-select themselves out of the picture. You’re going to know pretty quickly, “This is not the right fit for me.” That’s an interesting mindset to have because a lot of people would say, “I’m losing all these opportunities.” Have you found that by having a clear criteria or questions that polarized to a degree, that in fact, your business has grown as a result?
Undoubtedly and the reason it’s polarizing is I want to sift through the wheat and the shaft. I want to do this quick.
How have you taken those learnings and that knowledge of who your ideal client is and who it is not? You said you don’t do a lot of marketing, but used in your messaging or in your business or in your communications? Can you share some examples of what you’ve done to ensure that?
My market have five pain points and I’ve identified the pain points. I speak to them from the pain point. Let me give you an example of a couple them. They’re not unique to my client group. Most consultants, coaches, and mentors have the same pain points with their clients. It’s time, no money, poor relationships, need to make more income and have no growth strategy or plan. Those are the five things that are holding people back. I’ll address them when I’m talking to them, “If time and money were no object to you, what would you do with your life?” There’s a great leading question. Another one would be, “How would an extra $100,000 a month change your life? More importantly, how would it change your wife or your spouse’s life?” I’m getting a feel for their character and I’m getting a feel for their development and what level they’re at. Are they truly at the success level, ready to go to significance or wanting to or are they maybe posers?
As your business has grown and you become more successful as well, what have you done? What changes have you made in your own systems or your team or your tools? What have you used to help you to manage the growth?You have to be able to dream and dream big, but know that the responsibility that comes with accomplishing or achieving that dream is huge. Click To Tweet
That’s a great question because there have been oftentimes in my life where I’ve said yes too many times. I’ve had so much growth and so much expansion that you can’t do the customer become all of my friends. You can’t do them justice. You have to have a means and a measurement in my opinion, in order to keep track of your time. You have to have a great time management system and everybody sells one. What I’ve done is I creative a priority system. These are two affirmations that I use. If this doesn’t move me closer to my dreams and goals over the next two to five years, I’m not going to give it energy. That’s an overarching purpose. The other one is, if this doesn’t affect my life in a positive way over the next two year to five years, I’m not going to give it energy. Those two affirmations that led me to make good quality decisions to control the growth.
I never was in trouble for growth, if that makes sense to you. I might be speaking a foreign language but when you have a good product, a good deliverable, you’re accountable, you say what you mean and mean what you say, people want to be around you. You’re very attractive. They want to work with you because they know you know something or they might want to be a little bit like you. Those qualities are very important. The other thing I do is I use third-party verification. I have six mentors in my life. People that I love, love me and I trust them. I’m not afraid to bounce things off of them, “What do you think? I got this opportunity. I’m not sure. Maybe you could help me out.” I’m seeking advice. I’m not the armchair quarterback. I’m not making all the decisions myself. I like to surround myself with a team of people who love and care about me so that they can help me in those decisions.
Tell me more about that because I’ve observed that some people feel like they need to know everything themselves. Even if they’re working with maybe a coach at times but they have this mindset, where they’re looking into, “I should be an expert. I should know how to figure this out myself.” I know you’ve had mentors and coaches yourself from the early days, but at what stage did you figure out or make the decision that you want to create this group of advisors around you?
It was pretty early in my life because being a welder and never been to college, I always felt the deficit. If I wasn’t this far ahead as everybody else. I didn’t have the academia behind me. I just had raw guts and talent and experience. It wasn’t refined. Because of that, I realized early on that I had to humble myself. This virtue of humility was so important. I had to humble myself to understand that I had to learn what I don’t know. If I want to grow and I want to control that growth and bring the right growth, I have to know what I don’t know so I can understand what I want. That takes a third set of eyes. That takes another perspective higher than the level of the trenches that I was working. That was key. The key awareness and discovery from my developmental processes is that I needed that. In addition to that, intentionality rather than reaction. We hear now proactive and reactive. Most people are reactive all the way. I had to put intentionality into my living in all areas of my life so that I can become proactive. I was in control of the situation. I’m kidding myself because I’m not, but I felt like I was controlling the situation by being intentional rather than taking whatever the winds of fate blew to me.
You also talked about these affirmations that you use to guide your decision-making process or to make decisions around opportunities that come your way. I’d love to explore a little bit more about what your routine looks like on a daily basis? Every day might be different but generally, how do you manage your time? Do you structure in a certain way? Do you have specific habits that help you to stay focused and productive?
That’s a great question to lead to talk to people as a qualifier. It’s a great thing when you meet somebody and say, “What do you do for time management? How do you maximize your day? I’m always looking for ways to improve myself? What process do you use?” That’s a great way to engage people. Here’s mine, I make sure that no matter what time I have to get started in a day that I get up at least an hour to an hour and a half early. I don’t do it to exercise my body. I do it to exercise my mind. The very first thing I do is I set my culture of thought right. I set my spiritual life right. I set my plans for the day right. I do all the things I need to do as far as affirmations, readings and things like that first thing in the morning. I get up an hour and a half early because a lot of that for me is like contemplating time. The actual hard work is only about twenty minutes, but it’s the contemplation and setting my mind, right for the day’s engagement and what I’d have to do?
For me, my zone is 10:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon or maybe 4:00 PM. All my meetings are going to happen during that time. If you go to schedule on my coaching platform, that’s the only times I have available. I know that’s when I’m at my peak. I need to be at my peak in order to give the best to my clients, give the best to my family and give the best to my people. I also know this about myself. It’s know thyself, that awareness thing and discovery and self-awareness. I know that I’m not good to anyone unless I’m fully capable physically and emotionally. I’m making sure that I’m doing something every day to satisfy my physical and my emotional need. Being a student of The Five Love Languages from Gary Chapman, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that or not. Being a student of emotional dialects, I teach that as part of my process. I make sure that I’m getting my hugs every day or my words of affirmation so that I stay in balance.
Balance is important. By starting your day off right, you can almost guarantee that your balance points are going to be better. I don’t want anything to jerk me out of shape in the morning to knock me off my routine. No matter where I am, it’s every day. I don’t miss a day. I don’t miss it for my birthday. I don’t miss it for Christmas. I don’t miss, I stay on that routine every single day. That’s what I do in the morning and then I go through my day. At the end of the day, I also have an examine that I run through to figure out what was my day’s events, what did I do? What did I do that I could’ve done better? I also evaluate from my spiritual wellness. Were there things that I did an error? Maybe I hurt somebody or I’m short, or maybe I was abrasive or aggressive. I always want to make sure that I get back to those people and let them know that it was not intentional. Those are the things that I do.I'd rather do less and make more than do more and make less. Click To Tweet
What time do you do that examination at the end of each day?
At the end of each day, it’s probably somewhere, for me the day’s over. I turn my cell phone on at 9:00 AM and it goes off at 7:00 PM, so probably sometime after 7:00. I don’t watch any TV or whatsoever. I have no inputs into my life that don’t belong there. I don’t read the paper. I don’t listen to radio. I keep totally focused on the values that I believe in and things that I need to do. That’s another part of my process. By 8:00 at night, I’m doing that examination. Even if I’m at home or I’m at the lake or fishing, golfing, or doing anything like that, I always take that time. It’s like autopilot, I’ve been doing it for decades where I evaluate my day and appreciate it. Have a heart and attitude of gratitude. I want no grudges. I want nothing heavy on my mind before I go to bed. I want a solid night sleep.
There’s some simplicity in everything that you’re sharing, but the power comes from that simplicity. There are lessons to be learned by all of us in finding, identifying simple things that we can do that will have a profound impact, not only on our lives personally but also on our businesses. Mark, I want to thank you for joining us and sharing a bit of your story, journey and best practices. I want to make sure also that people have a place that they can go to learn more about you and your work. Tell us where that would be.
I’d like to add one more thing. Another thing that I made sure that I do every day, if I’m going to be in front of people, or I’m going to be presenting, or I’m going to be talking or working or making phone calls, prospecting whatever it is I’m going to do I have a ten to one rule. I make sure that I’m prepared ten times greater than what I have to deliver. For example, in this call we’re doing 30, 40 minutes, I got over 300 minutes of preparation. I read a book Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity so that I would have a good focus for this call. That I could add value to you, to your people and be a blessing to them. The best way to get ahold of me would be at E5Leader.com. You can schedule up there. I have a bunch of blogs and a bunch of stuff on social media as well.
Mark, thank you so much for coming on and being with us.
I’m so glad to be with a winner and somebody that’s doing great work out there in a significant way. Thank you.
Thanks very much.
- E5 Leadership Academy
- The Five Love Languages
- Created for Greatness: The Power of Magnanimity