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The Impossible Question

The Impossible Question

A few of us who have been fortunate enough to reach the heights of keynote speaking periodically chat, and agree that the dumbest questions we are asked are things like, “What should I know about professional speaking?” and “What good advice can you give me?” and “What should I be concerned about?” (Be concerned about whether those poor people on “Lost” every get off that stinking island.)

“What’s the best way to make it as a consultant?”
The best way is not to ask stupid questions.

I’m constantly asked to do or respond to things like this:
“Take a look at my proposal and give me your thoughts.”
“What should I know about book contracts?”
“How should I prepare for a meeting coming up?”
“What do you think I should consult on?”
“Do you think I should be doing anything else?”

For Pete’s sake, how do you think you should prepare for a meeting? Find out something about the buyer, the company, and the industry. Be prepared to follow the other person’s style. Keep the buyer talking until you establish what the needs are, then offer value. Build the relationship through such value. Find a definitive next step that will take you toward a proposal. If you find this is not a buyer, find out who the real buyer is.

The problem is that if I explain all of those obviousities, the same person asks me the same question prior to another meeting two weeks later! If you can’t internalize and learn, then maybe this isn’t the business for you. (Maybe no business is the business for you!) Coaching is about providing pragmatic help toward growth. Dependency is about doing it repeatedly for someone else because they refuse to do it themselves.

No one is expected to know everything. But all of us should be expected to know how to learn. You discuss, practice, apply, get feedback, and improve. Further questions are about further improvement, not the same issue as the original. Sisyphus, where are you when we need you?

There is only one way to find out who may be calling you when the phone rings and there is no caller ID feature. You pick it up and say, “Hello?” (or, “pronto,” which sounds better). Asking me or anyone else who we think it might be won’t help, and the caller—and the opportunity—will disappear.

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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