Podcast

Episode: 287 |
David A. Fields:
Ask for Recommendations:
Episode
287

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

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David A. Fields

Ask for Recommendations

Show Notes

David A. Fields is back on the show, this time to help me answer a question from listener Caroline Taich, who asked for best practices on what steps to take at the end of a long project to:

  1. hand over deliverables
  2. ask for recommendations and referrals
  3. stay in touch with key individuals you’ve developed relationships with over the course of the project

We cover all three topics, and I found particularly helpful David’s approach to asking for a recommendation.

I recommend that every consultant sign up for David’s weekly blog posts: https://www.davidafields.com/blog/

If you like this episode, be sure to check out the other episodes with David:

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m so excited to have my good friend, David A. Fields back on the show, he’s been on the show a bunch of times, David A. Fields is the author of the irresistible consultants guide to winning clients, which I’ve given out a couple 100 copies of this book. I love it so much. Also, he blogs every week at David A. Fields calm I definitely recommend signing up for his weekly newsletter. David, welcome to the show.

David Fields 00:40
Thanks. Well, you are so generous in that introduction. It’s just frankly, it’s always a delight to have these conversations with you.

Will Bachman 00:47
Thanks, David. So this week, we have something different. We have a question from a listener. Let’s play that question. Okay, David, let’s let’s dive into that. So yeah, that’s a that’s a big question a lot in there is a lot. So, I mean, every project has an end. So let’s talk it through that first piece, let me take a shot at and then then you react. So packaging up the content, there’s so many different ways of doing that. It really depends. It varies a lot, depending on the project. One best practice that I’ve seen that j Martin does a great job at is, you know, at the end of a project, he will create one folder with all of the files in that one folder. And then he creates an Excel sheet that lays out with you know, with different columns, the file name, the type of the file, who was it delivered to what was the date it was delivered on, and just like a 10 or 20 words summary of what that file contains. And then you have all of the files in that folder with that nice index, which is one really nice step at the end of a project. And then he’ll either share that as a, let’s say, a dropbox folder, or put it on a USB and share it or put on box dotnet, whoever the client wants. So that’s one nice way to hand over materials. David, what are what are other things that you’ve seen in terms of handing over materials at the end?

David Fields 02:19
Well, so so what you just described is, is excellent. I think that’s a great practice there. And as you as you said, Every project is different, right? Every consultant handles this differently. One of the things that I certainly encourage folks to do and and I like to do it, keep in mind that in most cases, when you leave open, the project doesn’t end, meaning your work doesn’t finish, which means it’s helpful to hand over your materials in a format or in a form or give them some opportunity to continue to communicate whatever the findings are. Because sometimes we communicate just our findings to our client. And, you know, it’s the story we want to tell. But we also need to equip them with this story to continue to communicate outwards. So what’s the short version? What’s the version they can use? Or what’s the, you know, the index card that will allow them to keep this thing alive and keep the key points and communicated to their board or their employees or whomever? I found that to be the really helpful at the end of a project? And in that kind of transfer?

Will Bachman 03:27
Yeah, now, the following two tips I learned from you, David. So one of them, I think I either read in your book, or we’ve discussed it before, is it if it’s something that would maybe did it within one business unit, see if you can create a discussion document or presentation that your immediate internal executive you worked with, could then present it to another part of the company that helps highlight you know, raise that person’s visibility. And it also helps kind of spread news of your work across the company. And if it’s something that can be sanitized, you could also even go even further and prepare a presentation for that person to give at a conference, maybe even do the legwork to get them invited to speak at a conference helps raise your own clients visibility. And it’s even better for us as consultants if we have a client presenting the work and then crediting us as being involved than us presenting it ourselves. So those are a couple ideas I’ve learned from you.

David Fields 04:25
Yeah. Well, so I totally agree. Apparently, they came from me. So I agree with the support. So part of the question, you know, it brings up What did you do throughout the project, that the easiest way to end a project well, is to use good project hygiene, if you will, across the entire project. I mean, this is a two year engagement. So I’m assuming that the consultant did a good job getting testimonials throughout the engagement, asking for introductions throughout the engagement. It sounds like this was an opportunity to meet a lot of people and should always be baked into a project, and also to capture concrete results. So if all of that is happening throughout the project, then at the end of the project, and there are some things, I think that are good practices for closing. But it’s all much easier because you’ve been collecting that kind of material, that kind of material you can use for case study, for instance, or do a joint presentation on all of that’s already been built along the way.

Will Bachman 05:27
Yeah, another nice thing is to give some kind of gift at the end, and you don’t want to make it like a too expensive gifts of the person feels awkward. But maybe if it’s a team that’s been working together, you get some kind of team cartoon done, that everybody could have framed in their office, or, you know, some kind of some kind of thing that’s a little bit funny, but also, but sort of just reminds people some end jokes, that they can keep around as a little tchotchke on their desk.

David Fields 05:56
Yeah, you’re very good at that, you, you happen to be quite good at that. And, and if you are good at that, as a type of person, I mean, so you Will Bachman are very good at that. I would I would say to listeners, if you’re the type of person who’s good at that, totally do that. And if you’re not find someone who can help you, you know, be creative and come up with those, those kind of small, really meaningful, thoughtful gifts, as you said, or celebrations at the end.

Will Bachman 06:21
Yeah, and, and then just on the piece about, you know, packaging up the content before we move on to really the referrals piece is maybe this goes without saying, but make sure that you’re leaving behind a good action plan of what comes next. And we often will have like the detailed action plan. But one tip that I’ve picked up along my career is for the sort of a client’s client, you know, boss’s boss, or for the CEO, put together just to like the one page CEO version of that plans, or the one page CEO checklist. So what are things that should be done over the next six months, the eight bullet points as reminders for that senior person to check in on on the progress. And then, you know, maybe one other point would be, this might get down to maintain a relationship. But if you’ve set expectations earlier, seeing if you can, you know, just sort of as you’re wrapping up, schedule a check in for three or six months later, as as saying, hey, one thing that I always do in my projects is I always check in three months later to see how things are going. And if you get that buy in, when the project’s wrapping up, then you don’t have to try to schedule it three months later, but you have a built in checkpoint.

David Fields 07:35
Yeah, that’s, that is great. And can I add to it? Can I? Wait a little bit? So, so, so 100% agree, and and when you’re doing that kind of checklist, one of the things that I would consider building in are an offering or triggers. Meaning, not just here’s what you do next. But here’s how you can tell whether everything’s working. And whether you should give us or someone else a call. So these people often don’t think about that in advance. So if you can say, these are your signals, these are your triggers that say, you know what, give us a call, or let me know. And those can be also be success triggers. When you hit this level, when you hit this level of adoption, or whatever, whatever the trigger is, please send me an email, because I want to celebrate that that’s a success. So not just not just action. So that’s part that’s part one. And then the other thing you said, I agree. So I think again, standard kind of hygiene is with the key people in the project, you should be scheduling your your follow up calls that are not necessarily project related. So it can sound like, you know, well, this has been fun and great and all that kind of normal stuff. I’m gonna want to just keep in touch with you. And I’d love to just follow up even totally separate from the project in October. You look for having to call them. And you’ll say yes, and then we just get it right on the calendar. So you can start your regular scheduled cadence of calls that you want to have with anybody who’s in your, your network or right at, you know, right there.

Will Bachman 09:10
Yeah, I like your suggestion there of making it not necessarily just about the project, because maybe the project will be just done or it’s not really relevant to check in on it and making it more about, Hey, I would like to just check in and see how people are doing and what’s, what’s new and what’s happening. And we talked about that. And when you shared tips on how to make outbound calls, and I think Episode 170 or 172. So if you’re doing it right there in person, as the project’s ending is probably a little easier to get them to say yes.

David Fields 09:42
Yeah, exactly. Most people will say yes, anyway. Yeah, actually. But yeah, absolutely. It’s just good habit. You’re starting right there. And it’ll make it so much easier than if you come back a year later, and then try to create a cadence. So while they’ll be amenable, I think either way, they It’s easier for us as consultants to start the good habits from the from the beginning, as opposed to the middle.

Will Bachman 10:07
So this next one, you’re really a master at this one. So, recommendations and referrals, what are your tips on the best practices to request recommendations or referrals from clients that you’ve been working with? And let’s assume that they’re happy with the work.

David Fields 10:22
Okay, so that’s, that’s good. We’re gonna assume they’re happy with the work. I’m hopeful that you’ve been getting testimonials throughout. say more about that, though. More about getting testimonials throughout.

Will Bachman 10:34
Yeah. So your I guess your point is that if someone just you know, three months and six months ends is Oh, that was really good presentation or, you know, good analysis or good way you handle that, then you want to make a note of those things that that time, so that like later on, you can say, hey, but you know, remember in September, you said that this was, you know, this was your email. So you want to sort of capture those, that feedback over time?

David Fields 10:58
You bet. You bet. And the same questions, the same four questions released through the questions that you were going to, you’re going to ask at the end of a project that will set up a testimonial, you can ask anything at any time, like you said, after a presentation after deliverable when the client seems happy, you can always ask for feedback. Okay, I’m on the edge of

Will Bachman 11:18
these four questions.

David Fields 11:20
Alright, so I’ll give you the three questions you can ask any time and then I’ll give you the fourth one that sets up a testimonial. Alright, there’s three questions you can ask any times I could say, well, can I get some feedback from you on, you know, we’re mid project, or we just had this big deliverable? You’re going to agree, I might ask if I can record it, just so it’s easier for me to focus on you. which you’ll generally agree to so and then it’s, it’s straight the back? You know, what went well about this, what you can do at the end, you’re gonna say what went well about the project. But here, you’re going to say what went well about this deliverable? Or what’s gone? Well, so far? What would you have liked to have seen that you didn’t see? Okay, which is not stuff you’re going to necessarily include in your testimonial, but is actually helpful for you, right? And is important to learn? And then the third question is, what was it the absolute most value? The order of those is important, you are getting balanced. But you’re also you always want to leave your client with the last thing in their mind, the most recent thing being positive with a positive association. So not just, you know, what’s needed. So you can do that throughout. And then if they say something great, say, Well, this was a, you know, amazing value, the fact that you were able to show us not just the the future we saw but you allowed us to see around corners in our industry, that was incredibly helpful. That’s perfect. Quick waiver, do you mind if I take those words and actually use them as a testimonial? I mean, that is just, it’s just such a great way of expressing it. And again, most people say yes. Okay, so those are the three questions. At the end of a project. There’s a question I’ve learned to ask, which I found to be particularly effective. And it’s this will, if you were talking to a colleague, that was thinking about using us for a project like this, but was kind of on the fence? What would you tell them? And why? in that question, yields incredible testimonial content.

Will Bachman 13:27
Okay, so let’s say that one again, so let me see if I can repeat it. If you were talking to a friend of yours. And they were on the fence about using us, what would you say? Yeah, and why and why? Okay. So if you’re talking to

David Fields 13:44
Korea, you need to do the reason you need to do the and why is because sometimes people will give a flip response. At first, they’ll say, well just use them. It’s a great, you know, it’s great ROI. So you need to say and why.

Will Bachman 13:55
Okay, so let me review these. So see if I got him. So question number one is what went well about this recent, you know, presentation, or Dan, you could say what we know about the project? Number two, what would you have liked to see more of? And number three is, what was the absolute most valuable thing about the recent presentation or about the whole project? And then the fourth question is, if you were talking to a client of mine, who is on the fence about whether to use my services or not, what would you tell them? And why?

David Fields 14:30
Yeah, or a prospect if they’re not currently a client, but yeah, exactly.

Will Bachman 14:34
And so, when you say, ask if you can record it, are you saying, Can I record this, you know, audio on my phone, or just You mean, can I write it down? Or can I take a video of you saying it, what do you mean when you call or

David Fields 14:47
whatever, whatever you’re comfortable with. I’ve done this on video. But usually I just do it on audio in part because if you do want word for word as best you can And that way, you can have a testimonial. You know you the language correct. However you have audio audio testimonial can be very powerful. And if you have a long video, so much the better. Keeping in mind is, you know, will as well as anyone videos very difficult, right difficult to edit, there’s a decent chance that they’re on video that they’re, you know, bouncing back and forth, and they’re grabbing their their little plate of sushi at the same time. Right. So that whole video is usable.

Will Bachman 15:30
Yeah, yeah. Unless they’re, unless you really set up with lights and microphone, it’s probably gonna come out kind of kind of bad. So, but audio, you could overlay that on top of the person’s photo and, you know, add a little transcript. So so and you find I mean, I would, I would have guessed that people might be a little awkward about that about, oh, well, I don’t know if I want to be recorded. But you’re saying if so, how do you say that? Is it? Can I Do you mind if I record this just so I can really focus on the words and make sure that I am able to replay it later and hear what you said like to say people are going to be will ask a while you’re going to share this or maybe two people get awkward about that.

David Fields 16:12
Oh, I haven’t done it. Because remember, the setup for this is I’d like feedback. Okay, not this setup isn’t, hey, I want a testimonial. You say I want a testimonial, then they’re going to go off into their heads and, and. And you what you will get will actually be more awkward.

Will Bachman 16:30
Okay. So you asked for feedback. And then after I say feedback after this, this was really helpful, you know, very kind of you to say would you mind actually, if I use that as a testimonial? Yes. Okay, exactly. Right. All right. So the Jedi, the David A.. Fields Jedi mind trick.

David Fields 16:48
Well, and And to be clear, the intention is to get feedback, right? To find out what what they would say, we have learned, you know, me and my team, we’ve learned an incredible amount from from this and made adjustments to our programs in by hearing what people say and what people say they would say to others. Because it highlights Oh, this is where you really found value. And so it is truly learning. And whether we use it as testimonials or not. I mean, at some point, as you know, I mean, at some point, you actually don’t need more testimonials. It’s always nice to get. But you know, you have enough, but you still ask the questions, because the questions are great learning.

Will Bachman 17:33
Fantastic. I should use this technique to get some more reviews on this podcast. So I would love to get your feedback on this podcast. What?

David Fields 17:42
Absolutely. what went well, and and hopefully everyone who’s on the podcast, and hopefully this happens for us to I don’t know if you know, my team, but hopefully we’re also asking you for feedback.

Will Bachman 17:53
Yeah, yes. Okay, so let’s go on to the next one. I know you’re limited time. So maintain relationships. So what are your tips for maintaining relationships with clients? When a project wraps up? You’re the master at this. So what are the what was? What’s the guidance? Well, I mean, I think we’ve we’ve touched base on it, you know, or sort of touched on this a little bit, which is you want to create a regular cadence of calls for anyone in your network or the, you know, well, the My belief is the foundation of consulting is relationships. You when you have relationships, relationships, light up conversations, conversations, reveal opportunities, opportunities, lead to projects. So we’re always trying to create a nurture, sustain relationships. And if you look at your clients, not as as little money bags that you want to try to somehow get access to, but as people that you can build relationships with and have interest in and and really pay attention to, the whole process is easier. And you’ll maintain these relationships naturally. And you’ll ask to stay in touch naturally because you want to, and maybe future projects will come from it, or maybe not, and no big deal. Because you do this enough. With enough people, the business will take care of itself. If you build relationship wealth, which I think is the true definition of wealth anyway. If you build relationship wealth, I apologize. Another podcast calling you up.

David Fields 19:29
You will get another, you know, you will get more business. So So yeah, I would just say just pay attention. I don’t know if that’s specific enough, or if you want more details on that.

Will Bachman 19:40
I mean, I’ll add a couple things. So you already made the point about you’re getting the permission and buy in that you’ll have a check in call this you know, say hello and see what’s new in their universe and say three or six months. Other things that are maybe obvious are connect with the people on LinkedIn. And there’s I think, you know, a couple times through that one is you might connect with people, people on LinkedIn, sort of the first time you interact with them on a project. Or a good time is if you haven’t done that, is that the end, do sort of a bit of a census of everyone you worked with at the client and connect with them on LinkedIn. So that’s one idea.

David Fields 20:19
That’s a great idea. Well, can I interrupt you for one moment? Sure. We also, when we see our client content on LinkedIn, if a client posts something on LinkedIn, we like it sure. automatically. Yeah, it’s just it’s just supportive. So sorry, go on, keep going. Well, I’ll

Will Bachman 20:34
actually, you know, comment on that, David, which is even better than a like on LinkedIn. Likes, don’t do that much. Even better, would be a comment. Yeah, comment. Yeah. So anyway, you know that but because comments, people, you know, their followers will see you if you comment. But if you just like a post, their followers will probably not see your name. So it really helps spread a post on LinkedIn, if you comment. Great. Well, yeah, um, I learned that from Mark Williams, Mr. LinkedIn, so I love his podcast, LinkedIn formed one word. In addition to that, no, it is actually nice, I think to send a holiday card. If you’re a person who sends out holiday cards, I mean, I’m not talking about kind of a corporate one with your branding and logo, but just a personal family kind of holiday card is nice touch it, it kind of sends the message that it’s more than just a professional relationship, but you care about the person. So that’s, that’s a nice touch, I think. And then, you know, I think you’re, you know, additional LinkedIn, if the person’s on Twitter, you can follow them there. And you know, highlighting and helping to share their content on LinkedIn or Twitter, to your point is, is a great way to just kind of remind them that you exist, and people who, you know, are sort of LinkedIn superstars and get, you know, 100,000 comments, you know, our view, but most people maybe get three or five or 10 comments, and it’s really appreciated when you get one person liked my post or noticed it, and it shows them that you’re kind of keeping track of them. So any other any other tips for maintaining

David Fields 22:14
those? I think those are all great tips. And also, she she asked if I think about introductions, did we do want to touch on that? And I don’t recall, did we do a conversation about asking for introductions elsewhere?

Will Bachman 22:26
Well, why don’t we repeat it here? We mentioned back in episode one. But, you know,

David Fields 22:35
some people are uncomfortable with that I actually was having this conversation yesterday with an Umbrex member, okay. who’s who’s a client and who is one of one of her clients has just amazing connections, right? This just golden Rolodex. And her Rolodex is an anachronism. But you know, just just an amazing contact list. And we were talking about how she gets access. And it’s actually quite easy to ask for introductions, is long as you are asking for those introductions with a sincere desire to meet people and be interested in them, as opposed to sell to them. And so that is the kind of the standard introduction request that you can build from sound something like like this? No, well, I know you interview ton of people for this podcast. And you probably talk you’ve probably talked to 20 interesting people in the past two months, who were the two that you found just most intriguing. Really let you up? Yes, you know, they’re the people you would really love to talk with, again, for another hour? Right? You’re gonna give me a name or two?

Will Bachman 23:45
Yeah, I like that. I’d say that’s, you know, this is just an example of why it is a good idea, you know, which, which you advocate in your book, to have some kind of content platform? Because I find actually, what what you’re suggesting just sort of, you know, introduction, just because the person is interesting. I mean, obviously, it works for your clients, but I think it’s, it’s much easier and lower friction, if if you say, Hey, I see that you’re connected to this CEO, I would love to interview that person on my show, or I’d love to personally write my blog. So I’d love to, you know, have that person on my YouTube channel, or I’d love to, you know, interview that person, and then, you know, do a webinar or something. So if you have some kind of content platform, then there’s like, a reason or an excuse for it. And yeah, you’re so right. As opposed to, if someone just said, Okay, well, I’d like to talk to interesting people, I might say, Well, you know, they’re kind of busy. But if you’re offering something to them like, well, I’ll help spread their message by having them on my show, then there is maybe there’s more reason for the person to make the intro.

David Fields 24:54
Yeah, I mean, I’ll sort of gently push back and say my experience has been most folks again, long as it’s clear, you’re not selling. Yeah. And presumably, you are also an interesting person, right? You are smart, interesting consultant, you’re you’re savvy and wise and your client likes you. And so most people are actually fairly willing to make introductions. And under that circumstance, because it’s an opportunity to create value in a couple of different directions. And that said, I totally agree with you. If you have some sort of platform that makes it a natural reason or excuse to get that introduction. That’s golden. That makes it so much easier.

Will Bachman 25:33
Yeah. Or, you know, and I’m actually glad we we disagree slightly on this. You know, this shows not being about unanimous. I mean, clearly, clearly, it works for your, you know, your clients, the people, you you, counsel. So it, it must work, I would, I would just be fine, a little awkward. And it just personally, if someone said to me, hey, well, I’d like you to meet so and so they’re interesting person, I think you’d like to chat with them. I would tend to not respond to that. But if it’s, if it’s something like either, hey, they want to have you on their show, okay, I’ll probably do that. Or even if there’s a request for help, so I’m more respond. You know, if it’s something like, Hey, I see that you’re connected with the CEO in this agriculture industry, I’m actually trying to, I’m doing some research, and I’m trying to understand the impact of the Coronavirus on, you know, across agriculture industry would love to speak with that person for 20 minutes. If it’s like something specific, then they’re going to help me on something specific, then it’s actually I’m more likely to respond if someone wants my help than if they just okay, well, here, someone is interesting.

David Fields 26:38
So, so that, so that actually really helpful. So that what that point to is what happens after you get the name of the person. Which is you actually then if someone if you bring up two people, you say, Well, actually, I know Albert Einstein, like, well, that’s impressive. And we’ll assume that, you know, for the moment, you know, Albert Einstein is alive. And I say, Would you be willing to broker an introduction? He say, Yeah, right. But there’s a little bit of hesitation, because you know, that just saying, you know, while two interesting people talk to each other won’t work. That’s all I can say, if you will, if it would help, I can send you just a couple of lines, make it really easy for you send you a couple lines, it’ll help you do the introduction. And again, in most cases, some cases, you know, people are gonna say no, don’t need it happy to do it. Because because they already see the value. But in many cases, they’ll say, Yeah, that would be actually great. And then you can forward a couple of lines that aren’t just saying, you know, talk to David or talk to Will, because he’s interesting.

Will Bachman 27:40
Yeah. I call that the Texas email intro, which is, hey, john, meet Jane. She’s from Texas. You’re from Texas. Yeah, I’ll leave it to you to follow up.

David Fields 27:52
Yeah, usually something a little bit, hopefully, with a little bit more content in depth in Texas. So though no offense meant to any Texans, right. The Yeah. But but yes.

Will Bachman 28:03
To be clear, the Texas email intro is one to avoid, right. So, you know, not just like, Oh, well, you know, you’re both from Texas. So you want to meet? No, no, it’s making it specific, you know, making it clear what the request is, and why you’re making an introduction and making it specific. Yeah. Okay. And then, oh, you know, just one other tip on maintaining relationships. And this one is maybe obvious. But there’s nothing like helping someone when they’re down. So if, you know, staying in touch with a client, and then know, if a client ends up losing their job, or leaving a job, if you’re the person that helps them think through their search and their next steps and make some interest, even if they don’t result in anything, people really remember that. So help people help people who need a hand and right now that’s, that’s a lot of people. So, so think about helping people who aren’t currently in a position of power, but are you know, could use you could use your help.

David Fields 28:58
Yeah, amen. I’d like to disagree cuz you want some more disagreements. But Amen. to that and pay attention, focus, put everything else aside. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Just, you know, listen, pay attention to them.

Will Bachman 29:14
Okay. As you write in your book, right side up thinking, Okay, David, thank you so much for joining. It is a lot of fun this conversation on how to think about ending a project. For a few more tips. You could look at the little mini series that we did on the show on the client experience. I think it’s sort of Episode 128 to 133. A few more tips on how to enhance the client experience, which was a series inspired by David. So David, thank you so much for joining and listeners really do go to David A. Fields comm and sign up for David’s weekly newsletter. It’s the first thing I read every Wednesday morning. Thank you Well, it’s always fun.

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