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Million Dollar Consulting: the Professional's Guide to Growing a Practice

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The acclaimed Million Dollar Consulting gives consultants the tools and advice they need to grow a firm that rakes in at least $1 million per year. Alan Weiss, "the consultant's consultant," shows step-by-step how to raise capital, reel in new clients, set fees, accelerate growth, and more. This updated and expanded edition will appeal to both Weiss's many current fans and a whole new generation of readers looking for the best advice available for anyone who wants to build a million-dollar consulting/speaking career.

358 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 1992

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About the author

Alan Weiss

164 books98 followers
Librarian note:
There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name

Alan Weiss is an American entrepreneur, author, and public speaker

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 80 reviews
Profile Image for Joshua Giles.
32 reviews
July 17, 2017
Never read an author that sucked his own dick so well 😂 (am I allowed to say that in a book review?) but seriously though if you can get past his persistent compliments to himself and him selling his own consulting company then there are some GREAT suggestions for anyone trying to open their own consulting company. Also the author claims he has written more books on consulting then anyone else (something like 50+) but I've read 3 of them: million dollar consulting, consulting bible, and million dollar launch. And they're the EXACT. SAME. BOOK. Just rephrased. So I'm going to assume all his other books are the exact same thing.

(This will be my same review for the other 2 books I read since they were the exact same)
Profile Image for C.
1,109 reviews1,043 followers
September 10, 2021
This is a handbook on being a high-income, professional consultant. It's a wealth of practical advice on high-end consulting, based on extensive first-hand experience. Weiss exudes professionalism and confidence. He's an unabashed contrarian, sharing alternatives to conventional wisdom. I didn't agree with everything he advocates, but overall I found it very informative.

I read this because it was recommended on episode 192 of the Freelancers' Show, as well as other episodes.

What is a Consultant?
"Interventions [work performed] should be based on results and outcomes, not on activities and tasks."

The more you emphasize results, the more control you have over how do you achieve them (techniques and time used).

Eliminate busywork, paperwork, and communication that doesn't contribute to end results.

Provide options, with pros and cons of each, and your recommendation.

Propulsion and Volition
Provide a choice of a "yeses" so client focuses on how to use you, not whether to use you.

Market gravity
Use "market gravity" (inbound marketing) to draw people to you. Use at least 6 methods at any one time. Some methods:
• Pro bono work for nonprofits, where you work alongside potential recommenders and buyers
• Speaking engagements that put you in front of buyers and potential recommenders. Speak for free if necessary.
• Volunteer for leadership in a trade association. You'll be visible, referred to, interviewed.
• Ask everyone you know for referrals every 3 months
• Ally with those with marketing clout
• Others: publish; advertise; get listed in industry resources; provide value on website & blog; email marketing; be adjunct professor; sell info products; network

Breakaway Speed
"If you never accept an assignment that calls for you're doing something you haven't done before, you will never earn significant money."

Breaking Paradigms
"Consulting is a relationship business. Only carefully crafted relationships will create a breakthrough firm.” Products or services won't.

Niching your services isn't necessary. Best results come from relationships with clients, regardless of services.

Clients perceive products and services as commodities, but relationships at intangibles which have incalculable worth. It's also harder to compare relationships than products or services.

Racing through the Turns
Don't set tactical goals such as revenue, clients, percent growth, since they can be limiting self-fulfilling prophecies. Instead, set strategic goals in marketing, relationships, team, personal, etc.

Unbundle your services. Separate them out and charge for their value.

Helping clients handle changes in your services
• Present changes as opportunities, not threats
• Don't explain changes and raise fees simultaneously. Allow clients to acclimate to changes for months to a year.
• Explain changes when client is happy, after a successful project
• Provide free additional value to be irreplaceable
• Stress that new clients are benefiting from the change and you want them to also

Case studies should be 3 brief paragraphs: 1) situation, 2) intervention you provided, 3) result

If You Don't Blow Your Own Horn, There is No Music
Offer clients a 10% discount to pay the full fee in advance.

No money
• Focus on value, not price. Don't quote fee until you agree about value.
• Rebuttal: Let's not worry about budget for the moment. Let's focus on what you need and how much an improved condition might mean to you.

No urgency
• Point out that condition isn't stable but worsening
• Rebuttal: You can't afford not to act quickly, and I want to show you exactly what this means to you.

No need
• Create need
• Rebuttal: Let me show you where you're falling behind the competition because you're looking through a microscope instead of a telescope.

No trust
• Build a solid relationship before trying to sell. Give honest, candid feedback. Act as peer and potential partner, not salesperson.
• Rebuttal: I'd like to know something about your issues and explain my background so we can decide whether we should proceed together. My projects are partnerships, so it's important that we share our thinking with each other.

Products build brands. They're marketing materials, they force you to create intellectual property, form bases for new services, and provide cash flow.

Dilemma: you've never worked in the industry
Show examples from similar industries and explain similarities. Show that you've studied industry.

Dilemma: you've never worked on this type of assignment
Show similar projects. Show you're adept at process of improving client's condition, not content of particular issue.

Dilemma: prospect has never heard of you
Have references. Say you're a best kept secret. Say you succeed through client results, not advertising.
Ask, "How do you succeed when competitors are better-known?" When they say, "we have better service," say, we have a lot in common."

Expanding Resources
"The only people I recommend hiring as full-time employees if absolutely necessary are those who provide secretarial or administrative support or who have highly specialized skills that are required daily."

Instead of employees, acquire talent through alliances with other firms, subcontracting, partnerships (bringing on a partner).

Finder's fees
• 15 to 20% if other party closed deal
• 10 to 15% if they arranged an introduction but you closed
• 5% if they give you prospect's name and you made connection and closed
• Thank you and small gift if they give cold lead that you develop and closed
• Fee is for current project only, unless it's a pilot, in which case fee is for subsequent project

Prioritize the nurturing of existing client relationships over pursuing new clients. Aim for 80% of business from existing clients.

Making Money When They Have "None"
Get testimonials in referrals during project; don't wait until end.

If nonprofit doesn't have budget, suggest finding a sponsor (local company).

Stop Thinking that Time is Money
You can reduce fees if working as subcontractor or you received referral, since these save you marketing expense. You can also reduce fees to get client with great potential, or to get referrals or testimonials.

How to determine your value-based fees
1. What is outcome of project worth to client?
2. What is your direct contradiction to outcome?
3. What is your current relationship with client?
4. What are your costs to complete assignment?

The value distance: moving client from what they think they want to what they really need. This movement allows you to deliver greater value and charge accordingly.

Have client absorb all expenses; bill monthly; make your terms do on receipt; follow up in 30 days if not paid.

Retainers should be for access to your advice, not for projects. There should be nothing to implement.

If asked how you came up with fee, say, "It's based on my contribution to the value you derive from this project, providing dramatic ROI for you and equitable compensation for me."

Bulletproof Proposals
Proposal components
1. Situation appraisal: 2-3 paragraphs on current condition & problem to solve
2. Objectives: bullet points listing what you discovered in preliminary work
3. Measures of success: bullet points listing metrics
4. Value to organization: How organization will benefit
5. Methodology and options: briefly discuss 3-4 options (choice of yeses), giving a taste of the different value. Lowest option should satisfy objectives, with higher options giving more value. Show in ascending order of value.
6. Timing: start date and likely duration in calendar day. Don't commit to firm date.
7. Joint accountabilities: your accountabilities, theirs, and joint accountabilities
8. Terms and conditions: fees, payment terms, discounts, expense reimbursement terms. Say that paying deposit indicates acceptance, regardless of signature.
9. Acceptance: place to select option and sign

Process: preparation, conceptual agreement, proposal, follow up.

How to Make Big Money in Bad Times
Diversify your client portfolio (by industry and sector) so you thrive during economic downturns and upturns.

You can't cut back your way to growth, even in tough times. You must invest for growth.

Market Gravity Relationships
• Long-term retainer: establish fee for the year/period, fix payment terms, provide discount for lump sum payment. Or, get 50% and set periodic billing dates.
• Monthly retainer: bill in advance, a quarter at a time, or have contractual guarantee of 6 months
• Talk to retainer clients at least weekly

Best sales strategy is to arrange for one client to recommend you to another. Hosting events, conferences, meals, roundtables with a mix of clients and prospects is one way to do this.

Accelerating Repeat and Referral Business
Tell lower-level people that your procedure is to talk to the person sponsoring or funding the project.

Offer referrer 3 options for making a referral
1. They make personal introduction
2. They give permission to use their name
3. They suggest person to contact (you won't use their name)
Profile Image for Farnoosh Brock.
Author 17 books219 followers
September 2, 2019
Eh. That is my quick reaction to this book. I'm a voracious reader and one of my apprentices recommended this book so highly that I took her up on it. I'm afraid it just didn't do it for me.

I listened to the audio version and kept an open mind. There are certainly some good ideas here which I have long since implemented in my business:

1. You're a professional so never charge by the hour, that's amateur, charge by value.
2. Work from your home office and keep your overhead expenses minimal.
3. Discuss work with your family members at the end of the day and even ask for advice from them.
4. Don't do business with family or friends and never exchange services.
5. Let your reputation speak for itself and charge appropriately.
6. Create content, produce work, grow your IP.

To me, these are pretty basic concepts and Alan describes them at very high levels because he covers so much, he cannot really go into any level of detail in any one area. And there is massive oversimplification across the board on all the topics.

He also uses very direct language. Now I am a very direct person (just ask my husband) but my books use a language that welcomes change and encourages ideas even if I am being firm in my stance. Something about the tone of the book did not resonate with me. Maybe it's the cold unfriendly approach to here's how it's done and you need to do it this way if you want to make it work. I like to hear the advice with some compassion and some motivation behind it.

Also, I did not feel that there was much compassion or love or care for his clients. It was about getting the best deal, charging them a ton of money (which is fine!) and giving them as little time as possible so that he could live a nice life or at least that's the sense I got. There was no implication that he is really a caring partner along the way for his clients but more that they can have him if he is available and at astronomical rates and only for 5 minutes. Eh. Not an approach that I will be implementing anytime soon.

There are also some good ideas that I will implement, but overall, I won't be recommending this book. Perhaps there is more value for others.
Profile Image for Jason Cihelka.
60 reviews2 followers
August 12, 2019
This book provides great insights on “how to think like a million dollar consultant”, however there’s a big flaw: it’s trying to provide basic advice to a target audience of established consultants with a strong brand, who can already justify large retainers.

If you’re just starting out and looking for actionable advice, this book isn’t for you. It’s just hard to imagine a brand new consultant with little to no experience charging $10k/month for their advice.’

There were large sections of the book that could be skipped. Stuff like “show up on time”, “make sure you’re dressed well” seemed a little out of place when the rest of the focus is on top-level consultants.

Furthermore, although the 5th edition was completely re-written in 2016, there’s very little emphasis on much of the new technologies that consultants can leverage today - for instance, establishing brand presence through podcasts and YouTube. It seems a little “old-fashioned”.

Overall, there are some great tidbits in here, but I found most of the book somewhat useless.

Profile Image for G.M. Burrow.
Author 1 book109 followers
January 20, 2019
Amazingly helpful advice for the full-time consultant or the regular person who finds himself freelancing at random. My biggest takeaway is the importance of charging based on the value of the project, not the value of your time spent. However, while I agree it’s a good idea to consider your work’s value when establishing fees, I wouldn’t go nearly as far as Weiss does here. He is so insistent on wringing money out of people because “trust me, I’m worth it” that he forgets his primary goal ought to be to bless the customer, not demand his rights. His snobby attitude (“I’ve written/sold more books about consultants than anyone else, ever”) also left a bad taste in my mouth. So take about 85% of his tips and toss the rest.
Profile Image for Joe.
42 reviews6 followers
January 16, 2019
If you are already a rockstar consultant, a lot of the tricks Alan mentions are quite doable. The hard part is writing 60 books and becoming a world class world speaker. THEN you can demand high figures and talk to CEOs the way Alan does without being ridiculed. I'm just not so sure it's good advice for the average consultant.
Profile Image for Branimir.
Author 2 books17 followers
May 6, 2014
This is not the book which will turn you into a consultant all of a sudden (surprise, surprise). For what its worth, it would not even help you realize if you are good fit for this hat. Yet, what I like a lot is that it gives advices on being more self-aware and organized. This is one of the better business reads and I would recommend it to people who want to learn to be more confident and persistent.

Alan Weis creates a good overview of practices which allow people to better "sell" themselves. Check the book if you are into entrepreneurial thinking, want to be able to present yourself better or just want to explore another option ahead.
83 reviews1 follower
January 31, 2019
One or two original ideas but most of the book is repetitive common sense anecdotes. The author even encourages you to copy his practice of using pithy sound bites (“fix your own oxygen mask before helping others”) to avoid coming up with anything original to say, complete with dictionary definitions on metaphors and similes.

In the most amusing section the author advises readers not to waste time with social media because he never managed to get it to work.

Despite being advertised as “the professional’s guide to growing a practice” the advice is limited to sole practitioners.
9 reviews
July 14, 2008
The SUBTITLE is really what this is about: How to own and grow a professional, independent practice
Not about million dollars, and not really about consulting.
More about value-based partnering/advising/listening.
Instead of feeling powerless about one's occupation, Weiss offers an insightful and actionable approach to owning one's own professional contributions and increasing their value.
Thank you, Annie Stevens (http://www.clearrock.com)
Profile Image for Caroline.
20 reviews
September 10, 2008
I purchased and read this manual to assist me in developing marketing strategies for my new business lines (I'm a policy person, not a sales rep). It did provide some insights, but I didn't derive what I'd hoped to - the "silver bullet" to assist me in securing prospective clients. Than again, what should I have expected for $22.95?
March 30, 2019
This is the book that I needed to read!

The enjoyment I get from helping companies reach their goals has always been part of my DNA. However, this book opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of being a consultant.
Profile Image for David.
79 reviews12 followers
July 7, 2023
Don't let the title fool you - this is not just a rock solid book on how to build a solo consulting practice, this is a book that emphasises to focus on two things that will help any professional:

- Focus and communicate using results and not tasks and activities
- Build long term relationships. Conceptual agreement only happens in the long term, and that's where the opportunities lie.

This was written in 2003, and I absolutely love that. The section on marketing gravity was refreshing, because it's out of datedness meant you could focus on the principles or strategy behind the marketing efforts advised, instead of focusing on the tactic-flavour-of-the-year which the marketing world is obsessed by.

I'd highly recommend this to anyone who's consulted in the past, as opposed to anyone just starting out. A lot of what's mentioned won't stick until you've been through the salt mines of dealing with clients, delayed invoices, prospects ghosting you, being ousted because of office politics - you know, just a normal day in the consulting/self-employed profession. Once you've got the scars from that, then you're open minded enough to really absorb the lessons of this book.

Highly recommend. Definitely changed how I think already (in my Monday meetings I now ensure everything I report is related to a metric tied to revenue, instead of just talking about deadlines and progress).
Profile Image for Lillian.
67 reviews5 followers
November 13, 2020
This review is for the 2016 edition.

This is a copy/paste list from Amazon's description:

Harnessing today’s global opportunities
• Developing brands across markets
• Creating and licensing intellectual property
• Avoiding the pitfalls of social media
• Landing unsolicited referrals through counterintuitive methods
• Managing and organizing your time wisely
• Succeeding in the face of continuing turbulence

This book is yes, a good, well-organized guide. Lots of recipes in it for success but remember, success is ultimately built on your hard work, strength of endurance, and ability to ultimately be true to yourself while using this guide. People don't invest in a formulas, they invest in the person behind the brand.

That said, if you are thinking about going into consulting, in the process of bilding a consulting business, or well-established, I think this book holds value. I would pick it up BEFORE beginning a consulting business, but you know what they say, it's never too late to learn. It provides a road map to get you from A to B - including how to value what you do so that you impart this message to prospective clients.

You will want to read the book through, read it again, and then use it as a resource when you're stuck. I think it will get you to think differently about how you do business, and perhaps even affirm what you're doing right!
Profile Image for Scott Wozniak.
Author 9 books77 followers
October 4, 2019
I passed on reading this book a few times because it looked like one of the many books out there for absolute beginners. But this book turned out to be for those who have already gotten going as consultants. And it's full of tactical advice and ideas on positioning yourself with the clients. It's not useful to learn how to consult. But it had some great thoughts on how to market/position yourself.

Some examples:

He shows a continuum from hourly billing to project based to a retainer. The retainer, he says, is the ultimate contract. He also talks about how to structure that and gives ways that he's explained/sold it.

He also says you're not really in the consulting business, you're in the marketing business. He even recommends 50% of your time be spent on marketing. But that marketing is not social media or advertising. It's relationship building.

And he talks about how to become a thought leader in an area.

Bottom Line: if you're a consultant, then there's likely some good challenges for you in this book. If you're not (or just starting) then this isn't the book for you.
Profile Image for Brian.
161 reviews
August 28, 2019
This book was recommended to me by a friend as I started down the path of becoming a solo consultant. There's some useful advice in here. The two topics I found most useful are the proposal writing section, and the part about pricing based on value. The latter completely aligns with value-based selling techniques I've learned about elsewhere. I felt like the last third of the book dragged on and ran out of steam--but maybe that's just because of where I am in the process.

I wonder, as a brand new consultant, about the "early years" of the process. Mr. Weiss' ideas are great, but he (and some of the other people interviewed in the book) only briefly allude to the early years of bootstrapping oneself as a consultant. I, too, want to be at the beautiful end state right now. I feel like the book doesn't quite take a stand on "pay your dues" vs. "fake it 'til you make it". I guess we all just find our own way.
46 reviews1 follower
September 26, 2021
Major positives
- well targeted advice for professionals who want to start their own practice
- helpful articulation of some of the key principles to sell consulting (talk to economic buyers directly, focus on value, etc.)
Major negatives
- some key concepts are addressed very superficially for example value based fees are a central pillar of the author’s message, but there are many practicalities in implementing them that are not discussed in depth
- very US-centric… with some avoidable stereotypes in a few places
- sometimes contains really micro advice that sounds weird, eg you MUST have a fixed phone line in your office?!?
- the author’s comments about HR professionals, and sometimes other groups of professionals, are disrespectful and not necessary to support the good messages or this book
- the final section of testimonials didn’t really work for me, it’s just a long list of consultants basically repeating the messages of the book
Profile Image for Alejandro Sanoja.
313 reviews12 followers
November 6, 2018
If you are looking for resources and advice to build a successful consulting business, this is the book you need to read.

Alan breaks down the process and gives a detailed explanation on how to take care of the fundamentals of the consulting business. Everything from how to attract and close clients, how to deliver value, how to build meaningful relationships, creating proposals, and much more!

Some of my highlights:

"The heart of a proposal is the conceptual agreement on the objectives (outcomes), metrics (measures of success), and value (ROI on the investment)."

"You have to have the confidence to know that your mere availability is of immense value, not the number of calls made to you."

Profile Image for Muhammed Umar.
14 reviews
May 10, 2017
Its a good book that details the planning right till the execution and sealing the deal of whatever project the consultant has. This is a must read book for any consultant/would-be consultant. There are some pretty useful tips mentioned in this book that is applicable even if you may not be a consultant. However, I strongly urge if you are not a consultant you may borrow this book and skim it through it to see if there any thing that this book may help to address in your endeavors.

Else due to it being quite niche to the consulting business it may not be a recommended read for everyone.
Profile Image for Kevin.
15 reviews1 follower
July 14, 2017
The topic was generously treated and the audio version certainly informed me early enough about its focus.

As an internal consultant for a large corporation I found some of the principles employed translatable to my context but the focus on monetizing seemed much heavier on me towards external consultants building a business personna than on metrics-gathering, documenting, and using reporting to justify the value of the influence, expertise, and counsel delivered.

If you're looking to start a consultancy, this is probably worth some time.
Profile Image for Kirk Hanley.
Author 5 books12 followers
July 14, 2021
I'm not sure I'll ever be the type of consultant Alan Weiss addresses in this book. To be honest, I'm not actually sure what he does when he consults with businesses. However, there are still some tips in here about value pricing and dealing with clients and prospects that I think any freelancer could benefit from. He does get a little repetitive and some of the many figures he includes make no sense to me, but it is still a worthwhile read for those who work on their own in one-person businesses.
Profile Image for Bruno Rio.
169 reviews6 followers
November 29, 2018
Million dollar consulting is "How To" enhance your consuktancy approach. It does not provide any guidance or methodologies in any kind of consultancy approach. For me it was a let down.

Nevertheless, it does quite deliver some very interesting and in handy tips. I'd consider it a 4 star book if it was shorter and more straight to the point. The author ends up talking a little bit too much of his own success a bit too much for my sake.
61 reviews7 followers
November 25, 2019
The book is well, like a textbook - and you can relate to it as a consultant with significant years of experience. And to that extent, I believe that I'd go back to it again, whenever I just wanted a checklist to see whether I am doing all the things right :)
A really good investment if you are getting into consultative selling.
Profile Image for Rahi Jain.
6 reviews6 followers
February 20, 2020
I picked this book to read about consulting. Very through book with complete lifecycle of solo consulting business.

Very few books handle complete area with depth in a single book.

He is a visionary with value based consulting but there are so many actionable like proposal building, market gravity, digital usage, team handling to finances.

Complete book for solo consulting.
Profile Image for Mark Miller.
13 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2020
For someone about to get started in the consulting business, this book provides great practical guidance on how to get started.

Alan Weiss paints of picture of what success looks like and describes the path to get there. I listened to the audiobook during a long drive, and plan to listen again when I am able to take notes. I loved all of the specific actionable advice!
Profile Image for Katya.
23 reviews3 followers
March 9, 2020
Second star for a few tidbits of practical advice that I found useful (i.e. value-based pricing and structuring proposals). Absolutely hated the tone of the book, the incessant self-congratulations laced with elitism, and Luddite footnotes.
Profile Image for Jim Tincher.
65 reviews2 followers
July 2, 2020
While I do own a million dollar consulting company, this book nonetheless gave me a ton to think about. I've read some of his other books, but this is that standard. A must-read for anybody considering consulting.
Profile Image for Brian McGurk.
Author 3 books1 follower
March 3, 2021
Really gets you focussed on the business case for your consulting practice and how to maximise return on time investment. Great interspersing of expert tips and case examples throughout to enhance the practical no-nonsense lessons and advice from a seasoned frontline consulting practitioner.
Profile Image for Gabriel.
2 reviews
March 19, 2021
We can use it as a framework to be a successful Consultant

It's not only practical but also well written. Alan has a particular sense of humour and good life stories to tell us. Thank you, Allan.
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