We’ve talked previously about how important it is to find more significant, scarier problems. My father used to say it this way;
”No one gets hired to tell a client to take his vitamins. You hire an outside firm when you have an artery spouting blood and they need a tourniquet!”
Dad had a way with words, didn’t he?
Sometimes you can get hired to tell someone to take their vitamins, but usually, that work doesn’t pay well and it is unsatisfying. Think about assignments where the client regularly puts off meeting with you, where you can’t get them to focus or make a decision (or send your payment). In those situations the problem is just not significant enough, you are offering vitamins instead of a tourniquet.
So how do you find assignments that require a tourniquet?
First, don’t take assignments that aren’t arteries spouting blood. If you take low stakes assignments, you become the company that does that kind of work. Your portfolio is full of boring, low-stakes assignments. It saps your creative energy and diverts your drive into things that don’t matter. Just. Say. No.
But in the process of saying no you can dig for gold!
I saw this twitter thread last week that describes it perfectly. I’ve captured the key tweet, but it’s worth clicking through and reading the whole thread to see how Ben Meszaros turns this conversation from a ho-hum new business conversation into a home run!
Ben could see that this conversation was of the “take your vitamins” variety, but he didn’t quit there. He kept digging. Instead of asking questions about “pain points” he asked a question about the opportunity.
“What are the things you’re NOT doing at the company right now that you know you should be doing? What are the most important problems you need to solve right now in order to survive?”
In the answer that came back, he discovered the artery spurting blood and went on to confirm it by asking.
”What’s it worth to you to solve these problems quickly and in the right way?”
”Solving these things are essentially invaluable to us.”
Boom! Now you are talking about something interesting. Now you are talking about a big, scary problem: something with stakes, something that client might pay premium rates for.
In your next business development conversation, what’s one more question you could ask that could uncover that artery spurting blood?
What questions have done this for you in the past? I’d love for you to hit reply and let me know!”
P.S. H/T to @jonathanstark who RT’ed this thread. If you aren’t following him you should be. Tons of valuable info in his feed!