Help me overcome Networking Resistance, please!

From the desk of Matt Page, MGIS.

Why are so many people whose jobs are not linked to networking or sales so reluctant to share their connections? Especially those close to you?

For example: I am currently looking for an MD with an Occupational Health certification in Ontario (and if you know anyone, please send them my way!). I know someone who is a physician, someone whom I’ve known for over 20 years, and I asked them if they would be willing to put me in touch with some of their colleagues who might either have the certification required, or know of someone who does. You know, classic networking stuff. And while they would trust me with their dogs, kids, etc., the look I received was as if I had asked for the moon.


Another example: Another long-time friend of mine works in a Government Department that has eluded my portfolio. They are well aware of what I do and have seen that I am considerably successful at it, as I’ve been doing this for over ten years. I ask if they would be willing to put me in touch with their team lead or manager – not a chance. I am the emergency contact for their kids, but no way are they comfortable with letting me talk to their boss.

What’s up?

Final example: Yet another long-time friend needed help writing their CV for a job they were eager to land. I was happy to lend a hand rewriting their CV (in my spare time), coaching them a little on the interview process, and helping them negotiate a better salary. After they get settled in and established, I ask them to help me connect with people within the company – sorry, not comfortable doing that.


These are people that want to see me succeed but are reluctant to tie their name to my work.

So, friends, how does one overcome such an obstacle? I obviously don’t want to put stress on personal relationships but at the same time, these people have great connections that would be valuable to myself and my career. I’m always happy to help friends and strangers alike connect and network – how can I get others to feel the same?

If anyone has found a way to overcome this obstacle, would love to hear about it!

Land MORE Clients by Saying Less – How to Stop Talking Yourself OUT of Sales

At the beginning, selling yourself as a consultant can make you feel like a used car salesperson. You try to meet as many people as you can, talk up your experience, and hope that you land a contract that will give you time to find that next client and keep that revenue stream flowing.

It’s fast-paced, exhausting and, at times, can make you feel a little dirty. You may even start to question whether you have what it takes to make it in “the game”.

I have good news – you can land more clients and contracts by saying less.

How, you ask? Why, just ask more (of the right) questions!

Here are three you need to be asking:

  1. “Who is the lead/manager/executive responsible for this engagement?” – Find out if you’re talking to the right person. If the person you’re talking to can’t write you a cheque, you’re wasting your breath dragging out the whole dog and pony show. Mine them for information, including where the buck stops, so you can prepare your pitch for the right person the first time.
  2. “What is currently standing in the way of you achieving success?” – Once you’ve found the decision-maker and sussed out what they are hoping to achieve, start drilling into what they think is holding them back. The client may be totally off the mark, and you’ll need to address the real issues in your solution, but if your pitch ignores what they think are the problems, they’ll turn to someone that will fix those issues. You don’t need to be a “Yes Man” but you do need to respect the concerns of the client.
  3. “What is the value of this project success/implementation?” – Before you can give your client a price, which will always sound like too much to them, you need to know what the value of the solution is, and so do they. Lead them through giving you a value of the project so that you can give them a price that proves they will have a return on their investment.

$1000 for a box of 100 widgets sounds like a lot until you realize you can sell the widgets for $50 each. Now that first investment doesn’t sound so bad. As a consultant, you are a widget; prove your worth and you’ll close more often.

Add these three questions to your initial meetings with potential clients, and I’m confident you’ll be able to reduce the time wasted selling to non-buyers, dial in the perfect pitch, and never price yourself out of a deal.

Have other strategies you use? I would love to hear them!

Let’s talk!

Your CV is not Being Read – Fix it!

Getting your CV read is essential to getting your foot in the door, landing that dream job, or vaulting into the executive. Thing is, no one wants to read it. Well, they don’t want to read it unless they know it fits all the criteria required for that job.

I like to think of it this way: I’m a huge Stephen King fan, so I’ll read pretty much anything that he writes. Doesn’t mean that I like them all, I couldn’t stand “IT” and never came close to finishing the book, but because his name has cache, I, and many other readers, will give his writing the benefit of the doubt. Conversely, when finding a new author to read, I scour Google for reviews and recommendations regarding different authors before even giving them a chance (and this doesn’t even touch on the fact that I only watch the same ten movies/shows on Netflix over and over). I would never just pick up a book and read it because, frankly, I don’t want to waste the little time I have for reading on a bad book. Maybe I should roll the dice, but I don’t.

How does the above anecdote relate? Many companies are now using some form of automated keyword searching and parsing tools to review CVs before they ever hit the desk of a human. Companies don’t want to waste employee time sifting through CVs that don’t meet the requirements and attributes they are seeking. They value their employees time, or at least the money they are paying for their employees’ time, and only want them to review “relevant” candidates.

If you are pumping out generic CVs, you are probably seeing a lot of rejection emails. That is because you are falling prey to the uncaring, unwavering, unsympathetic eye of automation.

You have experience with the “MS Suite of Products” but the robot is looking for experience with “MS Word” and “MS Excel”? Too bad! Eliminated!

You have lead projects through all phases of the SDLC but the robot wants to see experience in “Requirement Gathering, Designing, Coding, Testing, and Maintenance”? Tough luck! Tossed!

I, personally, don’t use an automation tool when reviewing candidates because, in my experience, if someone can put together a presentable CV, has demonstratable experience relevant to the role I’m sourcing, and is open to having a conversation, I’m going to get a lot more from talking to them for 15 minutes than I would ever get from a CV. People aren’t books, and they deserve my time.

That said, most companies will not put in the time to find diamonds in the rough. So, instead, you’ll need to be the low hanging fruit.

How do you make your CV the plumpest, shiniest, juiciest, easiest to grab fruit on the tree? It really doesn’t take much:

  1. Have a solid boiler plate CV – it needs to have a nice profile about you, highlight your education, certifications and training, outline your work experience, and be in an easy to add to format;
  2. Review the Job Description and pull the “keywords” from the description. If they want “MS Word” give them “MS Word”; if they want “Microsoft Word” give them “Microsoft Word”, you need to speak their language, because that is what they have fed their robot;
  3. Update your profile using phrasing and verbiage from the company website. Again, speak to them in their own language – it’s the old trick of acting like you belong there; and
  4. Don’t just copy paste – Remember, once you get past the robot, a human, likely the one who wrote the job description, is going to read your CV, and if they see that it is just a copy paste then all of your CTRL+C, CTRL+V work will be for nought.

Most robots are not that smart (at least not yet). They can only work with the data they are given. Luckily for you, that data is all in the job description, so use it to your advantage! If you do, you’ll be scheduling a lot more interviews and reading fewer rejection emails.

And if you want to talk to someone that isn’t a robot, drop me a line. I’ll be happy to help with your CV, job search strategy, or even introduce you to one of MGIS’s clients.


P.S. I added the “‘s” to “MGIS’s” because I just finished reading Stephen King’s “On Writing”. Says you should always do it for clearer writing. Who am I to argue?

Selling yourself as a consultant – Three foundation pieces to make the pitch (+ one bonus)

Consulting in Ottawa can be lucrative. Consulting in Ottawa is most certainly competitive. In order to break free of the pack, you’ll need to make sure that you have all of the right pieces in place to connect, convince, and close clients. It’s hard to sell your expertise if you’re lagging behind the competition, so make sure your sales pitch has all the right stuff to land that next (or first) contract.

Plus, a bonus tip at the end to give your hunt a real boost!

Have what it takes, certified!

For those that have been employees for a long time, certifications often become “nice to have”, you know, if the company’s willing to pay for it. If they weren’t, you probably let them slide. Now may be the time to brush up on a little learning and make sure that you have the certifications recognized and expected in your field. Certifications, especially with government contracting, can be used to target (or eliminate) candidates, so be sure to have the ones that matter most.

For those of you that have the certifications packed away in a box collecting dust somewhere in your attic, find them, pull them out, and make a digital copy. Just putting it on the CV may not be enough anymore, and a digital copy is easy to share as many times as needed.

Build the Boilerplate

While your CV will need to be tailored to each client and opportunity, starting from scratch every time is not a good use of your cycles (or weekends). Take some time to plot out a good boilerplate or foundational CV that you can build upon with specific requirements, experiences, or industry details. As a consultant, don’t be afraid to go a little long, depending on the client and/or industry. I’ve seen senior consultants with anywhere from 5-6 pages up to 50+.

Knowing your audience is the key to landing that contract, but having a solid base to build your case from will give you an advantage over the competition.

Location, Location, Location Network, Network, Network!

You’ve spent years in the industry, worked hard, turned heads, impressed supervisors, mentored staff, and now it is time to make all of that pay off! Sit down and make a list, spreadsheet, or an old-school rolodex of all the people you can think of to reach out to and let know that you are now in the consulting world. Highlight the ones currently in management and decision-making roles and contact them first, but don’t take a pass on those worker bees – if they have their bosses’ ear, that might be your side door into a new contract.

Every connection is valuable. They may not pay off immediately, or ever, but as Lloyd Christmas once said, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance?” Every connection is a chance, and the more chances you have out there, the luckier you will seem to be.

Bonus: Develop “agency”

You are one voice in a giant sea of consultants trying to find that sunken treasure. Problem is, there are thousands of consultants scouring the ocean floor, and also some big sharks looming. Those sharks are Professional Services Agencies, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few of them on your side.

Now remember, at the end of the day they are a business and their goal is to make money off your work. That doesn’t make them bad, per se, but it is an important distinction. They will be looking out for themselves, just as you should be doing too.

So, don’t marry yourself to the first recruiter to reach out to you on LinkedIn. Research the companies, find out their approach to business, contracting, and clients. Ask other consultants in your field – trust me, they’ll love to spill the beans on who is reputable and who to avoid – and talk to the people that work there. Chat with the recruiters, the business development hawks, and account managers. Heck, ask to speak to the owner, if you can.

They can get your name in front of hundreds of clients almost instantly, giving you instant credibility and opportunity. Just make sure you do your due diligence first. Not all Professional Services companies are created equal.

With these few simple tricks, you’ll be able to step in front of any client with the foundation to sell yourself as a consultant, and also have a few people doing some of the sales for you!

Is it time to become an Independent Consultant? Three things to consider.

You put in your time and paid your dues – is now the time to become an independent consultant? Countless hours in meetings, leading teams, managing stakeholders, and sleepless nights have given you the experience needed by businesses everywhere to help them get to where they need to go. So, are you ready to make the lucrative but terrifying jump from the safety of employee to independent consultant?

Here are the things to consider:

Are you ready and able to put others first?

If you need a steady income with benefits and job security, you are not ready. True Independent Consulting has to come from a place of putting the needs of your clients before your own. Sure, the per diems can be attractive, but you can no longer cling to the employee/employer relationship when the road gets rocky. Consultants are often brought in to be the bearer of bad news, state the hard truths, and be the face of change – all for the best of the business. That doesn’t always win you popularity contests but if you do your job well, put your clients and their business needs first, and get results, your reputation will precede you, gaining you new business.

Many times you’ll feel like the hero they deserve, and not like the hero they think they need.

Is your toolbox full?

Most clients won’t expect you to have all the answers on the first day (mind you, some might!), but they will expect that you have the experience, knowledge, training, and capability to learn and understand their particular business quickly in order to get them those answers. Make sure that your toolbox is full of well-oiled:

  1. Communications products and strategies – from speaking with CEOs to frontline staff, being upfront, clear, and professional goes a long way in getting your message received;
  2. Knowledge – As an Independent Consultant, the client is counting on you to bring the industry’s best standards and practices to the table. Not to say you need to buy into all the latest trends in your field, but you need to know about them, their pros & cons, and how to get the best from what is available for your client;
  3. Methodology – Have one and stick to it! If you’ve worked with a number of different methodologies and assembled something unique that works for you, great! Go with it! If you don’t, find one that someone else has created and follow it. Methodologies bring order and organization to your work, allowing you to paint a picture for management and outline a map for the client to follow as you lead them through change;
  4. Stress-relief: It could be exercise, TV, board games, reading, or anything that helps you get your mind off work, clients, and deadlines. You will need a way to blow off steam – so make sure you have some time set aside to relax your mind and body and relieve stress.

Always Be Closing

All Consultants are (or should be) experts, but not all experts are consultants. The biggest cause of failure for Independent Consultants is that they forget that they are a small business. And like any small business, you need clients to stay in business. Independent Consultants need to be ready, willing, and able to sell their skills, experience, and personality as right for the job. Whether you create a “sales character” for yourself, talk about yourself as a company, or promote yourself unabashedly, you must be willing to talk a good game, or someone else will swoop in and steal that big client out from under your nose.

If you are ready to serve clients, have a well-tuned consulting engine, and a willingness to shout your own name from the rooftops, you are ready to jump into the world of Independent Consulting. Now, just because you are ready, doesn’t mean you don’t need help diving in head first. MGIS has been working with Independent Consultants since 2001, making sure their CV is client ready, their LinkedIn profiles are getting hits, they’re set up with an SEO-powered website, providing them with graphic design and marketing materials, all to help approach and land them major clients.

If you think you’re ready to take the plunge, MGIS is here to help you make that switch from employee to the big world of Independent Consulting!