"Thank you for coming to meet with me," Jim spoke the required pleasantries when meeting someone new. "I've heard a fair amount about you from some of my colleagues. Though I'm not sure there is anything you could really help me with. Believe it or not, I have a good handle on things." They both shook hands confidently.
"Ah, good afternoon Jim." Bob, the consultant, responded with good cheer. "You may very well have everything well in hand. If so, I look forward to learning more about how you have built your success!" Over the years of consulting for businesses who have great ideas but less than stellar execution, Bob had learned that arguing on the first meeting quickly soured the relationship. "I don't think I've ever been to this place. What's good here?"
"Oh you have to try the lunch special. I don't know what they do to the meat or the sauce, but everything just melds together in an unexpectedly delicious way." They had agreed to meet at Jim's favorite lunchtime sandwich place. This afforded Jim comfort and familiarity that allowed him to focus his thoughts more on giving the right impression. Although, his looming meeting that could save or doom his company still was knock, knock, knocking on the door of his conscious thoughts.
"Oh, sounds delightful. I will try that," Bob responded with sincere gratitude and curiosity. The curiosity was easy. In fact, it was the main reason he got into consulting in the first place. He had grown curious as to how so many businesses could get simple things so wrong for so long that they find themselves in a seemingly impossible situation. Today, only one part of his curiosity would be satisfied.
After they had ordered, Bob started the conversation off. "So, what is going on Jim? Where would you like to start?"
The gears in Jim's head started whirring around trying to find an answer that would give a good impression. Not the true impression, but a good one. "Oh you know, things are doing pretty well when I think about it. We have three big projects that are finishing up. Next week I have a big meeting with planners of a new project that would probably set my company up for life if I can land it. When I land it that is." One of the books he read recently challenged him to speak in certainties about the future instead of weak "what-ifs."
"That sounds great Jim! Congratulations!"
"Uh, thanks." Sincere salutations about his not-quite-the-whole-truth statement was not something Jim was prepared for. He had expected skepticism. A lot of skepticism. "It's just, this new project, the people have a reputation of being, how do I put this..."
"State your mind Jim. I'm not one of your business prospects. You won't hurt my feelings."
"Intrusive. They have a reputation for being intrusive. They insist that bidding companies share their financials with them. I don't know why. Don't they just want the best building? All of my other clients have only been excited to see what we can build for them. None of them wondered at all about where our money was coming from or going."
Lunch arrived. Bob took a deep breath in through the nose, getting a sense of the meal before taking a bite.
"I see. I've got a good relationship with those folks. It's one of the reasons they ask me to meet with prospective builders and architects." His next statement was delayed thrice. Once for taking a bite. Twice for considering the flavors and allowing them to fill his senses. The last was for another bite he took almost reflexively after savoring the first so well.
"Wow that is amazing! You're right, I don't know what they do but it all just comes together so well! Anyway, the guys that run that firm are of a different breed altogether. I believe it is what drives their success. I know what they are looking for and why. I can't promise you that you will land the project. But I can promise you that I can help you understand why they do this and how you can better meet their expectations. The process will not be easy though." Bob took another few bits of his sandwich, allowing the silence to do it's work on Jim. "Would you like some help landing the project?" Bob asked the question matter-of-factly. He wasn't concerned with whether Jim liked him or not. His only concern was whether Jim was ready to be helped.
Jim mulled on the question and his sandwich. Actually, his thoughts were more on the question than on the sandwich. He didn't think any consultant had ever asked him that question.
'Would you like some help?'
Every other consultant came prepared with charts, binders, slides and quips providing the "evidence" of how they can help him increase profits, raise employee morale, even succeed more because they just cleaned his office better! He was intrigued, but still skeptical. Though, the situation he was in necessitated him putting his pride aside. Without this next job, he would have to close up his business, admit failure, and go back to being someone else's employee. This was unacceptable. No matter what, he needed this project, so he needed the help.
"Yes, Bob. I would like some help landing this project."