My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week. I don’t go into depth about the finds, but I encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an […]
The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch
In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed David A. Fields, a seasoned consultant and the Co-founder of Ascendant Consulting, specializing in assisting large corporations entering new markets. With a wealth of experience, David has transitioned from a marketing career at Glaxo Smith Klein to becoming a trusted advisor for consulting firms.
In our conversation, we dive into the future landscape of consulting, touching on the transformative role of AI, the crucial aspect of building trust, and the innovative pricing strategy known as Colorado Pricing.
Explore the transformative impact of Artificial Intelligence on consulting, the crucial role of building trust with the Trust Triangle, and uncover the innovative Colorado Pricing strategy. From understanding the dynamic landscape reshaped by AI to gaining insights into client trust-building strategies and implementing unique pricing models, this episode provides a roadmap for future-proofing your consulting career. Join us for a deep dive into the intersection of AI, trust-building, and groundbreaking pricing models that are shaping the future of the consulting industry.
Questions I ask David Fields:
[01:37] What is it that you bring as a consultant, do you feel you have a unique point of view?
[03:34] What 3 things do consultants do to obtain the clients they need?
[05:18] Do you believe it’s hard for people getting started not to say yes to every opportunity that comes their way?
[07:04] How do you sell a solution to somebody who isn’t aware of the problem?
[08:37] Do you believe that every consultant needs a framework?
[09:50] Project versus Retainers, what are your thoughts on that?
[11:45] Explain Colorado Pricing
[13:00] How do you develop a high level of trust with your client, early on?
[14:43] How do you see AI changing the Consulting Industry?
[19:30] Where can people connect with you and grab a copy of your book?
More About David Fields:
- Connect with David on LinkedIn
- Visit his Website
- Get a copy of The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients
Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!
Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn
John (00:08): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is David Fields. After a nine year marketing career at Glaxo Smith Klein, David transition to consulting, becoming a partner at a boutique firm before co-founding Ascendant Consulting, specializing in helping large corporations enter new markets. He introduced a general contractor model focusing on winning engagements, ensuring quality and managing relationships while subcontracting expert work. He’s also the author of a book we’re going to touch on a little bit today, the Irresistible Consultants Guide to Winning Clients. So David, welcome to the show.
David (00:50): Thank you. Wow, that intro goes way back. Of course, I haven’t had sending consulting even for eight, nine years. So my firm David, A Fields’
John (00:59): Group, I don’t know where we got that then.
David (01:01): I’m sure my group provided, or a came from somewhere, it doesn’t matter. But yeah, I came out of marketing and then co-founded a firm co-founded consortium, but eight, nine years ago we transitioned almost exclusively to working with other consulting firms, with advising firms on how to grow. So we haven’t had corporate clients in probably at least eight years.
John (01:22): Nice. Alright, well, as we were talking about off air, we have similar models and I think similar beliefs. In fact, let me throw a really hard question at you, or maybe you’ve got a perfect answer for this already. If you’re going to describe your point of view about consulting or what it is you bring as a consultant, do you feel like you have a unique point of view
David (01:42): For our group or do I think consultants should have a unique point of view?
John (01:46): I think you personally,
David (01:47): Yeah, I think that’s an
John (01:49): Interesting question. Going to start with a hard question.
David (01:51): Yeah, it’s an interesting question. Do I have a unique point of view? I think I have a point of view, which is people tend to say, oh yeah, that makes sense. I don’t know that it’s unique as much as it’s kind of a reminder of what people know deep down. So the most fundamental principle we teach is what we call right side up thinking, which means consulting is not about you. And this is the same for all professional services and probably all businesses, but I say consulting is not about you, it’s about your clients, it’s about your prospects, it’s about them. So we call that right side up thinking and it’s really easy in concept and people tend to say, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course in practice it actually proves to be quite difficult.
John (02:39): It’s interesting, I work with a lot of startup consultants. I mean, they’re jumping out of corporate or something. They’re going out and telling people, here’s what I charge. And I will say that what you just touched on right there is probably one of the hardest things at first because it’s all about what do I know? Do I know enough? Am I an expert? Am I worth whatever amount I’m charging? And what you’re talking about is actually how you overcome that, isn’t it?
David (03:03): That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right.
John (03:06): So one of the things that we teach a lot of, I’m sure you get this all the time. There are definitely people that are good at delivering consulting. They get very good at sharing their expertise, bringing third outside view to the world. They’re not so great at getting clients necessarily. And part of that is they see so many bad examples of what people are doing out there and they think they have to mimic just for consultants. If you’re going to say, here’s the three things every consultant should do or could do and now have all the clients they need,
David (03:39): Wow, you’re right. People really struggle. And in part I think it’s because they approach consulting. You need to sell it, and they try to be salespeople. And consulting is not sold, consulting is bought. You can’t sell someone a solution, a consulting solution to a problem they don’t have. So all you can do is approach people and be out there in the world in the right ways for the right people so that when they have a problem that you can solve, they’re thinking, Hey, you know what? I need to call John, John can help me solve this problem. So consulting is bought. You don’t sell at consulting, which is why being right side up is so important. Listening for most folks that are small that are under call it $5 million, and especially for startups, their biggest challenge tends to be that they’re too broad. That they make this crazy ironic mistake of saying, well, but I need to keep my market as broad as possible so that I can win business. And it’s the exact opposite. I mean, I’ve got all the evidence in the world, and even though it’s really hard to do, you have to give up 90% of your possible audience so that you are exactly right and attractive and credible for that 10% or 1% that will then say, oh, you are the person. Your firm is the firm and up to about 25 million. You find the larger the firm, the more specialized they are.
John (05:18): I think that’s hard, particularly for people getting started. That’s hard because it means saying no a lot, right? And nobody wants to say no to what they think could be an opportunity. And that the challenge.
David (05:28): Yeah, well, you don’t necessarily have to say no. You can still be opportunistic. What we tend to tell people is be narrow in your marketing and broaden your capabilities, which means especially if you need to keep the lights on, if you need cash, and at the beginning you need cash. If someone comes along and says, Hey, I’m willing to pay you 25,000 or a hundred thousand or whatever to do something, it’s okay to say yes. However, in any of your marketing, in any of your discussions as you’re telling people, here’s what I do, you want to be very narrow resonates and narrow is memorable. Does that resonate with you
John (06:06): Or Yeah, I love that too because also, yeah, no, absolutely. And one of the things I love that you said was about taking the a hundred thousand dollars because frankly that’s how you develop your experience. Sometimes you go figure out something you don’t know how to do and you end up deciding, Hey, we’re pretty good at that. Absolutely. Or we develop an expertise to do that.
David (06:24): And also it would be crazy if you decide what I’m going to do is I’m going to focus on water bottles and you get 12 requests from, I don’t know, people that want you to advise ’em on how to build chairs. I’m on water bottles. It’s like, dude, listen to the market. The market is telling you something. So just listen to the market.
John (06:47): I want to back up a minute to something you said that you can’t sell somebody who doesn’t have a problem. I essentially sell strategy. Most businesses we work with don’t ever wake up and say, I’m going to go buy strategy today. So how do you sell something? And I know you’ve written about this, how do you sell something to somebody who has the problem? They just don’t know they do.
David (07:08): So I don’t know if you’re going to like my answer to this one because what we typically tell people is don’t, and we have a whole thing we call fishing where the fish are, and your prospects are either aware they have a problem or don’t or they’re not aware. And also, so that’s one way you can think of them. Another way you can think of ’em is if they have a problem, how urgently do they want to solve it? They want to solve it now or maybe in the future or no urgency at all. And we highly recommend you target people who are aware of the problem and want to solve it now. And the reason is they’re really easy to win business from trying to convince people they have a problem. That’s hard work. You can do it. There are ways at it, I can tell you some ways at it, but I would much rather just go after the people who are saying, oh yeah, I want to solve this problem you’re talking about. It’s just easier.
John (08:01): And I guess probably what ends up happening, or at least for us is they don’t wake up and say, I want strategy, but they wake up and say, how come I have to compete on price all the time? How come my competitors show up in search results and I don’t show up? And it’s like, well, those are strategy problems. And so it’s really selling. It’s understanding the symptoms. Right.
David (08:22): That’s exactly right. That is a hundred percent right. And again, we run into this all the time. Consultants at least like to talk about themselves, these big terms, general terms, but that’s not how clients are describing their symptoms.
John (08:35): Yeah, absolutely. Do you believe that consultants need, I guess this is a yes or no answer or this might be a depends. Do you think they need a framework? Do you need something that’s repeatable that you can take out to somebody and say, here’s our framework,
David (08:51): Yes, there’s my yes or no answer. Yes. Would you like more behind that? Yes. For two reasons. Two reasons. One, unless you have some sort of framework repeatable approach, you have nothing scalable. So you cannot scale a hundred percent bespoke. And second, a framework, a view of the world creates credibility. It shows that you understand this problem, this challenge, and that makes you a more reliable solution. You don’t need to be different, you just need to be credible. And the framework creates credibility.
John (09:29): I also find that you get better at it. I mean, if you’re practicing the same process or methodology, you get better at delivering results. Right,
David (09:37): Exactly. Like I said,
John (09:38): Three. Okay, let’s throw another one out then. Projects, three reasons. No, go ahead. We have a little delay I think in our thing, so I’m stepping on you a little bit there. Yeah,
David (09:47): I not sure why.
John (09:49): I’ll throw out another one. Projects versus retainers, tuck that one through
David (09:53): Just different types of, so you’re talking about different contract structures or what happens frequently is this conflating of contract structures, meaning how you get paid and work structures. And it’s understandable that they get conflated because certain types of projects or work fits better with certain fee structures, project work. By and large, you want to be paid a project fee, which can be determined in front or advanced variable or fixed advisory work or ongoing work tends to be better set up as what we would call a stipend. We don’t really talk about retainers. Attorneys get retainers, which is a lump of money them, and then they draw against it hourly. A much better model is what we would call a stipend, which is a periodic payment. You don’t draw down against it, it’s just a payment. And that keeps you available to give advice or what have you, or work on the client’s issues for a month or a quarter or a year. If you can get a decade long stipend, that would be good. So matching the right contract structure with the right type of work helps. That’s one that’s complex enough. I would advise folks go and grab an article or look at it like my second book or even my first book to see different pricing structures.
John (11:19): The one that we’ve fallen on for years, you and I, again, we’re talking before I hit record, but is we like to deliver strategy upfront. So that’s like everybody buys that product. You don’t pass go without doing that if you’re going to retain us. And then it’s like, well, for the next year, how much could you pay us on a monthly basis and we’ll check all the boxes quarter by quarter. You actually gave that a name that I had not called it. So you want to describe that in your words.
David (11:47): Yeah. Well, we call that Colorado pricing, where you ask the client basically what fee would you feel comfortable paying on a periodic basis pretty much forever, at least for the next couple of years or three years? What’s going to feel comfortable paying monthly or paying quarterly, paying twice a year and whatever that price is, we will figure out then how do we create value within that. And if at any point you feel like you’re not getting your value, you let us know or we’ll cut it off. We call that Colorado pricing.
John (12:23): So one of the things that I discovered early on is to do that pricing model, you have to have a very high level of trust with a client because you’re essentially saying, trust me, you’ll get the results for this price. So how do you develop that level of trust, particularly early on?
David (12:42): Yeah, so you develop trust. That’s a big topic. There are ways to develop trust quickly. What anybody will tell you is the way you develop trust is by being trustworthy. And that means a lot of things, no question. So we talk about trust as being a trust triangle. There are three points in the trust triangle and in the middle is me. But from this client’s point of view, client client is always thinking me. They’re thinking, there’s three questions. The client is thinking, do you have my best interests at heart? Are you thinking about me? And the client is thinking, are you going to help me? And separately, it sounds similar, but it’s actually different. Are you going to hurt me? And so very quickly you need to demonstrate that you’re putting their interest first. For instance, by not saying you can do things that you can’t actually do by recommending, perhaps they find a different expert for certain things that shows you’re putting their interest above yours.
(13:43): You show that you can help them by showing your credibility, by case studies, by pointing out the value of working with you, but also really important. And this is even more important in certain cultures. When you get outside the us, you just show you’re not going to cause harm. That can be a little bit harder to demonstrate, but it can come across in your emails and how you phrase things. And if you’re ever in a meeting where there’s your client and multiple people, you go out of your way to make sure even if someone says something dumb or wrong, that you never embarrass them, that you help everybody look good. And if you can do with those, you can focus on that trust triangle, then you can fairly quickly build the kind of trust that allows you to create these relationships where you do Colorado pricing. Of course, you can also start out and say, let’s give it a three month trial.
John (14:38): Yeah. I’ll tell you one that I’ll throw into there, and it’s maybe because of who we’ve tend to work with over the years and my point of view about systems demonstrating that you have a process really goes a long way towards building trust.
David (14:53): Yeah, I agree with that. I think that’s a really
John (14:55): Good point. I think a lot of people have been burned by consultants who were winging it. Let’s face it.
David (15:02): Yeah, I agree with you. I do think that’s a really good point showing you’ve done it before, showing results. That’s all part of the credibility. And you can help me bucket being able to say, yeah, we’ve got this thing all mapped out. Here’s our 25 step diagnostic or 25 point diagnostic on this. Yeah, that makes a big difference.
John (15:22): We’ve gone 15 minutes and 32 seconds into our interview, and I’ve not mentioned AI yet, so I’m going to do that now. How do you see it changing the industry from the consulting industry?
David (15:36): Yeah, John, my point of view is anybody who prognosticate on this, anybody is setting themselves up to be wrong. We all know it’s going to affect the industry and however we predict it is going to be wrong. It will have a massive impact where exactly how clients will use it and how consultants will use it. Boy, it’s hard to tell. I’m seeing so many fascinating applications of ai. I mean, it’s just extraordinary things I wouldn’t have imagined. I will tell you, I would not like to be an entry level consultant in today’s world because entry level analysis, I can interview a dozen of my clients, the end customers to get feedback, run it through AI and have one hell of an analysis in no time as opposed to paying what was a junior consultant to do that kind of thing. But where it’s going to go, gosh, I don’t know. Where do you think it’s going to go?
John (16:38): Well, again, I wasn’t asked really to look futuristic as I’m with you. I mean everything will change next week, but I’m seeing immediate impact right now. And you just mentioned one of them certainly on entry level, but I think in a lot of ways what it does is I think it makes the informed consultant actually more valuable because there is a lot of misinformation, there’s a lot of misuse, there’s a lot of misunderstanding. And I think that somebody applying the tools appropriately is actually going to become more valuable.
David (17:10): And since AI hallucinate, I think is the term right, they just make things up. Unless you’re informed enough to know and be able to recognize the hallucination, AI becomes quite dangerous. And yeah, I’m not terribly concerned about AI replacing consulting. I think what’s more interesting is going to be how consulting firms effectively use AI to create more value for clients. And again, I’ve seen some pretty wild and fascinating attempts at that already.
John (17:43): Yeah, I mean, I know from our standpoint, we are expanding some of our deliverables because we can things like trend analysis and threat analysis and opportunity analysis. There are some things that can be added that I don’t know if they immediately add a lot of value, but they certainly add more substance to the deliverable for
David (18:05): Good, bad, and indifferent. And it’s good thought starters. We have clients who are building experts for their clients who are saying, look, you have a question. What we’ll do is legally we will load the top 10 books on this particular topic. We’ll create a custom bot for you, and it will just tell you, if you were to ask these top 10 authors what they think, here’s what they would say. And that’s handy. I mean, that’s an interesting piece of tech.
John (18:35): Yeah, you and I have been writing online, so a lot of our content has been consumed by these learning models. So I think that we’ve actually been using it to repurpose some of our own original content, which I think it’s actually very good at Currently. It’s not good at producing original content, but it’s good at consuming and understanding original content.
David (18:58): Yeah, it’s pretty interesting. I was a little freaked out the first time I went on the chat GPT and said, write an article on the style of David A. Fields. And because I published books and I published something like 400 odd articles, it was like, okay, and it knew who I am and it’s not graded original, and it did an okay job, but it’s a little freaky.
John (19:22): Yeah, it is. David, again, I appreciate you stopping by and the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. Talking a little bit about marketing and consulting, where might you invite people to connect with you, find out more about your work?
David (19:35): They can always go to david a fields.com. So David a is in apple fields.com or check on LinkedIn. We run a 15 minute q and a every Monday, consulting best practices q and a on LinkedIn. And of course, I would encourage ’em to take a look at the book that you mentioned at the top, the Ible Consultants Guide to Winning Clients. It has done very well and well received, and I think most folks will find it quite helpful.
John (20:00): Yep, absolutely. I concur. Well, again, thanks for stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast and hopefully we will run into you one of these days out there on the road.
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