How Did You Get That Gig?

I’m packing my bag getting ready to head for home. I have a 13:00 local time departure from St Paul, then an 18:00 from O’Hare which is due to get me into London Heathrow at 06:45 Thursday morning. I’ve had a great time meeting some friends in real life for the first time and I’ve enjoyed some fascinating work and learning with the project management community of Thomson Reuters and beyond. When I get home I’ll write more on both of these things.

For now though – I want to try and answer a question I’m often asked, namely ‘How did you get that gig?’ In all honesty I don’t have the answer totally nailed, but here are a few things that seem to bear fruit, eventually.

Be open to possibilities. I think social media can be a great enabler for this, and I love the chance to forge lots of weak ties (as written about by Malcolm Gladwell, Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen), some of which will strengthen in time.

Be patient. I choose to come from a place of trust, that is to say that my tendency is to trust you first, and ask questions later. However when you’re engaging with others who act on behalf of their professional body, or their company, they may not have that latitude. Give them the time and the means to get to know you and see the trust you place in them. Don’t push it…too hard.

Hustle – very gently. Neil Morrison once referred to me as the least pushiest sales guy you’ll ever meet, and whilst I like that, I also need to remember that it’s OK, maybe even essential to nudge things along at times. I’m rarely that important to someone in a busy working environment, and neither are you. So don’t take it personally, but do take the time to check in.

Practice your ass off. The feedback I get is that people appreciate the adaptable and flexible nature of working with me. And that flexibility is only achieved through hours and hours and hours of practice. Most of what you practice you’ll probably never need, but whether you are speaking, facilitating or consulting, you need to be confident that you are the best prepared person in the room. That way you can relax (a bit!) and both give, and help co-create great value.

Be humble. My work is all about you. I exist to serve and I consider that a huge privilege. I have never knowingly accepted work unless I genuinely believe it is in the client’s best interest. I’ve turned opportunities down and walked away from an assignment when it became clear that the time for me to add value had expired, even though the client was willing to continue. For it to be right for me – first it has to be right for you.

So there you have it. Five things that sometimes, kinda seem to work. And yet here’s the rub. I’m often wrong, I’m often right, I rarely know which is which and I reserve the right to change my mind. If you are happy to share what works for you, I and others would I’m sure appreciate that. And if you have experiences of me you are willing to share, particularly if you think I can learn and improve from them – well that would be great.


Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

2 thoughts on “How Did You Get That Gig?”

  1. Doug, great thoughts. Yours isn’t a fast sales cycle, but a powerful one. And an honest one. The focus on the customer is felt, heard, and understood. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence I’m amazed at how terrible many are at “selling” their services. I have to put selling in quotes because they are so bad I refuse to buy, so I guess they aren’t technically selling. Some of my fondest memories:

    1. The person who showed up totally unprepared and winging it, telling me why his plan was brilliant without every listening to my needs/wants/concerns, ignoring my assistant, talking down to me (even though I was much more experienced), pushing a personality assessment and then excusing all of his boorish behavior with his own personality type.

    2. The person who told me how important it was to them to build a relationship with me and asked what they could do to solidify it. After I told them to keep checking in and let it build over time, that was the last I heard from them.

    3. When I started asking about the validity of another’s personality assessment he said, essentially, “No personality assessment is valid, but ours is cheapest so you should use it.”

    4. The one who told be he’d be upset if I went with another training vendor because he’s local and should get my business. I guess in his mind all training is the same and interchangeable. And I should decide what’s best for my company based on not hurting his feelings… sheeesh.

  2. Hi Doug

    first things first – safe journey home! Secondly – yes, it is a slow and gentle sales cycle which is true of most relationships. It takes ages to make friends with people, real friends. (and I am about to read – ‘to sell is human’ by Daniel H Pink).

    I’ve got to the age where I only want to work with people I like (people with good values). The advantage of that is I think it becomes a virtuous circle – you bring heart and honesty to the situation which makes it better for everyone, so they like working with you etc etc so they work with you more and refer you and vice versa. So my only caveat to your ‘list’ is the minute someone starts to bullshit you, behave arrogantly, try and just take – drop ’em. And spend the time on cultivating genuine relationships with genuine people.

    This doesn’t discount the fact that it takes time to build a sense of trust etc with people who may be more reticent – absence of engagement doesn’t mean that it won’t eventually happen – I agree with you. It just means, don’t work against your own personal values.

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