In this article, we explore a tactic for helping you increase the level of trust, influence and income you create in your data management consulting business.
In recent years, my focus has switched from editorial and data consulting roles, to that of business coach for struggling data management consultancies.
I now focus on helping other consultants rapidly implement the proposition, platform, presence and pipeline they need to create a sustained flow of premium clients.
When people discuss the program and my approach, the assumption is often that their biggest challenge will be the technical and process stuff:
How do I set up a system for running webinars?
How do I create courses and online learning programs?
How do I write persuasive copy on my sales page and LinkedIn profile?
How do I narrow down my niche and attract the right type of client?
Getting these process and tactical steps implemented are all valid concerns (that we do address in the program) but it's not the biggest issue plaguing many data professionals I speak with.
The real issue?
Personal Belief Systems (BS).
We all believe things based on preconceived notions that were consistently reinforced over the years.
The problem is, these beliefs often prove to be unfounded.
Here are some of the (broken) beliefs I've observed on breakthrough calls in recent weeks...
“My prospects aren’t active on LinkedIn so there’s no point in using it”
“I don’t have anything useful or engaging to write about”
“I don’t have the time to create regular content, I'm just too busy delivering for clients”
“I can’t specialise in one niche because I’ll be losing opportunities from other sectors”
“I’m not a guru so can’t charge to speak at events”
“This won't work for me - I’m no good at selling”
“The market won’t pay a premium for my services because they're considered a commodity these days”
"I don't have the presentation skills to speak at big events"
Do you resonate with limiting beliefs like these?
Do you feel like they are holding you back?
If so, you're not alone.
I harboured many similar beliefs at some point and it took many years (and thousands of hours of training and experimentation) to dispel them.
They are tricky little swines to get rid of because they are so deep-seated in our behaviour.
For example, I once failed at selling in my teens, so I used to dread selling in later life, which meant I lacked confidence in the sales process, which made me a crappy salesperson, which made me dread selling, which...
You get the picture.
If I chose to ignore any negative belief systems that I observe in my clients, opting to just take the cash and teach the topic, progress would be far more challenging, and perhaps short-lived.
Because they'd be subconsciously fighting the transformation.
This is how it works...
You think that you can't achieve something, e.g. selling, because you failed in the past, perhaps as a kid or teen.
These thoughts resurrect feelings of danger and fear.
If you've ever been scared of picking up the phone to deliver a sales call or speak on stage to a large crowd, you'll soon recognise the sweaty palms and 'fight or flight' experience first-hand.
Your mind, relying on its survival instinct to stay away from danger, starts to influence your actions, causing you to lean away from the thing that is scaring the hell out of you e.g. making the call or stepping up to speak at the lectern.
I see this coming through in statements such as:
"I don't like being called an expert, it doesn't feel right".
"Perhaps we shouldn't set the fee that high".
"I'm not ready to speak at a big event, let's focus on local chapters and small meet-ups first".
In terms of our brain development, it's useful to remember we're designed for an ice-age cave in Southern Iberia, keeping a lookout for sabre-tooth cats.
So when we think about things that scare us, like selling and speaking on a big stage, our brain kicks into overdrive to keep us safe.
It's your very own prehistoric defence mechanism.
Which is great for avoiding premature death by mauling, but it often gets in the way of growing your data management consultancy.
This is why I'm continually striving for a healthy blend of practical and emotional transformation in my coaching, all despite initially baulking at including any 'life-coach' style material into my program, because I thought it would be rejected by data folks.
Because you're all logical and process-driven, right?
So I pushed back on the 'woo-woo' brain stuff (as I used to call it).
But I was wrong.
I now believe it's perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the process.
When people recognise the enormous talents and achievement of their past, combined with the opportunities that lay ahead of them, and how they can break down the fear into small, manageable steps - progress accelerates.
It's why the first task I get my clients to create is a 'value vault' so they can see the incredible results they've achieved.
So here's the thing...
If you want real success in your business, you need to lean into these beliefs of not measuring up, question their validity, and create new beliefs about your potential.
As a result, this 'woo-woo' stuff is an area I devote a significant time to researching so I can integrate the latest advances with the 'nuts-and-bolts' of how to package your data proposition and attract premium clients.
But how does all this talk of broken 'BS' relate to your client work?
What can you do to improve the consulting transformation that you deliver?
First, consider the following questions...
Do you challenge your clients on their belief systems?
Do you push back on why they’re taking certain decisions?
Do you accept their position without question, for fear of upsetting or annoying them?
Do you find yourself taking a subservient path; resigning yourself solely to the data transformation of your craft?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, why is that?
What's the cause?
I have a theory, but I'd welcome your views.
Taking a submissive role in the consulting relationship often stems from a position of scarcity and lack of confidence.
When opportunities are scarce, you think to yourself...
“I can’t afford to lose this client.”
“They’re a director and VIP so I can’t say what I think, they're more important than me”.
"What if they disagree with me, I'll be out on my ear".
Looking back on my earlier data career, my big regret is not pushing back hard enough and questioning the belief systems of my clients.
With hindsight, I can see that when I did, the results were profound, and (in most cases) welcomed.
Once again, it took yet another coach to reset my own belief system regarding questioning the belief and actions of executives.
At a networking mixer, while everyone was busily thrusting business cards in all directions, I noticed a quiet, reserved lady, quietly observing the frenetic networking activity from afar.
Over a plastic cup of warm wine and cold hors-d'oeuvres, I asked:
"What are executives really like?"
She smiled and confided that the executives she met and worked with were almost all wracked with self-doubt and a fear of 'being found out'.
A far cry from the image I had built up in my mind.
As we talked more, I realised that executives were subject to the same frailties that beset us all from time to time.
From that point on I was never afraid to call people out, no matter where they stood in the organisational structure.
Of course, you can't go blundering in with your assertions, people will simply take a defensive stance.
Instead, you need to have empathy with their situation.
Nowhere is this empathy more important than in your business communication.
Whether you're writing a blog post for your website, delivering a presentation to the CDO or keynoting a local DAMA chapter, you need to tell a story that resonates with your target audience.
This starts with defining an ideal client to serve.
Once you gain clarity with your ideal client, you need to become obsessed with the problems they face.
Many people come on my breakthrough calls because they can't attract these elusive ideal clients, either via their own website or social media platforms like LinkedIn.
When I ask "who is your ideal client?" - the answer is all too often phrases like:
"I don't really know - utility companies, telecoms, finance - any big businesses with lots of data and a need for analytics, I guess".
Do you see the problem?
A company is not a person.
It's impossible to understand and empathise an ideal client when we don't even know who we're meant to serve and solve problems for!
If you don't know the problem you solve and the ideal client faced with this problem, you will struggle to attract attention and nurture sales enquiries on LinkedIn, or any channel.
Once you've locked down your ideal client, whether through the use of a coach like myself or your own introspective analysis, you can start to observe the misplaced belief systems at play within your client base.
When you sense a limiting belief at play, you can start to introduce techniques such as the '5 Whys' and other consultative 'Jedi' mind-tricks to go deeper and discover the source of these beliefs.
For example, in one of my past data migrations, the program manager adamantly refused to allow any form of data quality management activity.
The phrase 'data quality' was banned from the project vernacular and 'let's fix it in the target' became the management mantra.
When I gently pressed for the cause of this, they confided that they had been deeply embarrassed by a supplier several years earlier who had blown half of their project budget on manual cleansing that made them appear unprofessional for mismanaging the program funding.
By correcting their knowledge of data quality management, and how it would shorten, not lengthen the program, they came around to a new way of thinking.
Perhaps you've misplaced beliefs in the past? If so, please indulge in some cathartic commenting below :-)
Finally, if you take anything from this article, please start by focusing on your own belief systems so you can recognise and apply the same process with your clients.
Think about what you hold true about your own business that, upon reflection, could be challenged?
Perhaps it's your perception of how much you could charge?
Maybe it's a limiting belief about the value of your skills or service?
Do you reject the notion of charging a premium for an outcome or packaged offering, instead of time and materials, for example?
Whatever your challenge, if you want to take your data management business to the next level, success lies on the other side of these belief systems that are holding you back.
Why not make this the year you finally tackle these beliefs, and help your clients do the same.
Would you like to explore the limiting beliefs and gaps in strategy that are holding back your data management consultancy?
Book a breakthrough call today: http://bit.ly/call-breakthrough
This is a free session I provide exclusively for data consultants, who are serious about launching or growing a data consulting business, and want to:
Attract premium clients through specialist packages and solutions
Create a launch strategy that gets results quickly
Slots are on a first-come-first-served basis so please book early: http://bit.ly/call-breakthrough