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First, Pay Attention

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A woman called me recently and asked if she could have some samples of inquiry letters to write to editors with the intent of getting some articles published. I told here she already had them in one of my books which I had given her.

She asked what book, and I told her.

“I never looked through it,” she said.

“Maybe now is a good time,” I suggested.

It’s right there in front of you

We are so accustomed to today to using Google, or hitting an iPhone button for an address, or finding (sometimes questionable) background on Wikipedia, or using GPS to lead us somewhere, that we forget it’s occasionally beneficial to understand what other resources are around us that just might require more work but for a more fulfilling result.

It never occurred to this woman to look through a book proactively, or even to try to understand when it might be of use and, therefore, when to refer to it and where to keep it handy.

I offered to someone the opportunity to seek subcontractors within my community. I asked that he simply send me the description of the ideal person he was seeking and how to contact him, so that I could put the information on my blog and on Alan’s Forums.

Instead, he sent me a long, rambling narrative of what he thought he needed. He expected me to formulate this for him and format it, as if I were a technical aid! That wasn’t going to happen. As of this writing, his need is still only in his mind and not exposed to potential help.

If you’re going to effectively market and sell professional services, you had better understand the resources around you, often right there in front of you, but also appreciate the fact that the world is not a GPS voice or a Google search. I was watching an online presentation this morning that was supposed to be selling us on the rapidity of change and the need for us to adapt and become involved in certain technological advances. But I quickly spotted several urban myths that are perpetuated in dumbed-down blogs and poor reference sources, apparently copied without any checking for validity, and the entire site was suddenly undermined in my view, and off I went.

Laziness doesn’t produce active checks

You and I should be engaged in the creation of intellectual property and the formulation of a body of work. This leads to the widespread appreciation of our expertise, and attracts clients (and makes it easier for us to credibly approach clients, as well).

I won’t be so grandiose as to suggest that the pursuit involves research, but I will state that it involves original insights, personal experiences, trial and error, and recombined formulations for specific applications. Our body of work has to be more than citing others (I’m bored with books that begin each chapter with someone else’s quote, as though that legitimizes the writer somehow), or receiving dozens of mindless testimonials (often the first four pages of those books), or selling someone else’s instrument or test or program, or parroting the current fad and buzzwords.

Why should I be interested in the 450,000th pitch about the need for self-directed teams? I’m much more interested in the lone wolf who tells me that I don’t have teams and may not need teams, because committees make more sense, so stop wasting all that money on dumb outdoor “teambuilding” exercises such as building sand castles on the beach. (What’s the lesson when the tide comes in and sweeps away all that nonsense?)

Look around, find good stuff, and make it your own

You can’t merely rely on the same sources that everyone else mindlessly uses. You have to stand out in a crowd.

Fortunately, that’s not hard to do if you use your personal talents, experiences, and resources to combine and recombine learning into exciting and singular approaches for your clients. By all means, find that sample letter in the book I gave you, but then base the articles on your travels to India to develop leadership skills in outsourced businesses, and add in your own beliefs about minimizing classroom training and maximizing on-the-job reinforcement.

So, first, pay attention. Pay attention to your resources, your client needs, and your own body of work and expertise.

Otherwise, you’ll put yourself in a position where your own assistance can be substituted by a quick search of Google

© Alan Weiss 2008 All rights reserved.

Alan Weiss, Ph.D. probably has the strongest independent consulting brand in the country, and maybe beyond. He is the author of 30 books appearing in 9 languages. His newest is The Global Consultant (with Omar Kahn) from Wiley. He runs the unique Million Dollar Consulting® College three times a year. He has won dozens of writing and consulting awards and is a member of the Professional Speaking Hall of Fame.® Contact him at, or his blog,

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