IT AINT ALL 'CAKE & WINE'! A REAL CONSULTING SALES STORY

Douglas Blaine Kenney


So you hanker to become your own man, do you!

A real "Independent Consultant"?

It ain't all cake and wine, boys and girls - take it from the horse's mouth. I'm the real thing - Twenty-two years running my own independent consulting practice in New York City. Are you ready to handle what I've handled for twenty-two years?

I mean, the "Selling" part of it! Because if you can't sell - you can't become an Independent Consultant!

Let me preface this by saying that I prospered, saved my money and just retired - comfortably wealthy - at the age of sixty. I got wealthy as an Independent Consultant, working out of a $650/month Long Island apartment near the Long Island Rail Road station, for twenty-two years. I found, sold and invoiced fifty-eight major financial and industrial clients more that $4.85MM in consulting fees during my career. These were checks paid directly to me!

Through no fault of my own, I was broke at age thirty-eight - it's all there in my book "THE WISE MAN'S GUIDE TO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY INDEPENDENT CONSULTING PRACTICE". So it all ends 'happily ever after'. But it ain't easy! You need to know that, up front.

Like all "Sales" work - selling an intangible like "Independent Consulting Services" is tough. This is the hardest work you'll ever do! I've spent years of my life sitting outside someone's office, waiting to be called in so some idiot can kick my tires and tell me, "We're just now beginning to think about retaining a consultant. We'll call you..."

I was "down and out" and desperate for an Engagement. We were living on my wife's salary as a secretary. By dint of calling and calling, I finally found a guy in a small brokerage house downtown who was thinking about moving to a new office and needed a consultant to handle all the technology - from "design" to "implementation".

In Manhattan, a brokerage office for about 100-150 people builds out at maybe $4.0MM. The Consultant's take can be $200K. A nice piece of change for, say - four month's work.

I called Mr. Schwartz on Tuesday and made an appointment for 9:00 AM the following Monday. He readily agreed, and gave me directions to the office.

All week long, I waited for MONDAY. Since I had spoken to him just this Tuesday, it wasn't necessary to confirm the appointment -I'd surely irritate him by doing so.

Hardly slept Sunday night - had my sincere blue banker's interview suit laid out fresh, my undertaker shoes, monogrammed white shirt w/French cuffs, subdued blue tie, haircut, the walkaway folder containing brochures, photos of jobs done, references, the broker's annual report and 10K (which I had memorized)...all this went into the $1500 polished iguana skin interview briefcase.
(HINT! Once you get the Engagement - leave all of this expensive stuff in the closet!)

FINALLY IT WAS MORNING!

Oh-dark-thirty. I arise and look out the window. Rain. Cold, hard, rain. Cut myself, shaving. Too excited to eat breakfast, I throw on my Burberry interview raincoat, kiss the Frau goodby, pick up the plastic bag containing The New York Times from the driveway, and run ten blocks through the rain for the Long Island Rail Road station to catch the 6AM train, arriving at 5:45 AM - where I then remain standing on the platform for a sodden hour - huddled under my tiny fold-up briefcase umbrella, side-by-side with all my sodden neighbors - mostly construction guys going in for the 7:30 AM shift - as train after train went through without stopping:

"MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE…" Go the incomprehensible announcements:

"TRAIN SCHEDULED FOR WESTBURY AT mumble, garble, garble, mumble…VERY IMPORTANT! YOU MUST CHANGE TRAINSAT garble, garble....WHAT EVER YOU DO, DO NOT garble, garble..."

Train finally stops!! No seats. Jerk steps on my foot getting on. "NY Times" too soggy to read standing up, here in the train's vestibule. Wet plastic bag ruins my French cuffs. Finally make it into the City.

Fought some Chinese guy for a cab on Eighth Avenue three blocks upstream from Penn Station (only chumps wait for hours in the rain in the taxi queue). (Judo...Karate...Kung Fu! "HiiiiYaaah!" Little guy has all that bullshit oriental self-defense at his fingertips - but knee 'em once in the nuts and they all fall down!)

Got the cab - Chinese guy rolling around on the wet sidewalk back there. Peering through the filthy bulletproof partition, I see the driver fingering worry beads as he listens to a tape of Al-Quar'an; I head downtown through pouring rain. Starting to miss breakfast about now - especially the coffee! Find a broken spring in the cab's seat with the right leg of my interview suit. $95 reweaving job coming up. Water main break three long blocks from "the Client."

(Watch out! I'm already starting to think of him as a "Client"...don't do that, Boys & Girls! He's not a "Client" until his first check clears! This guy is just a "Prospect"!)

I pay off the towel-head, and splash cross-town through three long blocks of puddles and driving sleet - my interview suit now a wreck, my shiny $300 Johnson & Murphy interview shoes looking like last year's Nikes, the polish on my leather interview briefcase streaking and dribbling brown stains down the left side of my Burberry interview trench coat - and, to pile it on, a pigeon dumps on my $200 interview fedora at the corner of Broadway and Wall!

Four minutes to nine! Normally I make the first interview "Lombardi time" (the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers - i.e., ten minutes early).

But I was cutting this tight. Pushing someone's grandmother away from the crowded elevator, I make the last place in the car, and benignly eyeball Grams as she glares at me.

Two minutes to nine! I burst through the glass reception door into your basic Wall St. institutional brokerage house waiting room - old brown wallpaper; the omnipresent, omniboring pictures of bulls and bears in all their permutations; cheap plastic seats; piles and piles of computer printouts stacked along the wall of the corridor - and, of course - no coffee for the visitors - since all visitors to an institutional brokerage office are vendors, not customers.

"Customers" of institutional brokers meet the Firm's principals on the golf course at "the Club", and make the deal there - and never come near their dingy offices!

A gum-chewing black girl takes my name while continuing to leaf through "Midnight Hair Design Magazine" and calls my Prospect's extension immediately, even as I vainly attempt to flag her that I urgently want to use the rest room to "freshen up". No Rest Room! It Was Not To Be!

Five minutes pass. Outside, the rain continues, the occasional gust throwing handfuls of drops against a filthy window that overlooks another filthy window across the airshaft.

"Flip!" "Shuffle, shuffle, flip!" go the pages.

Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Twenty-five minutes. I get up to leave.
The not-so-dumb black girl makes a quick call - shielding the receiver with her hand as she speaks.

A middle-aged Jewish guy in a white shirt, bow tie and carrying a cellphone in his hand, strides across the room. "Mr. Kenney?" he inquires, "Mr. Kenney! I don't believe we've ever met, Mr. Kenney! You know you pulled me out of our Monday morning staff meeting? Now, what the hell is so important, Mr. Kenney?"

"Mr. Schwartz!" I stand up; "Mr. Schwartz! We had an appointment for this morning...we spoke on the phone last Tuesday! You said you were moving and might need a consultant and we made an appointment for today at 9AM..!"

"Oh that!" He seems bemused, turning to stare at the window as he idly taps the cellphone on the reception desk; "Ahhh…I do remember speaking to you, now - but we made this meeting for this coming Thursday, Thursday! I distinctly remember! Thursday at 9AM!"

That was a damn lie! Back at my Home Office I have him on tape saying:
"This Monday morning at 9, surely, Mr. Kenney..."!

But you can't say that to a prospective Client! It is obvious that he has forgotten, and that he has an important meeting going on that he is not about to leave. If I challenge his statement and prove him a liar, he will become angry and embarrassed and defensive, and then I've lost any chance of sometime selling something here, for ever!

"But anyway, Mr. Kenney" he continues, taking in my waterlogged ensemble with a bemused eye, " - We've decided that we're not going to move this year - market's just too active now. Ahhh…tell you what - Why don't you give me a call, say, right after the High Holy Days! I'll be happy to discuss it with you at that time!" Turning on his heel, he rushes back to his bullshit meeting.

No great loss though. I would never make a sale here, anyway!

For as I staggered - shaken and dripping - from the reception area, I bumped directly into the old broad I had aced out of the elevator, downstairs.
Turns out she was the wife of the Firm's president.

Think hard before you make "Independent Consulting" your life's work, boys & girls!!

There's a lot more to learn about running your own Independent Consulting Practice. My book, "THE WISE MAN'S GUIDE TO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY INDEPENDENT CONSULTING PRACTICE", will teach you what to know . Go to "ORDER FORM" and order by check or credit card.

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