Narcissists. They attract admirers like trick-or-treaters to chocolate. Countless throngs buy their offerings—metaphorically or literally. As consultants, we don’t want to be narcissists; yet, narcissistic competitors can eat your consulting business alive.
Narcissistic personalities have been very visible as of late. Many may be what Michael Maccoby calls “productive narcissists,” whose aggressive energy, engaging charm, and relentless self-importance power impressive business success.
Why do they succeed? Studies show that people in turmoil or facing uncertainty are especially likely to follow a strong leader who promises easy, pain-free passage to an extraordinary future.
Since buyers of consulting services are typically searching for relief from unsettled, tumultuous situations, or for an easy path to success, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are especially drawn to narcissistic consultants.
Let’s call this class of practitioners D.O.N.s, for Defiantly Outrageous Narcissists. (D.O.N. is an acronym. It does not refer to any person who happens to have a similarly spelled name.)
When you compete for consulting business with a D.O.N., he’ll usually win. His sheer bravado, over-the-top charisma, and hyperbolic claims (minimally supported by facts) mesmerize the client.
How do you compete with consultants like that?
First, I am not recommending you become a productive narcissist.
Those personalities can appear pretentious and disdainful of others’ ideas. They often maliciously lash out at others who question them.
So, what beneficial traits can you adopt from D.O.N.s that will help your consulting business, while leaving the nasty bits behind?
Polish Your Image
D.O.N.s master and maintain an appealing look. They typically dress impeccably and surround themselves with objects that scream success.
You don’t have to adopt a Robb Report lifestyle; however, your marketing materials should present you as financially thriving. Invest in fine clothes and luxurious accoutrements for your client meetings and splurge (without flinching) when you take them out for a meal.
Attend to Your First Impression
Those first moments and minutes with a new prospect are crucial. Practice them.
Carefully consider how you look and sound, as well as what you’re thinking and feeling. Are you internally and externally confident and compelling?
Communicate the Big Picture
D.O.N.s make sweeping, grandiose promises. Before you dive into details, paint an alluring image of the future.
Concentrate on the bold strokes—the handful of major, high-impact elements in your approach. Rehearse sketching out your overarching models in broad, enticing terms.
Get (and Take) Credit
D.O.N.s claim responsibility for every positive client result, from an uptick in profits to sunny weather at the company picnic. It’s an effective approach.
Collect testimonials, track concrete results, and, importantly, highlight your successes when talking with prospects. Toot your own horn, my friend.
By the way, one advantage you have over D.O.N.s is your willingness to share the credit for success with others.
Crank Up Your Charisma and Confidence
D.O.N.s practically sweat charisma, and appear supremely self-confident, which is highly appealing to buyers of consulting.
Take on the hard work of burying your doubts deeper, and identify a handful of small changes that will bolster your personal magnetism. These could include your stance, bearing, speech patterns, willingness to smile, or even your ability to tell a joke or two.
Are you already attractive to clients? Absolutely! I have no doubt.
Nevertheless, each of us can look at the example set by narcissists and, without worry of going too far, adopt more traits that appeal to prospects.
Boast a little right now! What attribute of yours has helped your business? (Set aside any shyness about sharing publicly—tooting your horn a bit is the whole point!)
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.