Let me begin by issuing a warning before I dive into my latest book review. Don’t just go to Amazon and search “Getting Naked”. Oh sure, you’re going to get the right book, but you’ll also get a bunch of other stuff you didn’t expect or want to see.

Outside of that, I give Getting Naked an unreserved recommendation for being awesome. This is one of the few books I’ve given a five-star review because it’s one of the few books I think you must read if you’re a consultant. If you don’t read it and take its principles to heart, you’re going to run a poor business.

Getting Naked is written by Patrick Lencioni and is all about why you need to be vulnerable if you want to be a great consultant.

But even if we come to understand this on an intellectual level, most of us will still struggle with vulnerability because we are human beings who don’t like to be weak, which means we are subject to the completely natural but irrational fears that make us uncomfortable being naked. This book is about overcoming those fears, which is not easy.

The brilliance of this book is that it’s a story with a short bit at the end which summarizes the business principles shown throughout the book.

Before you wonder if the fictional Lighthouse consulting firm exists, I’ll tell you it doesn’t, but the author has modeled the fictional firm on his own firm which he’s run for years. Lighthouse is firmly based in the reality of what it takes to run an awesome consulting form.

This was maybe my fifth reading of Getting Naked and it’s in this reading where I realized how much it has informed my consulting practice from the beginning. Here are a few areas it’s informed me and I think that you can benefit from.

On Client Fit

I’ve written entire post series on why you need to have an ideal client and how to build out that profile. I’ve put out a book all about how you can use email to vet your prospects before you even get on the phone with them.

The thing that so many blog posts and books miss is the way to make a point real, at an emotional level. It’s in this reality that Lencioni shines with his story and dialogue, like this:

“And we need to make sure that they’d be the right kind of client. We’ll have a better sense of that next week.”

“What do you mean?” I was confused. “What would make them the wrong kind of client?”

Dick didn’t hesitate. “Well, for all I know the real problem is the CEO. If that’s the case, and he’s not willing to deal with that, then we don’t want to be in there wasting our time and energy, and their money, rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”

I laughed. “I’d be glad to waste their money rearranging the deck chairs as long as they paid me enough.”

Dick laughed too. “We’ve learned over the years that having a bad client is worse than having none.”

“How could that be if they’re paying you?”

Dick didn’t have to think about it. “Well for one, it prevents you from finding other good clients. And you’re unlikely to get a good reference. In fact, they’re likely to tell everyone they know how you weren’t able to help them, because they certainly aren’t going to admit it was their fault.”

With this exchange, you can see fictional character Dick talk through why it’s crucial to only take on ideal clients and not just deal with anyone with money.

Lighthouse is unlike anything that our main character (Jack) has seen before in that they turn away business. For many of you, that’s a foreign thought as well. But if you want to run an amazing consulting practice you need to continually refine exactly what your ideal client will look like, and say no to those prospects and projects that don’t fit in with your ideal profile.

Just start consulting

I regularly offer a free coaching call open to anyone who wants to take it. I offer a free initial consultation to pretty much anyone that will fill out a short questionnaire which I use to get to know their goals better.

Many of these calls don’t turn into clients. A number of them even take the advice I’ve provided and put it to use. When I follow up a few weeks later they’re seeing benefits, and then I never hear from them again unless I reach out first. They don’t become customers.

Despite this, I still take free consults and in that short window try to provide as much value as possible, without worrying about what the prospect may do with the information or if they’re going to become a customer.

“Do you ever worry that you’re going to do too much during your sales call, and that the client will take it and use it and not hire you?”

Dick smiled. “That’s exactly what Matt said after his first few sales calls. And no, I don’t worry about it. Very few people are going to do something like that. If they need help, they need help. Even if what I show them makes perfect sense, they usually know they need help implementing it and getting the rest of their team on board.”

Outside of the reasons Dick uses above I’ve found that those who take my advice and run with it and never pay me for coaching end up being the type of person I don’t want to work with. I’ll hear a few months later about how they’ve treated some client or sub-contractor and wipe my brow in relief.

I don’t want to chase payments from people. I don’t want to have to badger my clients to do the work they need to do to see success. I want to work with people that are going to be motivated and value my coaching.

Those that use the free consult and then continue working with me stay for a long time and we get to know each other really well. I get to help people move from middle five-figure incomes to six figures, all built around a life that allows for margin.

When you’re talking to new prospects, cut a bunch of the sales talk and just start offering value out of the gate. If they take off with the information, they were going to be a bad client anyway so count your blessings that you found out before you accepted money from them.

Just ask the question

One part of this book that has stuck with me since my first reading is that if there is a term I don’t know, I ask about it. Even if I think I’ve asked about it before, I ask. One of the characters (Amy) does this, even with terms that she could have gotten off a hospital TV show. Just like Amy and Jack in Getting Naked, I find that if we’re sitting in a group of people there is usually at least one other person that has no idea, but feels like they can’t ask because they’ve been there too long.

Here’s Jack speaking for most of us as he watches Amy ask questions and express confusion.

As simple as this was, I couldn’t help but think I would have been mortified to ask a client those questions. Though I would have been terrified of being caught, I would simply have pretended to know what they were talking about and then looked up the terms during a break, or, if I was feeling particularly bold, ask someone quietly, one on one.

Amy is demonstrating her comfort with vulnerability here and Jack is seeing it work. As I said, this has stuck with me for years in both my client work and my personal life. If I don’t know something or understand it, I just ask for clarification. There has never been a time when I wasn’t better served by simply asking and having a better handle on the conversation.

Admit Mistakes

Finally, one of the best ways to be vulnerable with your clients is to admit when you made a mistake. Jack does this when he uses the wrong model to advise a hospital and spends two hours telling them incorrect information based off his incorrect assumption.

[Tweet “One of the best ways to be vulnerable with your clients is to admit when you made a mistake.”]

I’ve done this when I’ve crashed a client web server. I did this last year when I migrated content on a site and the whole process went down the garbage chute. I owned up that I made a mistake and gave some clear steps I was taking currently to correct it, and the client was totally fine with it.

I didn’t wait for them to ask why things were broken either. I called them on the phone right away and told them what was happening and what I was doing. Yes it was three days of long hours but the client ended the project loving me, in large part because I owned up to my mistake and then fixed it.

Those are some of the big takeaways that stuck with me the first time I read Getting Naked. They’ve served me well for the 10 years I’ve been consulting clients and they’re going to serve you well as you run your business.

Purchase Getting Naked on Amazon

photo credit: kwl cc