Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"The Reconstruction:" A mystery novel by Karl Wiegers

Okay, so it doesn't have anything to do with consulting or with software, but I'm excited to announce that my first novel, The Reconstruction, was recently published. Here's the description:

When 34-year-old forensic sculptor Jessica Sanford completes a facial reconstruction on unidentified remains found in a forest outside Eugene, Oregon, she discovers that she has a shocking personal connection to the victim. Jessica is driven to identify the victim, confirm their relationship, and deliver justice for her death.

Adopted as an infant, Jessica cleverly exploits connections with other adoptive families in her quest. Once she understands her link to the victim, Jessica finds herself more immersed in this case than in anything she has done before. Those involved in the apparent homicide are still out there—and Jessica intends to find them. Her relationships, her career, and her life are at risk as she strives to reconstruct the victim's last days.

Not just about uncovering a crime and hunting the suspects, The Reconstruction is also about a young woman's search for her own identity. Jessica is a strong, independent woman who strives to balance her career, her passions, and her social life. The reader accompanies Jessica as she applies all of her skills and all of her smarts to try to solve the mystery of a lifetime.


Learn more and read sample chapters at TheReconstructionBook.com.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ebook "Writing Your Way to Success" is now available

I'm pleased to announce that you may now purchase my Kindle book titled Writing Your Way to Success: A Handbook for the Aspiring Author. Priced at just $2.99, this eBook compiles all the articles from this blog that deal with writing for publication. It presents a wealth of guidance to anyone who is interested in writing magazine articles, website articles, books, or even blog posts. It draws from my extensive writing experience, spanning more than 40 years, to offer many insights about shaping your own writing style, reviewing and editing manuscripts, targeting articles for magazines and websites, and conceiving and drafting a book manuscript.

A lengthy chapter offers much guidance for wending your way through the maze of getting a book published, including selecting a publisher, writing a proposal, negotiating a contract, and tracking your progress. Another chapter addresses going the self-publication route. If you have any interest in sharing your insights, ideas, and experiences with the rest of the world, you'll find this information valuable.

The eBook contains seven chapters:
  1. Writing Your Way to Success
  2. Four Eyes Are Better Than Two
  3. Writing for Magazines and Websites
  4. You Say You Want to Write a Book?
  5. Getting Your Book into Print
  6. Self-Publication
  7. On Co-Authoring a Book

Saturday, May 11, 2013

On Co-Authoring a Book (part 2/2)

In the first article of this series, I described how I came to be co-authoring the third edition of my book Software Requirements with Joy Beatty. I described how we set the requirements for the requirements book and established our collaboration process and tool environment. This concluding article in the series describes how we tracked progress on this complex writing project and my overall observations about the co-authoring experience.

Tracking Status

When writing a book, there is a vast amount of information to keep track of. At any given time one of our chapters can be in one of many possible states:
  • Not yet begun
  • Initial draft written
  • Initial draft being reviewed by the other author
  • Reviewed draft being revised by primary author
  • Out for peer review
  • Being revised following peer review
  • Being edited by our own internal editor
  • Submitted to publisher for copy editing
  • Being revised following copy editing
  • Final manuscript version submitted to publisher
  • Formatted PDF pages and artwork received from publisher
  • Formatted PDF pages and artwork being proofread and corrected
  • Final final final pages submitted to publisher
Our book contains a total of about 40 components—chapters, front matter, and back matter—plus more than 100 image files, and we are working on many of them simultaneously in these various states. Sometimes I feel as though I’m juggling 20 flaming chainsaws. We set up a spreadsheet to track the date each chapter transitioned from one of these statuses to another. Each of us had to maintain our own set of pending revisions to the shared tracking spreadsheet so we wouldn’t step on each other’s changes when we updated it periodically. We also had a tracking spreadsheet for review status. We recorded when each chapter went out for peer review, the target date for receiving review feedback, the actual date we received feedback from each reviewer, and a rating of how useful each reviewer’s input was.

Tracking status carefully like this was essential for us to make sure that we always knew what each of us should be working on. It helped ensure that could make our target dates for getting chapters where they needed to be at the right time. Speaking of which, we spent quite a bit of time scheduling those target dates for critical chapter milestones and rescheduling them as we saw how the work progressed. We had a lot of schedule flexibility until the publisher’s editorial team was put into place. At that point, they needed a firm schedule of when they could expect to see chapters, and they needed predictable turnaround on our review of copyedited chapters and final page proofs. When the editorial team was assembled, the project changed from being more or less open-ended to being timeboxed with firm constraints. I take pride in having never missed a deadline for any of the articles or books I’ve written, and I’m going to try hard to make sure I don’t break that record with this project.

The Result

Writing this book has been an interesting and fun experience, as well as a huge amount of work. Joy has been, well, a joy to work with. She closes important gaps in my own knowledge, and she brings a broad set of experiences and stories to share. Fortunately, our underlying philosophies and perspectives are very similar. Those minor disagreements that we have are easily worked out through the dozens of emails we exchange each day and the occasional phone discussion. It’s been great to have someone to bounce ideas off, to clarify my thinking, to help me choose between different possible approaches, and to straighten me out when I’m off in the weeds. Joy has also obtained some input from time to time from her colleagues at Seilevel, running small chunks of text past them to test their reaction. This quick, real-world input saved us from ourselves more than once.

You might think that working with a co-author who has responsibility for many of the chapters would save time. That has not been my experience. If anything, this book is taking more time than if I were doing it all myself. That’s mainly because each chapter goes through more iterations than if only one author was involved. However, there are some important advantages. First, I couldn’t do it all myself. Joy has expertise that allows her to write chapters and sections that I simply could not. She has taken some of the chapters that I had written years ago for the second edition and greatly enhanced and updated them.

In addition, working with a co-author has made the material I’m writing much better. On my previous books, I just did the best job I could on a draft chapter and sent it out to a dozen or so reviewers. This time, Joy and I are spending a lot of time going over each other’s work before the reviewers ever see it. We commit acts of unspeakable editorial brutality on each other’s writing (politely, of course), all for a good cause. We are each other’s toughest critic. As a consequence, our ultimate presentation of each topic is much clearer and more thorough than it would have been otherwise. It has also been great to have somebody to kick ideas around with, to help me determine the best way to approach a particular topic or whether to cover it at all. We’ve learned a lot from each other, and the quality of the work shows the benefit.

All that said, I’ll still be glad when it’s done!

(For your convenience, I have pulled together many of my blog articles about writing for publication into a small ebook titled "Writing Your Way to Success".)

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

On Co-Authoring a Book (part 1/2)

I’m doing something right know that I’ve never done before: co-authoring a book. It’s a new experience for me but it’s going remarkably well. I’ve written several articles with co-authors over the years, which went fine, but nothing like the scale of the book. If you’ve ever thought about writing something with someone else, you might find the story of how we approached this to be interesting.

In August 2012 Joy Beatty, vice-president of research and development at Seilevel, asked me if I had thought about writing a third edition of my popular book Software Requirements. The first edition was published in 1999 and the second in 2003, both by Microsoft Press. I had indeed thought about writing a third edition from time to time. While virtually everything I described in the second edition is still valid and useful 10 years later, the book would benefit from an update in many respects. Some important changes have taken place in the software business and the world of business analysis in the intervening years. Frankly, though, the prospect of revising a 500-page book was daunting. I knew it would be a massive amount of work. I hadn’t been following the software requirements literature closely since I largely retired from consulting and training a few years ago. The hammock, my guitars, and my volunteer work were more appealing than spending hundreds of hours at a keyboard.

Nevertheless, Joy’s question got me to thinking. What if she and I were to co-author the third edition of the book? Joy is well respected in the business analysis field, very much up on current happenings in the domain, and the co-author herself of a nice book called Visual Models for Software Requirements that was published by Microsoft Press in 2012. So we began kicking this possibility around. Before long it became clear that there might be value in this collaboration. We agreed to give it a try.

Requirements for Requirements

Our first task was to create an outline. We began with the outline for the second edition (what the publishers call a 2E). We identified chapters that would benefit from major enhancements, chapters that just needed a tune-up and refresh, and new topics that we could add. We each went through a copy of the 2E and made notes about specific changes to make. I came up with more than 150 sticky notes with ideas, strategically placed at the relevant sections in the 2E. My email archives contained more than 60 email exchanges I had had with readers over the years (including several with Joy from 2004 and 2008!) addressing questions they had raised. Those were a useful source of other improvement ideas and stories to share.

Joy and I settled fairly quickly on the overall chapter structure and our preliminary first- and second-level headings. Then we enhanced this outline, each of us adding bullets under each chapter with our thoughts about possible changes to make. This annotated outline—which we call the AO—has been our primary working medium for exchanging thoughts and ideas. In essence, that outline and all the associated notes established the requirements for our book on requirements.

The high-level outline also was incorporated into the proposal that we submitted to Microsoft Press. Joy and I were very pleased when Microsoft accepted our proposal, as they’ve done a very nice job for us on our previous books.

Across the Miles

I live in Portland, Oregon. Joy lives in Austin, Texas. We have only met once in person, a couple of years ago at a conference, although we have had other professional interactions over the years. We needed to figure out the most efficient and reliable way to exchange materials throughout the duration of this many-month project.

Joy established a Microsoft SharePoint repository for us to use as a configuration management tool. We also set up an issues list to keep track of some of the myriad questions that arise. We created the following folders in the repository for managing our files:
  • The final chapter files from the 2E, which served as a great starting point for much of the new book.
  • The drafted chapters that we would be iterating on during creation, when making our own revisions, and during peer review.
  • An infrastructure folder to store various working documents: status tracking spreadsheet, chapter checklist, collaboration process, reviewer’s guide for our peer reviewers, and so forth.
  • A folder for the many figures and other images to appear in the book, organized by chapter.
  • A folder for the submitted chapters that went off to the publisher for copy editing and the revised versions the publisher sent back to us.
  • A folder for PDFs of the final chapters that we receive from the publisher for proofreading.
As each of us uploads modified versions of a chapter or other document to one of these folders, it gets added to the collection so we retain the history of previous versions. We use check-out and check-in procedures to make sure that only one of us at a time can make changes in a particular file. This basic configuration management discipline has worked very well to keep us from overwriting each other’s work or losing changes one of us has made.

Planning the Collaboration

I have long suspected that many teams of people who work together on a project don’t spend much time thinking about how they’re going to work together. They can do fine for a while, but when deadlines loom, there is too much going on, and the stress level ramps up, the lack of a process begins to show. So Joy and I spent quite a bit of time working through the process we would follow for collaboration on the different aspects of this book.

Each us took responsibility for being the primary author on certain chapters; we’ve adjusted that allocation as we went along to share the workload equitably. We crafted a detailed process to describe how we would hand materials off from one to the other, process feedback received from our reviewers, and handle the interactions with the publisher’s editorial team. We also agreed on some writing style and format issues. One goal was to give the book a consistent feel and style such that it would not be apparent to a reader which of us had written each chapter. This was perhaps easier on those chapters for which we began with the version published in the second edition of the book. But even on new chapters, the numerous passes we made back and forth smoothed out the final presentation. It was well worth the time we spent working out this collaboration process.

In part 2 of this article I'll describe how we carefully tracked the status of the many elements that make up the full book (it wasn't simple!) and summarize my observations about this collaboration experience.

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It’s a Matter of Policy (part 2/2)

In the first article in this series I described some of the business rules or policies I’ve adopted for my consulting and training company, Process Impact, over the years. That article presented several policies I have regarding traveling. In this concluding article I share some additional policies regarding finances and client relations. I’ve mentioned some of these in earlier posts so I won’t elaborate on them in detail here.

On Finances


One of the first things I learned about consulting was to Set my price so I’m happy whether the client says yes or no. I’ll ask a higher fee if I’m not that interested in doing the job (like teaching the same two-day class for the 182nd time—literally!) or if the travel required is excessive or inconvenient. I’ll ask less if the destination is someplace I want to go anyway, if the opportunity sounds like a novel consulting engagement, or if it's a class I don't get to teach very often. Most of the time that high price scares the client away, If not, then I’ll grin and bear it and cash the check. One consultant I know was invited to travel from the east coast of the United States to Japan to deliver a half-day presentation. Not wanting to spend that much time traveling for such a short gig, he requested an outrageous fee and first-class airfare. The client agreed; off he went.

I also Quote an all-up fee that includes my expenses. This way I don’t have to provide receipts (potentially subject to client frowning and debate) for travel and lodging expenses, books, printing handouts, and the like. This policy has greatly simplified my invoicing. It also permits me to Request payment at the time of the event with a new client because I can submit the invoice in advance. I adopted that practice after having countless invoices get lost in clients’ accounting systems. This reduces my aggravation level and saves me the time of chasing down late payments. I also do not let clients get away with their occasional attempts to give themselves a discount for payment within 10 days. My terms are net 30 days (45 days for some clients), with no discount for early payment.

Another consulting colleague insists that New overseas clients must pay half the fee in advance. This is a good idea in case you have any concerns at all about whether you’re going to get paid, in what currency, in what form, and when. A Canadian friend recently told me that he suffered a significant loss because of changing currency exchange rates thanks to an American client company that waited months to pay him.

I’ve had a few problems with overseas customers who ordered products from my website but never paid the invoice. This small percentage of rip-off artists forced me to adopt the policy that Customers outside the United States must pay for products in advance. When the money comes in, the product goes out.

Just this past week I had an experience that caused me to contemplate a new business policy. I recently delivered a webinar at the invitation of a small company that sells certain software development tools. My invoice wasn’t paid on time. That’s not terribly unusual, but when I followed up I learned that the company had just closed and gone into receivership. I am never going to get paid. So now I need to consider whether to ask small companies with potentially shaky finances to pay me in advance for any work I perform for them.

Early in my consulting career I was invited to speak at a meeting of a local professional society. The contact person asked me what my fee would be. Not having encountered this situation before I wasn’t sure what to request. After I thought about it, though, I concluded that I Do not charge a speaking fee to give a presentation at a local professional organization. Delivering such presentations is a way for me to contribute to my profession as well as being a marketing and networking opportunity. Conversely, I Do not provide services to a company for free. If I’m delivering value to a company’s employees through a presentation or consulting, I’m entitled to be compensated for that value.

On Client Relations


Professional and personal integrity being important to me, I will Never misrepresent the work I’m performing for a client. A prospective client once asked me to state in my consulting agreement that I would be providing certain services. In actuality, though, he wanted me to do something different. He asked me to lie because he didn’t think his management would approve funding for the service he really wanted me to perform. I said thanks but no thanks. I don’t want to work for a company under false pretenses.

A client who hires a consultant for the first time is taking a risk. What if the consultant doesn't have as much experience as he claims and doesn't provide good advice? What if he's not a good presenter and the students don't find the class interesting or useful? I once brought a well-known consultant and speaker in to a company where I worked to teach a one-day class. She was very entertaining but provided little useful content, stimulated no class discussion, incorporated not a single exercise or practice activity in the class, and provided us with no reference materials to take away. The class evaluations were mediocre; we never brought her back in. To help my clients reach a comfort level with hiring me, I always Provide a money-back guarantee. My goal is for every client to feel that they would happily work with me again. Fortunately, no client has ever asked for a refund, but I'm fully prepared to reduce the fee if they don't feel they got their money's worth.

Periodically I receive e-mails or phone calls from people who have read one of my books or heard a presentation and want some advice about their situation. I’m always happy to Answer the first question for free. Sometimes this reply leads to an ongoing dialogue, but of course it’s not feasible to provide unlimited free consulting to everyone who writes to me. Therefore, if the person who contacted me has more questions, I will offer an off-site consulting agreement so that we can continue the discussion at my usual hourly consulting rate. Most of the time that terminates the discussion. Occasionally, though, it has led to an interesting short-term consulting engagement. (As an aside, I do always try to provide a substantive response to the initial question, so I’m frankly surprised at how seldom the questioners even say thank you. That seems rather rude.)

Once in a while a fellow software consultant will point a prospective client in my direction. I’m always grateful for these opportunities, but years ago I decided that I Neither pay or accept referral or finder’s fees for these kinds of connections. I figure that it averages out over time, because I am also happy to pass along such referrals myself. This is because of my policy that I Don’t take on engagements for which I am not a good fit. If someone can do a better job for the client than I can for a particular service, that’s who the client should hire. This policy notwithstanding, I do engage in business relationships with various companies to resell my products, teach my courses under license, or sell their products through an affiliate program. That’s a different kind of deal for which revenue-sharing is appropriate.

So there you have some of the policies that I’ve adopted during my fifteen years as a consultant and trainer. What are your own business rules? Please share any policies that you have found to work for you by posting comments on this article.

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It’s a Matter of Policy (part 1/2)

Every organization operates according to a set of business rules, whether explicitly documented or merely integrated into the culture’s oral tradition. You should adopt a set of business rules, or policies, for your consulting practice, too. In this two-part series I will share some of the operating policies and principles I’ve accumulated for my one-person consulting and training company, Process Impact. These might or might not apply to your business, but I encourage you to consciously formulate your own analogous policies.

On Traveling


One characteristic of consulting and training is that you usually have to go where the work is. This isn’t always true, thanks to virtual consulting and webinar technology. Most of the time, though, you can expect to have to travel to client sites. Early in my consulting career I had no idea how much work I was going to get, so I happily accepted every opportunity that came along. I was fortunate to get traction with the business quickly. The result was that I was doing a LOT of traveling. Before long, I adopted the policy that I Don’t travel during more than three weeks out of each month. This doesn’t mean that I was gone three-quarters of the time, just that I might travel one or more days during three out of every four weeks. It’s important to set time aside at home to get caught up, maintain relationships with friends and family, develop new training material, write articles and books, and even relax and enjoy yourself. This policy also has helped keep me healthy. I know two consultants who became ill and couldn’t fully recover for several months because their travel commitments were so exhausting. The only thing worse than traveling a lot is traveling while you’re sick. So leave time for yourself.

Along that same line, I find it very tiring to teach more than two days in a row. It’s hard to be witty and charming, both on your feet and on your toes for seven or eight hours day after day. Therefore, if a client asks me to teach two sessions of a two-day class, I Take Wednesday off between a pair of two-day training sessions. I might do some sightseeing, visit friends in the area, or take in a movie. My voice, my feet, and my disposition all benefit from the refreshing break. Of course, I don’t charge the client for my expenses or time on the day off.

Anyone who travels a lot has had the joy of being stranded overnight (or longer) in an airport or a nearby hotel. It happens, whether due to bad weather, mechanical problems, missed connections, or terrorist acts. I was stuck at a client site far from home for several days after 9/11. Another consultant friend was trapped in Rochester, New York, for more than two days because of just one canceled flight, because there was simply no space on numerous later flights to accommodate the affected passengers. I don't worry much about such delays on my way home, but it can be disastrous on your journey to a gig. Therefore, I Never take the last flight of the day to a client site. I'd rather arrive several hours early than to miss the engagement because I'm in an airport hotel a thousand miles away.

I’ve done some international travel, going to Europe a couple of times and taking several trips to Australia and New Zealand. This led me to my next traveling policy: Only fly across an ocean in business class or better. Yes, it’s expensive, and no, you don’t get there any faster. But it certainly is a lot more comfortable. I arrive at my distant destination better rested and ready to work. I build the fees for the business class airfare into the price quotes that I provide to my overseas clients. If they are unwilling to pay the cost, that’s no problem—I just thank them for their inquiry and stay home.

I have a consultant friend who thrives on international travel. He and his wife are real outdoorsy people who love to rough it and explore exotic locations. They really suck the marrow out of life. (I tried to suck the marrow out of life once, but I chipped a tooth on the bone.) Ken has decided to Spend one extra day sightseeing for each time zone change. So if Ken goes to China or India, he takes along his wife and they spend several extra days touring, hiking, camping, or whatever. This is not a bad way to see the world if you can afford the time and cost.

You know all those little bars of soaps that hotels give you? I don’t let them go to waste. Instead I Collect hotel soaps and shampoos and donate them to a homeless shelter. I know some people think it’s unethical to “steal” soap you didn’t use. I view the soap as part of what I’m paying for the hotel room, so it bothers me not one whit to take it with me. Over the years I’ve given hundreds of little bars of soap and bottles of shampoo to people who need them more than I do.

Some years ago I figured out an interesting traveling trick: I learned how to Leverage frequent flier programs against each other. At the time I had second-tier premium frequent flyer status on just one airline. I wrote to a second airline that flew on some of the same routes and invited them to match my premium status on the first airline. They didn’t bump me up two frequent-flier levels, but they did bump me up one. “Hmmm,” I said to myself, “that was easy.” The next year I tried it again—it worked again. Then I mailed a copy of my new premium card on Airline #2 to Airline #3 and made them the same offer. Again, they took my bait.

I was able to pull this scheme off for several years, parlaying premium status on one airline into others and enjoying the ensuing benefits. It cost me nothing more than a few letters and stamps. There was nothing underhanded about this—I was simply presenting each airline with a business offer. One year, I actually held premium frequent flyer status on four airlines without having earned any of them. The scheme didn’t always work, and lately I don’t have premium status on any airline because I don’t fly very much anymore. It certainly was nice while it lasted, though. Let me know if this works for you.

What are your own policies regarding business travel? Please share them with comments on this post. In part two of this series I’ll share some additional Process Impact policies regarding finances and client relations.

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Selling Your Proposal When You’re Not in the Room (contributed by Michael Boyette)

Michael Boyette is the executive editor of the Rapid Learning Institute’s Selling Essentials elearning site and editor of the Top Sales Dog Blog. He’s also managed marketing and PR programs for DuPont, Tyco Electronics, and US Healthcare. Contact Michael via email at topsalesdog@rapidlearninginstitute.com.

Just about anyone who has worked as an independent consultant knows how it feels when your contact says, “We’ll discuss your proposal and let you know what we decide.” After all your hard work and preparation, you’re locked out of the meeting that matters most. What if people have questions that only you can answer? What if your contact misunderstands what you proposed? What if he or she wilts at the first objection, more worried about staying on the boss’s good side than getting business for you?

For example, let’s suppose you’ve been working with Jennifer, the VP of marketing, on a proposal to enhance the company’s website. Jennifer has assured you repeatedly that she’s the sole decision maker. But now she lets you know—for the first time—that she has to take your proposal before her management team for review and approval.

Of course, you’ll want to see if you can attend (perhaps by phone or Skype) to answer any questions the management team may have. But don’t be surprised if Jennifer says it wouldn’t be appropriate for you to attend. At that point, your best strategy is to make sure that Jennifer has (1) the desire and (2) the ability to be a strong advocate for you and your proposal. If either element is missing, you’re not likely to win. So begin by finding out what Jennifer really thinks of your proposal. Don’t succumb to wishful thinking. If Jennifer is anything less than 100% committed, you need to know why and address her doubts before she walks into that meeting.

Once you’re sure Jennifer’s on board, ask her to walk you through the decision-making process so that you and she together can identify and address any potential obstacles or objections. You might say, “Jennifer, I completely understand why the team will want to have this discussion without me there. So I’d like your help to be sure everyone has the information they’ll need to make a good decision.”

Ask whether any members of the management team usually look for specific information before they reach a decision. Go through each member of the team one by one. For example, Jennifer may tell you that decisions are often delayed because the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) needs time to review the numbers. If so, offer to provide your budgets, projections, and other financial information in advance of the meeting so that the CFO can prepare. Or let’s say Jennifer tells you that the Chief Operating Officer (COO) is likely to have concerns about the amount of time your proposal would take to implement and how it will affect ongoing operations. If that’s the case, you may want to suggest that you, Jennifer, and the COO have a call before the meeting to discuss those specific concerns.

Next, analyze the decision-making process point by point. What are the hot buttons? Where are the land mines? What are potential showstoppers? Here are some questions you can ask during your analysis of the buying decision:
  • Which team members have the most influence over the outcome?
  • What is each step in the decision-making process?
  • What are some likely reasons the decision might be delayed?
  • What questions or objections often come up in these discussions?
  • When the team has said no to a proposal like this in the past, what derailed it?
  • When the team has said yes, what made it happen?
  • Who tends to dominate discussions?
  • How will the decision be arrived at: majority vote, consensus, or some other mechanism? Does any individual have veto authority?
  • What happens next? Will the CEO want to review the decision, or is it final?
  • Is price likely to come up at the beginning or end of the discussion? How big a factor will it be?
Your goal is to do everything you can to help Jennifer act as your advocate in her meeting. Granted, that’s a nontraditional role for your buyer. But if she seems uncomfortable doing it for you, it probably means you have to back up and make sure she really is as committed to your proposal as she said.

Working through this process with your prospect won’t always guarantee a sale, of course. The meeting may still go the wrong way, often for reasons that have little to do with you or your proposal. But by following these suggestions, you’ll have done everything you can to anticipate objections and influence the outcome—even though you’re not in the meeting itself.

(If you found this article helpful, please consider making a donation to the Norm Kerth Benefit Fund to help a consultant who has been disabled since 1999 with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident. You can read Norm's story or donate here. Thanks!)