So You Want to Be a Consultant?
“The following letter was written by sales trainer and industry consultant, Charlie Greer. He sends this to people who approach him about working with him as a consultant. Since it seems that more people in the industry want to be consultants, we thought this might be a good message to share. So if you want to be a consultant or sales trainer, you are encouraged to first read the following by the great Charlie Greer…” – Matt Michel
So you want to become a business consultant/sales trainer. If so, read on. I’m going to try to give you a clear picture of the romantic life of a field trainer working on the road. I hope you realize the odyssey in which you are volunteering to embark.
Take a job as an on-the-road consultant and life, as you have come to know it, ceases to exist.
Sounds poetic, doesn’t it?
This job is not for everyone. In fact, you could say that this job is not for anyone but a very, very small few.
This job is not for the squeamish.
Odds are, you won’t make it.
What is your purpose in seeking this position? What is it about spending the next twenty years or so on road, with no friends and no family around you, in unfamiliar surroundings, and being lost most of the time, that appeals to you? What do you seek to gain by doing this?
It’s far easier to start your own shop than it is to be a field trainer living on the road.
The following is a description of the challenges facing a consultant who is living on the road the vast majority of the time. It’s not a pretty picture. My purpose in this is not to discourage you, but to be certain you have a very clear understanding of what you’re volunteering for because I know you don’t.
You think you do, but you don’t.
Everybody thinks they want to do this. They don’t.
They think they do because they don’t know what life on the road is like.
There is no hiding:
Every single thing you do will be held under a microscope. You can’t blow anyone off. You can’t walk away from a customer that’s irritating you. You can’t walk away from or tell off a tech who’s irritating you. You have to be able to be productive no matter what.
You have to be able to get along with people who are going to deliberately try your patience. You will have to be perfect in behavior, appearance, workmanship, language, and sales results one hundred percent of the time, and be separated from your family and friends.
Once you arrive on the scene, you’re stuck there. At least half the time, you will want to walk away after the first or second day, but you can’t. There will never be an escape.
You will finish the week. What’s more, you WILL make the week a success, no matter how impossible that is.
The techs you work with be a “wild card.” If you’re going to do ride-alongs with them, they’ll open their big mouths and blow the sale every chance they get, and you’ll have to recover it. When you do make a sale, they’ll bitch because it will just mean more work for them.
By the way, when you sell a job, you don’t stand around while the tech does the work. The tech will do most of the work, but you will assist. You won’t work as hard as you do now, but you’ll get dirty if you’re smart. One of the comments techs that ride with me make to me regularly is that they’re glad to see that, in addition to insisting on sales efforts, I also insist on a work ethic and in doing quality work. You do that by setting the example.
Believe me, it’s much, much easier to be successful every week in familiar surroundings.
And when they do, there is to be no yelling, no temper tantrums. This is a job for an impossibly patient, tolerant, and tactful person. People will try your patience nearly every day, and you can’t lose your temper once. This will go on for years. Can you imagine going twenty years without losing your temper with ignorant, often antagonistic people, even once?
Again I ask, how long do you think you can do this?
You know how it is. People will bitch about anything, and when you’re working with a client, as far as they’re concerned, they own you for the week. You will not be permitted to take or make personal phone calls during the day. Not even during lunch. For what I get for five day’s work, if I make one personal phone call, I’ll hear about it.
They’ll complain. I have a helluva time just finding the time to make enough business calls to keep this company going.
You can hardly even stop to buy cold medicine if you’re sick. They’ll bitch if they think you use the restroom too much. They watch every little move you make; what and when you eat and drink, your language, every word that comes out of your mouth, your shoes, everything… no kidding.
Also, there’s no quitting early. You work a full day, every day. A lot of clients try to overwork you. I had one client run me for 25 hours straight. You’ve got to handle that with a lot of finesse.
Being a field trainer is like being a rock star, an actor, or maybe a United States Ambassador, with regards to your work attendance. Once you set a date, you can’t miss it. You schedule a week with someone, and YOU WILL SHOW UP! There is only one reason to cancel a date, and that’s a funeral–your own.
That’s not a joke, and it’s not funny.
No kidding. No excuses. Period.
I’ve been on the road since 1990 and have NEVER missed a date. That includes making it to an excruciating week-long tour through the state of Texas ten days after an accident that landed me in the hospital for four days. In other words, five days after I was released from the hospital with a shattered collar bone, six broken ribs, and acres of road rash, I was on a plane to Dallas for a series of one-night stands and being on my feet for day-long seminars.
Think you’re up to that?
No one is going to let you off the hook because you’re having legal problems, problems with your wife, problems with your children, problems with your children’s health, your own health problems, or really anything at all.
Problems at home:
There will be problems, hassles, and details at home that you will be taken away from and will be unable to deal with ̶ ever.
You will lose touch with all your friends. You will never have enough time to spend with your spouse, your significant other, or your children. Any issues unresolved when you leave home will either have to take care of themselves or remain unresolved. If you’re single, you’ll find it difficult to establish a new relationship with someone.
What about your children?
I have no tolerance for someone saying to me a few years down the road (if you even make it that long), “I looked at my children and I realized they were growing up without me.” Why? Am I heartless? No, I’m not. But I already know that’s what’s going to happen. Take a job working away from home most of the time, and your children are going to grow up without you. Come and tell me you “just” realized that, and I’m going to think you’re pretty stupid.
You have to walk into this already knowing that’s what’s going to happen.
Again I have to ask, why would you even want to do that?
Also, be aware that your spouse is going to have to run the entire household and be the only one available to deal with every problem that arises, from car trouble to the eventual trouble your children’s teenage years will cause. That could cause trouble with the relationship.
How much money do you plan to make working with me?
That depends on how many weeks per year you plan to spend on the road. Plan on at least thirty, but probably closer to forty. That means you’ll be away from home, leaving the raising of your child and the entire management of your home to your wife or girlfriend for two to three weeks at a time. You’ll come home for approximately six days, then leave again for another two to three weeks. Hope your spouse is up to it. If so, that’s an unusual person, because very few people are.
Here’s what your schedule will be like:
Most of the time, you’ll work at a shop from Monday through Friday. Every night will be a hassle just getting your dinner. If you want to make any money at this, you’ll be away from home two to three weeks at a time, which means you’ll spend most Saturdays traveling.
You’ll spend Saturday night in a strange town in a hotel room, too tired and too lonely to go out and see the town. Besides, going out and seeing the town gets very old in a very short period of time.
You’ll then sit around all day Sunday wondering where your life is going and what your family is doing.
You’ll be all alone with your thoughts and your loneliness. There will be problems at home. They will need and want you there, but you won’t be there. You’ll be sitting in a hotel room biding your time. You’ll probably have a few crying jags. You might become depressed. The weekends are like being in a state of suspended animation, only you’re awake the whole time.
You’ll take at least one week per month off. Actually, it will be six days at home. After being home for six days, you’ll spend all day Saturday preparing for your next trip.
You’ll then spend all day Sunday traveling.
Finally, after two or three weeks, you’ll travel home on Saturday. You’ll get up early, you’ll get to the airport early, and then you’ll sit around with absolutely nothing to do during the ever-present airport delays.
You do realize that most flights are late, don’t you?
By the way, have you sat in an airline seat lately? They’re making them smaller than they used to.
If the isolation, being away from your family, and the constant pressure to be perfect at every given moment doesn’t force you out of consulting, the airlines just might. No kidding. They will try your patience every time you fly, which will be weekly.
They lie to you constantly. They pack us in like sardines and force us to sit on the runway for hours with no explanation, no refreshments, and you’re not even allowed to get up to use the restroom. The flight attendants are very rude and control-freaks. Have you heard about the increasing frequency of what they’re calling “air rage?” Take this job and you’ll know why it’s happening.
CHARLIE GREER was recently voted “Favorite Industry Sales Trainer,” was also voted “Consultant of the Year” twice, is a “Service Roundtable Servant Leader,” and was recently inducted into the HVAC Hall of Fame. He’s best known for “Tec Daddy’s Service Technician Survival School on DVD,” and “Slacker’s Guide to HVAC Sales.” For more information on Charlie’s products and services, go to www.charliegreer.com or call 1-800-963-4822.
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