Ignorance: The Secret Of My Success

Early in my career I transitioned from a job managing a business for Marriott into a role where my responsibility was primarily to develop new business relationships in the world of consulting.  I had some management responsibility. There was an office with some administrative people, but as the guy in charge, for me, job number one was to get clients in the door.

When I was hired, my boss, the majority shareholder in the firm, told me in no uncertain terms, that the doors to the New York office would close in six months if I didn’t find $1 million in consulting business for the team to work on.

The guy who was in that role before me had only lasted a few months.  He was brought in from the home office in Lincoln, Nebraska and he had a rough time making the transition to New York.

I received a full month of training on “how to be a consultant.” Then I received two weeks of training on the company’s capability.  Then they turned me loose.

I was recruited for this role because of my background in developing businesses in New York.  Sinatra was correct.  If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.   But selling consulting services to the FORTUNE 500 was uncharted territory for me.  Add that to the gun-to-your-head pressure of massive Manhattan overhead expense and you can be sure I was motivated.

Focused as I was, I wasn’t scared.  Yes, I had some anxiety about doing something new and completely different but I didn’t fear failure because I felt like I had nothing to lose.  Here’s why:  The last guy in this job failed and he had been in consulting for 20-plus years.  The odds were stacked against me and the expectations (in my mind) were very low.  I figured, what the heck, I’ll give this my best shot and if it doesn’t work out, I can always go back to planning, developing, and opening hotels.

I brought in the first million in new business in three months.  Three months later I had secured a $5 million contract and a couple of other contracts worth $1 million plus.

At the six-month mark of my tenure in this role, I had secured about $9.5 million in new business.  We hired more people.  The boss was happy. Things were humming along nicely.  In a company where the average contract value was about $250,000, the average value of the contracts for my team was north of $1.4 million.

Then, about seven months into this job, they flew me down to Washington, DC, where all the company big shots worked, and a bunch of the partners in the firm took me to dinner.  They wanted to find out my “secret.”  The benchmark for success in this firm was securing $1 million in new contracts within 18 months of being hired.  Anyone who did that was considered a success.  The most successful partner in the firm, that year, was carrying a book of business valued at about $11 million.  I had closed $9 million in six months.  These guys though I was some kind of savant.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

After dinner in Washington, as we all sat around and smoked cigars and drank an aperitif, the boss asked me, point-blank how I did it.

“Since you told me I had to find $1 million in new business or the office would close, I looked for companies with well publicized problems.  I met with 12 and five gave me the opportunity to present to them.  One of them asked me for a proposal and, since we needed a million, I asked for it.”

Everyone was stunned.

“And the $5 million dollar deal?” the Boss asked.

“Well, one of the 12 companies called me a couple of months later and had a slightly different problem.  Since they called me, I knew they really needed help and they saw some value in what I initially introduced to them.  So I decided to quote them a more significant fee, since they valued our services at a higher level.  They agreed.”

Then the questions started flying:

“What about your methodology?  What about the competition?  What about the economy?  What about the client’s decision-making process?”

I just shook my head and said:

“I never thought about any of that.  I just focused on their problem and the value of solving it.”

By the end of that dinner, my genius (or lack there of) had been exposed.  It was my ignorance of all the obstacles that SHOULD HAVE been in my way, which enabled my success.

Since I was a complete novice in this industry, I was unencumbered by the psychological baggage everyone else had weighing them down.

Here’s how you can use this in your world:

Return to your own ignorance.  Forget your industry norms.  Forget all the reasons why something can’t be done.  Forget about the miscellaneous crap everyone else is whispering in your ear.  Go out and solve some problems and communicate the value of doing so.

Make your business as simple as possible.  Be as easy to work with as possible.  Ask for a fee you are really worth.

Be fair and don’t be afraid.

You’re better than you think you are.

Have a great week.

Oh yeah, I need a favor…

Each week I do a radio show called The 60 Second Sales Show.  You can listen to it on my website: DaveLorenzo.com – Podcast or on iTunes.

Each week I answer a business question from my listeners.

Reach out to me and ask me a question.

You can connect with me on:




I appreciate your help!