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The Summit of Consultants: Alan Weiss

Even as the fallen CEO of a behavioral consulting firm, consultant, speaker, and author Alan Weiss has beat out all the odds, making his million-dollar consulting business a worldwide success.

The Summit of Consultants:  Alan Weiss
''This is a relationship business. You form a relationship with a buyer, not a middleperson. You go after line buyers—that is somebody who can actually write a check,'' said Alan Weiss.
Originally planning to become a lawyer, Weiss attended Rutgers and majored in political science. After changing his career direction, Weiss got a master's degree in political science at Montclair State University. Much later in his life, Weiss also ended up getting a Ph.D. in psychology at a nontraditional school.

Weiss started his consulting career with a training firm in Princeton, NJ, called Kepner-Tregoe, where he stayed for 11 years. Over time, this firm evolved and branched out to focus on other elements in addition to training.

Next, Weiss went to work at a behavioral consulting firm in Providence, RI, as the firm's president. Up until 1985, Weiss was very involved in organization development for a variety of Fortune 500 companies.

Finally, in 1985, Weiss took matters into his own hands and started his own company, Summit Consulting Group, Inc.

"Summit Consulting Group began in 1985 when I was fired as the CEO of the behavioral consulting firm. The owner was W. Clement Stone; he believed in positive mental attitude, and I told him the reason he had a positive attitude was because he had $450 million in the bank, which he got from selling insurance. So he had cause and effect mixed up," said Weiss.

Throughout his experience in the sales industry, Weiss had gathered plenty of expertise, which he brought to the table at his new company. Even Weiss admits to having made a few mistakes along the way, but he learned two valuable lessons that he built on and sold.

The first lesson has to do with targeting the right clients and creating and nurturing the most fruitful relationships possible.

"This is a relationship business. You form a relationship with a buyer, not a middleperson. You go after line buyers—that is somebody who can actually write a check," said Weiss.

Weiss also recognizes that quality is more valuable than price.

"You assess fees. You create these based on value—not heads, not boxes, not time and materials, but the value you bring to the client," said Weiss.

All of Weiss's teachings stem from the principle that everything is based on value, not price.

"If you're talking about price and not value, you've lost control of the discussion," said Weiss.

Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I drive exotic cars. Right now, I have a Bentley GTC, which is the power car of the world right now. I've driven Ferraris. I've driven Aston Martins. I love fast, high-performance cars. We travel a lot. I've been to 55 countries. I scuba dive. I love dogs. And, for me, writing is recreational.
Q. What CD is in your CD player right now?
A. Billy Joel's The Bridge.
Q. What is the last magazine you read?
A. BusinessWeek.
Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. Of all time, I'd say Seinfeld. My current favorite is Boston Legal.
Q. Who is your role model?
A. Sandy Koufax. He was, I think, the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball and a man of great character.

The Summit of Consultants:  Alan Weiss
Alan Weiss with his favorite car, the Bentley GTC, and his dog Koufax.
While he was launching his consulting career, Weiss began to write books to spread the word. Before his success as a consultant, Weiss gained notoriety and credibility by releasing two books about behavior, innovation, and strategy. When his business began to pick up a bit, Weiss wrote Confessions of a Consultant, which reflected on some of the excellent consulting experiences he was having working with huge companies like Mercedes and Hewlett-Packard.

Shortly after that, in 1992, Weiss released his claim to consulting fame: Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional's Guide to Growing a Practice. This book highlights how professionals can build relationships with buyers and how to get access to these people. Now that the book is in its third edition and still thriving, Weiss continues to get rave reviews from clients who have read his book.

Now, one might expect Weiss to have a long list of scholarly mentors, but in fact, he only has one: his wife.

"I married my high school sweetheart, so she's seen my act 400,000 times," he said. Weiss's wife's perspective helps him stay on his toes by deciphering what feedback is accurate or inaccurate, which ultimately helps him improve his game.

Weiss advises salespeople to ask themselves three questions:
  • What is the market need you're trying to fill?
  • Who can write a check for it?
  • How do you reach that person?
When salespeople ask and answer those questions in order, they can ultimately target and reach their audiences.

Weiss also emphasizes gathering and keeping contacts throughout your industry because you never know who will mention your name or who can help you. This can create referrals and more business in the long run.
On the net:Summit Consulting Group

Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional's Guide to Growing a Practice Professionals/dp/0070696284

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