Being a freelancer, you become a bit of a lion in the shade of a tree. Conserving your energy and not moving unless there is a potential meal in sight.
Being a consultant, time is precious. Going to a meeting can eat up a morning, even an entire day, and if you have nothing to show for it the opportunity cost is high.
Hunting gazelles – not the patient approach
Some years ago I asked my friend and colleague David Maylor to give me some coaching. The business was doing OK but we weren’t really growing. Clients were very happy but the work, though regular, wasn’t increasing. David is a great coach. He asks irritatingly good questions and my feeble attempts to skirt around issues that I knew were there didn’t last long. He quickly uncovered that my approach was basically a project hunt. I didn’t leave the house unless there was a gazelle with a budget wandering by to chase. I was missing data and therefore not gaining any insight in to how my clients were working and what they may need beyond the immediate ask.
Try just listening
On your next few meeting just listen. No selling. And don’t offer to do a proposal the minute you feel there’s an idea you can build on.
So, what happened. I listened. I lunched. I scribbled furiously and even when I saw the nose of gazelle poking out of the undergrowth and stayed under my tree. And, lo and behold, out of the undergrowth came more meals then I would have got if I’d jumped too quick.
But more than that, when the leads turned into opportunities I was better informed, understood the terrain better and was designing higher impact solutions. I had more contacts in the organisations as my meetings had led to references to other stakeholders who I then reached out to and who were relieved when all I wanted to do was listen.
Listening, with curiosity and patience, for the win
Of course, you can’t put the lion in a box – you need to be able to sell when you need to, but armed with real insight and understanding, what you sell is way more likely to be the right solution at the right time. Try it on your next few meetings. No sales driven questioning, no trying to turn an implied need into an expressed ask, just a load of curiosity and a patient ear.
The gazelles will come.
Managing Director, Sun and Moon Training
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