How would it impact your business if you had a way to tap into a stream of unlimited clients?
My guest for this episode is David A. Fields. David is a definitive expert with decades of experience in consulting, a sought-after speaker, and a best-selling author who helps build consulting practices that are focused on “right side up thinking”, making them both lucrative and lifestyle-friendly.
As a co-founder within his firm, Ascendant Consulting, David has worked with one-person startups to some of the world’s largest companies. His latest book, The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients, is Amazon’s highest-rated book release on the business of consulting in the past 30 years.
Don’t miss this chance to learn David’s key insights towards maximizing your impact.
Listen to the podcast here:
Six Steps To Unlimited Clients And Financial Freedom with David A. Fields [Podcast 233]
Let me ask you, what would happen for you if you had a couple of simple steps to be able to go out and generate unlimited clients? It gave you the ability to truly live life on your terms, to have the freedom to spend more time with your wife, your partner, your spouse or your kids. To do the things you want to do, instead of feeling like that chief cook and bottle washer wearing nine hats, running around doing a lot of different things. You could focus on that sweet spot. The thing that charges you up, that gives you energy and that fires you up. What would that be worth to you? On this episode, we’ve got a definitive expert who is here to show and share with you how to be able to do just that.
He’s got decades of experience. He’s a consultant, speaker and bestselling author. His name is David A. Fields. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs like you build a consulting practice that’s lucrative and lifestyle-friendly. Is that what you want? If that’s not what you want, then you might want to tune out now. You might want to go check out some other program. If that is what you want, you’re going to want to stick around because he’s got a wealth of wisdom to be able to share with you. He works with corporate clients. He works with small business owners. He works with people running a solo business. He’s the Founder of Ascendant Consulting. His book, The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients, is Amazon’s highest-rated book on the business of consulting released in the last many years. David, welcome to the show. How are you?
I am doing outstanding and we have an update to that intro. For a couple of years, that book, The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients was second only to Peter Block’s book, Flawless Consulting, which had been released. I read that book when I was in business school many years ago. It had been the highest-rated and most recommended book but we passed them. The most recommended book released ever on business consulting practice is The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients. My team and I are proud of that.
Most people have a story or a reason why they’re doing what they’re doing. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why the passion and purpose of helping consultants get more new clients and create freedom?Why the passion and purpose of helping consultants get more new clients and create freedom? Click To Tweet
I backed into this because I went into consulting in ‘97. I co-founded a consulting practice on my own. It was corporate clients, probably like many of your readers. It created this consortium where basically I was a consultant and a client. I was selling consulting projects and then bringing in other consultants to do the work. I had to hire consulting firms. Along the way, people started asking me, “How are you doing this? How are you winning all this business?” especially, “How are you winning the business for the fees you’re winning it for?” Purely as a lark, I took on a couple of people as coaching clients because I had been working with them. I couldn’t sell all their business, but I could show them how to win more business. That has since taken over. 95% of my work now is with consulting firms. I was contacted by one of the largest consulting firms in the world, but usually, it’s solo up to $20 million to $30 million.
It’s so fascinating the background and different parts of the world, different parts of the country. You’ve had this phenomenal success. It sounds like your book has been a great catalyst to basically connecting you and introduce you to potential clients. I imagine there have been ups and downs. Can you think back to your biggest failure on this journey of many years or biggest mistake that you’ve made? What did you learn from it? What can our readers learn from it too?
There’s plenty of competition for that biggest mistake or the worst time. I often tell people that I cofounded Ascendant, my company. My partner and I started it and that partnership worked incredibly well for a few weeks, at which point it fell apart. The challenge there was my partner was the new business guy. I was the backroom, engine room, model building guy because that’s what we had done at our previous firm where we both had worked our way up to partner, both of us. I’m happy to stay in my little cave and do work. It turns out you can’t win clients that way. You have to be out in the world. I had a horrific first year of business. Anyone who is feeling financial pressure like, “This is a nightmare. I could lose everything.” I have been there. We go back to 2005 or 2006 when I started the firm. That’s where I was. Fortunately, I did learn a couple of lessons and things took off from there. I always say the number one lesson a consultant can learn and I will typically talk about consultants. I think this applies to all entrepreneurs.
My world is a world of consultants, I tend to say that, but the number one lesson is to remember consulting is not about you. Consulting’s about them. Consulting is about clients. I call that right side up thinking and it’s easy to say and really hard to do in practice. We all tend to think of ourselves. That’s natural. That’s normal. We fill our own mind space. The reason anyone is reading this is that they’re hoping to get something for themselves. That’s how we think most of the time. To win in this game, you have to flip that on its head and you have to think, “What does a client want? What does a customer want?” If I’m going to talk to a journalist, “What does that journalist want?” I’m thinking, “What do you want? What would be good for you? What would be good for your audience?” If I could put you and your audience first, the rest will happen and I don’t have to worry about it. Does that help? Does that make sense and fit your goal there?
Absolutely and in your book, you talk about this in more detail, right side up thinking. What else can you say about this? Because I love the paradigm and the framework. It’s about you, the end-user, you the client. As you’re reading this, our value is to bring you insights, wisdom, strategy to transform your business to create more leads, sales, profits, make a bigger impact, have a bigger reach and bigger contribution. Can you speak to right side up thinking here?
There is so much. I do full-day sessions with firms helping them become more right side up. Once you dive in, you realize, is your proposal right side up? If the first thing in your proposal is about your firm, it is about your qualifications, then it’s not right side up. Your proposal isn’t about you, it’s about them. It’s about their goals, their dreams, their fears, their concerns, their enemies, their aspirations, their problems and then how do you get them to where they want to be? It’s really about them. Are your emails right side up? Most people’s emails start and it will say, “Dan, I hope or I something.” Who’s that about? That’s you making it about yourself. From your emails to your proposals, how you answer your phone and how you communicate.
If you’re reading this, you get a new client on the phone or a new client when you sign them, for instance. Do you ask them, “How would you like me to communicate with you?” as opposed to, “Here’s how I want to communicate.” Do you ask them, “What will make this most powerful for you?” All of those things are right side up. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much of our practice, almost anything we do, we can take a look at and say, “Am I truly being right side up about this? Am I being client first?” In most cases, we have room to improve and that includes me and my group too. We do this all the time. We realize we have room to improve also.
Speaking of improvement and speaking of transforming your business, your ability to generate more leads, sales and profits, we’re going to take a deeper dive into six steps that David teaches his clients to generate unlimited clients and how to create unlimited freedom. David, you’re starting off right side up thinking, as you’re reading this, where can you apply this? What would happen for you if you change the conversation from an I conversation to a you conversation? From experience, what happens is you develop more interest in you. You develop more interest in them and it creates more interest in you. It follows the adage of Dale Carnegie, “When you’re genuinely interested in others, they’ll become interested in you.” If you want to change, shift the script, just that one simple strategy, that one simple technique and mindset or psychology will pay you huge dividends. You talk about the six steps to generating unlimited clients in your book. Give us a snapshot of the six steps and how our readers can apply it.Consulting is not about you. Consulting is about the clients. - David Fields Click To Tweet
Step 1: Get Your Mindset Correct
We talked about right side up thinking, which is step one, getting your own mindset correct. The impact that can have is enormous. From there, the next step is to maximize your impact. Often, what I hear is people saying, “How do I get in front of more prospects? Get me in front of more. I know that if I can get in front of more people, I’ll win more clients.” What I can tell you from experience and I work with hundreds of consulting firms, is in most cases, for an entrepreneur, for a consultant, for someone who’s running a small practice, their challenge is not visibility. It’s not getting in front of more prospects. It’s having an impact. It’s able to hit the ball when you step up to the plate. It’s not seeing more pitches, it’s actually hitting the ball.
Step 2: Maximize Your Impact
Usually, that means talking about the right problem with the right people and then offering the right solutions, something that’s compelling and said well at the right time. At the right time is pretty hard to control so the best thing to do is talk to a lot of the right people about the right problem and offer the right solutions and that’s narrow. It doesn’t mean you want to be everything for everyone. It means you want to be one thing for one type of people because that’s what people are looking for, especially now, more so than ever.
Step 3: Create Visibility
Maximizing impact is step two. You need that before you jump into visibility. Step three then is to create visibility. It’s to get out there in the world. It’s to speak. It’s to write. It’s to do what you’re doing, to have a digital presence, be it a podcast and to be active in a trade association and to just network, be with people. Make phone calls, reach out, do an email, use WhatsApp or use LinkedIn. Create those relationships and that’s important.
Step 4: Connect With People
The next step, which is step four, is to connect with people. Our business especially, the consulting business is an emotionally-driven business. It’s a people-driven business and therefore you have to connect. You have to be in the conversation. How you create relationships, how you nurture those relationships and then how you leverage those relationships is vitally important to building any kind of successful firm. Those are the first four steps.
Step 5: Become The Obvious Choice
Those will position you to be in the right place when an opportunity comes along. From there, you need to become the obvious choice.
I can sum up becoming the obvious choice in one word, which is not going to be either of my next two books but will be the book after that and that word is called discovery. Discovery is about understanding the other person, back to being right side up. When you understand your prospect better than anybody else, better perhaps than he understands himself, then it’s easy to submit a proposal that makes you the obvious choice. There is no one even close to competition, including internal staff, including just inertia, but that all depends on discovery.
Step 6: Propose, Negotiate, Close
Finally, the sixth step is to propose, negotiate and close. That sounds like three steps, but it’s not because if you’ve done the other ones right, especially if you’ve done discovery right, then proposing, negotiating and closing a lucrative project is easy.
As you’re reading this, what would happen for you if you put these six steps in place that you were positioned properly because you took the time and genuine interest in others? What would happen for you if you made it a conscious choice to connect with more people, where the right people are for what it is that you offer? What would happen for you if you took the time to create discovery and understand them? Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach says it really well, “People buy from us when they feel understood, not because they understand us.” It’s flipping the switch on that type of thinking. Lastly, if the first five steps are done right, it becomes more of, “Do you want our help?” at the end of the day. It seems like we’d be a good fit, but do you want our help? You become that choice. David, what do you see are some of the biggest mistakes or maybe misunderstandings or myths when people get started? Trying to apply these six steps, where do they go wrong?
The biggest place people go wrong is when they’re looking for clients, they’re looking in the wrong place. They’re looking in the mirror and they’re saying, “What do I want to do? Who’s my perfect client?” That’s all upside down. That’s not right side up thinking. They’re saying, “I’ll do anything,” which is not an unusual place to start. When you’re at the very beginning, you’re trying to find your way and you’re desperate for projects. You’ll take anything which is fine in terms of being opportunistic. It’s not great in terms of marketing your business. You do need to stand for something and you have to remember the research on this is absolutely unequivocal. Clients are looking for a consultant or coach or some other provider who understands them specifically.
If you are a coach to moms between 40 and 50, then moms between 40 and 50 are more likely to hire you than anyone else because they know, “You get me. You’re specific to me.” If you’re, “I work only with consulting firms and most of my clients appreciate that. I don’t work with architects. I don’t work with legal firms. There are all sorts of professional services and maybe my stuff would apply to them, I don’t know. What I do know is myself works great for consulting firms and consulting firms can believe that.” One thing I would encourage you is to be specific. It’s hard to let go of all the other things out there, but the more you’re able to let go, the better you will do. That’s a huge common error is this desire to just, “I could do this and I can do that. If I look in the mirror and look at my past, look at all these amazing things I have done.” Nobody cares.
Speaking about nobody cares, in your book you talk about the idea of differentiating. Your approach is counterintuitive, which says why you shouldn’t differentiate. Speak to that a little bit.When you understand your prospect better than anybody else, then it's very easy to submit a proposal that makes you the obvious choice. - David Fields Click To Tweet
I don’t think consulting firms should differentiate. I think that’s a huge mistake. I grew up in consumer products and before I went into consulting, I had blue-chip consumer products background. Differentiation was where it’s at when you’re marketing a product. That turns out to be completely wrong for most professional services because clients aren’t looking for different. They’re looking for reliable and credible solutions. You don’t want to say, “I’m so different. I have this breakthrough novel approach.” Unless that is literally your competency, unless that is what you’re marketing, your marketing difference. I have one consulting firm that literally what they do is different. We bring different people, but for 99.9% of you who are reading and they’re any consulting firm, you’re not marketing difference. What you should be marketing is reliable solutions, a solution that works, that’s credible, that they can believe in. That will win you business ten times out of ten over someone who says, “We’re different,” because different isn’t what clients want.
Another thing that you talk about is the five marketing musts. Speak to the five marketing musts to be able to launch it and be able to have that bigger impact.
The five marketing musts for any professional services and especially for any consulting firm are speaking, writing, trade associations, digital presence and networking. Those overlap a bit. Some of them might stick out to you. People might say, “I don’t get trade associations because that doesn’t seem quite as broad as speaking and networking or speaking and writing. What I’m telling you is what works. What you’re doing right now and what we’re doing together is the overlap of digital presence and speaking. A podcast or a webinar, those are digital presence versions of speaking.
Writing, when you do a blog, if you do any online writing, that’s the digital presence version of writing articles or writing books. Of those five, if you can’t do any of those five, you’re going to struggle in this business. You have to do networking, which is what I had mentioned a little bit is because this is a personal business, because it’s a trust-based business, there’s so much failure. Everybody’s hired somebody that hasn’t worked out that you have to create that one-on-one connection. Networking is a must.
On top of that, if you can layer on writing, you can layer on speaking. If you could layer on trade associations or digital presence, so much the better, but at a minimum you have to be able to connect with people and learn to connect with people. I am not naturally a people person. I have taught myself because I know it’s important to be able to connect with people. Along the way, I found out, “People are cool. It turns out people are interesting, who knew?” If you’re not naturally a people person, you can get there and it’s vitally important.
It’s interesting you say that because it’s counterintuitive. If you’re reading this, you might say to yourself, “Look at David, he sounds like an extrovert. Look at how well-spoken he is,” and all these things. That’s a false belief jumping in your head right now. I don’t want to challenge you. That voice you might have that might be going, “I’m not as outgoing as David or so and so.” I want you to tune in here. David, you can speak to this too, I imagine with the work you’ve done with thousands of consultants. I know having been a part of surveys inside of high-profile entrepreneur groups where the minimum requirement to be in that group allowed in the room is over $1 million in revenue, most average between $9 million and higher. Over 74% of the room validated, at least their answers, their responses were, “I’m an introvert.” If you’re sitting there thinking, “I need to be an extrovert to be good at connecting and networking,” it’s a false belief. What would you share about that?
You nailed it. That’s absolutely the case and I see that across the board. There are exceptions. I see some consultants who are extroverts. There’s the one I work with who individually does about $10 million in consulting. He is adjusted. He’s extraordinary off the other edge of the curve in terms of extroversion. There are plenty, myself included, who will happily stay in our little caves here and not talk with people but will have learned how. I have learned that other people are important. Once you learned that, it makes it easier.
I think there are ways to schedule your time and your energy. It’s always difficult. I don’t like picking up the phone, but most people don’t. I know, however, there’s a direct correlation between picking up the phone and business. I create blocks of time to pick up the phone. Even if you’re struggling with it, even if you find it or the whole idea of connecting with people to be nerve-racking and may give you heart palpitations, what I would say is there are ways through it. There are scripts or things you can do. That’s a lot of what I do with people is help them through that. Once you have started having success, it becomes obviously a little bit easier.You learn not just by listening but by reflecting and by teaching. - David A. Fields Click To Tweet
Speaking of easier, you’ve worked with thousands of consultants over time or coaches depending on what we want to put on it. With regards to someone getting started, if you can think back, things are changing at a rapid pace. One of the things it seems from the work I’ve observed that you do is you help simplify complexity. There’s a great quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, “I wouldn’t give a fig to be on the other side of complexity, but I’d give my life to be on this side of simplicity.” You appear that you’re helping people simplify the process, consulting, getting new clients and creating a lifestyle type of business and freedom.
With how much change has happened and how many things are coming into play and all of this social media and you’ve got all these experts out there going, “You must do all of these things.” The average person is swimming, overwhelmed, feeling stressed and distress because, “I can’t do all these things, but I’m trying to do all these things,” and they’re juggling the balls. If you were to cut to it, from what you’ve either personally done in your business or you’ve helped your consultants do over the last few months. What would you say would be the number one to three strategies or breakthroughs that a coach, consultant, a business owner could take to bring in new revenue right away?
Number one is to pick up the phone. I’m going to give you a number zero. What I’ve learned is that consulting firms, small firms and startups have to be comfortable that they have the capacity to deliver more work. While I don’t like to start a new business by talking to the operation side in capacity, the truth is you have to feel comfortable that if you win work, that you can deliver it. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, you’ll have a counter intention. You may not even realize it, but there’s going to be a little voice in your head saying, “I’m not sure I want to win this project.” Your prospect can hear that little voice, even if you don’t hear it loud and clear, they hear it loud and clear. You have to get rid of that counter intention. You have to have the belief that you can deliver the work and you can deliver more work because you never want to let your foot off the gas on winning businesses. Step zero is to make sure you have the capacity in place to actually deliver.
Step two is once you have that you’ve got no counter intention. You’ve got nothing holding you back and you think right side up is pick up the phone. It is the easiest, most direct, most reliable way to get business is to be in conversation with people. I see that with such regularity and with such consistency, it is absolutely shocking. There’s a consultant in New York City who I’ve chatted with and we talked about that, the whole process for getting on the phone and a CRM. I said, “Pick up the phone and trust me.” $3 million later in a matter of a few months, he’s like, “I believe your process.” I’m not saying everybody can pick up the phone and you’re going to get $3 million. He has a good network.
What I am saying is that’s the most reliable way. If I was going to simplify it down to one thing or two things first, make sure you feel comfortable that you can deliver. Second, get on the phone. The third thing is to read the impact section of my book. I won’t cover it all right now. Know what your business is. Know what problem you solve and who you solve it for. If you know that, it becomes extremely easy to win business. If you don’t know what it is you do, no one else will know what you do either. Be able to know at least what you do. That will make it much easier.
As you’re reading this, how would it impact you? Number one, having the certainty and confidence that you can deliver. Number two, that you have the ability to pick up the phone and connect with people, be in the conversation. Number three is know what problem you solve and who you solve it for. Plain and simple. What would that do for you? What would that give you? David, we’ve just scratched the surface. On your 10,000 hours of experience, your lifetime of experience, if people want to go deeper with you, if they want to learn more about you, connect with you, where can they go to learn more about what you’re up to?
People can always go to my website DavidAFields.com. If you go to the blog, I think we’ve got posted maybe between 250 and 300 articles. I’ve written over 400, but we’ve taken some down. There is so much content available that I would go there and start there. If you google Guide to Winning Clients or go to Amazon and search Guide to Winning Clients, my book will pop up. I encourage people to read it because I wrote it. It turns out, I got lucky a little bit, the book is really good. If you’re in the business at all, you’ll find it helpful.
I want to encourage you to go check out what David is doing at DavidAFields.com. Access his articles, access resources and go get the book. Even if you’re not a consultant per se, there’s a lot of value you’ll get in the psychology and we talk about this all the time. It’s not tactics, it’s not even strategy. It’s the psychology that’s the most important thing. His process is built on psychology, which always wins. Go get the Guide to Winning Clients on Amazon or wherever you shop for books. David, what is something I should have asked you that I didn’t?Appreciate what you've done, not just look forward to what you could do. - David A. Fields Click To Tweet
You didn’t ask anything about chocolate. There’s always room to ask about chocolate or kids. I typically don’t give good parenting advice. I think you cover things pretty well. If there’s one last parting piece of advice, I would say this is a business for resilient people. You will have ups, you will have downs. It’s a matter of the business. Hang in there. Get help. Get resources. No one’s in this alone, so don’t feel like you’re in it alone and stick with it. You’re successful. I’m successful, but I would venture to bet you’ve had challenging years and I certainly had challenging years as I was starting up.
You have two kids, what are a couple of the most important values that you hope to instill and inspire in your kids?
I always say to my boys, “I don’t care what you do, as long as if you choose to have children, you yourselves are good parents and you’re contributing members to society.” You want to talk about introverts. My older son especially, I love him to death. If he talks to two people in a week, he needs a month off but they’re good boys because they both contribute. They’re both civilly active and add to the world. I think that’s all any of us can strive to do is add to the world.
What would be one to three action steps that people can take that you hope our readers take from our time together now?
One, I hope that you take whatever you’ve learned now and share it with someone else because that’s how you learn, not just by reading, but by reflecting and by teaching. Take what you learned, whatever it was, and share it. Take whatever you learned, take two specific things you want to do, whether it’s changing your emails, changing your proposals or going to a website. Pick two specific things and do them. Write them down and actually do them. Third, the specific action I want everybody to do is to celebrate their success. To reward themselves for having done those couple of things that you said you were going to do and for having shared your learning with someone else. Appreciate what you’ve done, not just look forward to what you could do.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I used to water ski competitively but I don’t think most people know about that.
We’ll have to introduce you to Joel Weldon, he’s been on our show. He was one of the co-founders of the National Speakers Association. He’s become a good friend. He had hung out with Earl Nightingale and many of the greats, the legends of the personal development industry. He, in his 80s is still a world-class skier.
Is there anything at this point that people don’t know about you?
There’s probably plenty, but I’m pretty vocal about what’s worked, what’s not in my life, everything from the divorce, companies that I ran in my early years that didn’t do so well and all these crazy things. I’m an open book also. Here’s another one. What were you known for in high school?
I may be known for my car, which isn’t obviously a personal attribute. I had a 1966 Chrysler Newport, we used to call it The Beetle. It looked like the Batmobile. It was a tank. It was this gigantic, dark blue, almost black tank. I think I was known for the car, not a personal attribute.
I want to encourage you, if you want to go deeper with David, his resources, his tools, go to his website and get the book Guide to Winning Clients. It will serve you well. Take advantage of all the resources and tools on his site. This has been a wealth of wisdom. What’s one last set of encouragement and inspiration that you want to share, David?
My last bit of encouragement and inspiration is kudos to you for reading this blog, for investing in yourself, for taking the time to learn and to grow. Dan, you run a terrific show and you’re a real value and benefit to your readers.
Thank you. I encourage you to take action with what David has been sharing with you. Number one, share this with someone else and go teach it. Number two, find two things from this episode and do them. Number three, celebrate your wins. What do you have to be grateful for? Give yourself that pat on the back. It’s a great gift. Take action. Seize the day and we’ll see you next time on GrowthToFreedom.com.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients – Amazon
- Flawless Consulting
- Strategic Coach
- Blog tab
- Joel Weldon – Past episode
About David A. Fields
Consultant, speaker and best-selling author David A. Fields helps build consulting practices that are lucrative and lifestyle-friendly. He has guided consultancies ranging from one-person startups to the consulting divisions of some of the world’s largest companies. David still advises corporate clients too as the leader of his firm, Ascendant Consulting. His latest book, The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients, is Amazon’s highest-rated book on the business of consulting released in the past 30 years.