Mr. Refined sat down with Nkrumah Pierre, founder of PLG Consulting and the mastermind behind The Tastemakers Networking Series – a curated networking experience.
Mr. Refined (MR): Talk to me about PLG Consulting, your background and how it came about?
Nkrumah Pierre: During my professional career, the majority of my roles have been in sales and business development. I found that sales was not done in an authentic fashion from my peers and people in other lines of business doing sales. If people could just be more honest, cut the fluff and add value upfront, then sales would be easier and a more respected industry. People are like: “Oh, so you’re a sales guy? Are you selling me right now? Are you going to get 100% of this deal? Do you get commission? Are you only selling this hard because you want to get it off your desk?” If sales professionals took a step back and considered the following: (1) demonstrate more empathy with clients and (2) recognize the client as a person – overall the sales process would be much more authentic and natural.
PLG starts by: (1) making sales people better by creating a business development strategy; (2) understanding how you or an organization sells; and (3) understanding who your clientele is. Once we understand all of those things about a company, then I will pitch PLG’s services as a sales and business development consultant to help with increasing revenues and sales via strategic introductions. What I realized during my tenure in sales was that: (1) sadly the majority of sales professionals aren’t authentic for a variety of reasons – not adding value; and (2) when I received an introduction from someone else (well respected and highly regarded) my odds of closing a new prospective client went up 50%. Typically, because the person making the introduction is trusted, well respected and highly regarded; the introduction helps to dispel any negative connotations. Now the prospective client is focusing on what I’m saying instead of sizing me up- because the introduction says – “he’s legit, and in the circle of trust, so now let’s figure out where his product or services can fit in.” There is an energy and paradigm shift after a strong introduction has been made, because the person has been vetted.
Don’t put me in a box by asking, “what do you do, where did you go to school, do you have your master’s degree?”
PLG provides training, business development strategy and gets paid to make introductions. In essence, PLG is the E-Harmony for small and medium sized businesses. I am a Master Connector. When you mention that you are a consultant, people always ask what kind of consulting do you do? When people ask me what I do within the first eight seconds of meeting me, I’m usually turned off- not because I’m ashamed of what I do- because back to my original point, during initial meetings and or while networking- the goal is to get to know someone’s background – NOT TO JUDGE! Don’t do that. Don’t put me in a box by asking, what do you do, where did you go to school, do you have your master’s degree? Do that later through our conversation. You’ll get there. Don’t fast track the conversation only to determine if I’m worth your time, if I can only help you, or if you can do business with me. I’ve done sales for ten years. People that win are the people that get to know individuals. You’re not going to sell every person you meet, that’s just reality. But, if you meet someone and can introduce them to a prospect and they hit it off, oh my goodness – sky is the limit. At that point, you have instantly added value.
MR: What type of businesses do you work with?
Nkrumah Pierre: One of my main clients is a $55MM national executive recruiting firm. Some clients ask: “Why are you some comfortable in opening your rolodex to us? Don’t you value your contacts?” I’ve built a rapport with the people in my network that is so strong that 9/10 times said individual (friend or client) is going to look to me first for their business. I’m a strong believer in earning my client’s business, if I’m not the best in my craft, go to someone else, someone who is! If I’m not in the situation, mental or financial state of mind to help them, then I will refer it out. My point is this, if my client and I have a strong relationship and I introduce them to you and you try to steal them from me: (1) if I have done my job well and provided top notch service, they aren’t going anywhere since I have in effect earned their business and loyalty; and (2) if I make introductions to good people/service providers- that they would not have known about but for PLG – clients typically remember me as an asset and make referrals. “Wow – PLG made that introduction.” That’s valuable. It’s like a marriage and someone asks, “How did you two meet?” If someone introduced the couple, typically that person who made the introduction is involved in some capacity at the wedding and highlighted or it’s stated to the wedding attendees how they met through you. At the end of the day, when a great bond or introduction has been made, you remember the connector.
MR: What services do you provide?
Nkrumah Pierre: We make strategic, strong introductions for people to broker deals and to do business together. If PLG connects you to that person who helps you close a deal and make your first million, I guarantee you will remember Nkrumah and PLG. I was doing a lot of these types of introductions for free until I started PLG 14 months ago. For the past ten years, I was always making strategic introductions and setting up meetings for my strong contacts. I realized that I love networking. For a lot of people the best compliment is getting a referral. For me the greatest compliment is when people that I introduce make a connection outside of PLG – hanging at a bar or going on a golf trip. They’ve built an authentic relationship that would not have happened without my introduction. The reason I refer to myself as the master connector is because countless times I have been referred to as the “king of networking,” or “best networker,” by my clients and then a couple of articles began referring to me as the “master connector” a term that I decided to own and build a business around.
PLG’s Tastemaker series was created through the lens of, “how do you add value?”
MR: What is the Tastemaker Networking Series?
Nkrumah Pierre: I’ve been networking for 10 years and have attended thousands of events. During the Tastemaker Series I strive to create an environment of like-minded professionals that are open to building relationships and adding value. I invite a lot of my high level connections – openly sharing my Rolodex. The Networking Series is not a meet-up where you are forced to navigate a room full of novices. Invitees are individuals who are great at what they do and are usually revenue generators. Easily, I go to thirteen meetings a week. Networking events are opportunities to get in front of 100 people either current or new contacts in one location! I use the networking events as an opportunity to also catch up with my connections and make strategic intros for my clients – efficiency and adding value are truly important to me.
MR: What are your goals for the upcoming Networking Series?
Nkrumah Pierre: One goal is to help my client, Harlem Besame. They are sponsoring this event to diversify their clientele via an introduction to a younger professional crowd. Social media also comes into play because people get to see who’s in your social circle. Other goals for this Networking Series: (1) Smooth run of show; (2) 200 attendees of like-minded professionals the room; and (3) solid ambiance. I’m all about energy of the room – business is usually a byproduct of events or opportunities where influential people congregate and come together for the right reasons.
MR: What is special about this event that you feel isn’t present in current networking events? – What about it you feel people won’t get anywhere else?
Nkrumah Pierre: Typically at networking events folks have the mindset of: me, me, me, which is self-serving and very myopic. PLG’s Tastemaker series was created through the lens of, “how do you add value?” I know most of the attendees either personally or professionally and a lot are proven in their industries – my network has been curated. On Wednesday, February 18th I will be opening up my rolodex and invite you to connect with other people in their stratosphere. The rich don’t go to country clubs simply because they love to play golf. But they join these clubs, to network and meet individuals who are similar to them. So why are so many deals done on the golf course? The barriers to entry for playing golf or joining a country club are much higher than getting on a basketball or tennis court. Therefore, there is an exclusivity component, which tends to lead to deals being made. PLG is putting a lot of social capital into this event and we want our Tastemaker Series to be successful and grow organically.
PLG’s strategies for our clients are bespoke- based on strengths, weaknesses, and value proposition.
MR: Who are the types of people that would benefit most for this event?
Nkrumah Pierre: (1) Business development and sales professionals; (2) Job seekers – folks unhappy with their current role or underemployed; (3) Senior business professionals; and (4) Entrepreneurs – not those that have simply bought a domain name, but those that have a proven business idea. Overall, the event is meant for like-minded professionals who enjoy connecting with one another.
MR: Who would you like see as a part of this in future, who currently isn’t?
Nkrumah Pierre: We’re always looking for new sponsors. Our current sponsors are: SC Capital Investors, Evok LLC, The Apollo, Harlem Besame, and Hendrick’s Gin. Sky’s the limit for new sponsors. Every event has had different sponsors. That’s a tough act to keep up. I’d like to see more strategic partnerships like Mr. Refined and/or a new liquor company.
MR: I see the Apollo is a sponsor on the flyer; can you talk a little about your relationship with them and how that came about?
Nkrumah Pierre: Apollo is a non-profit, so they are not writing a check – but more like a stamp of approval. My wife and I are raising $10-15k in 2015 for the Apollo’s Young Patrons Program. We were looking for a non-profit to support in Harlem. We both love the arts and education. I used to play saxophone and band. My wife is a concert violinist, so this was a good non-profit for us to support. We agreed a couple months ago. The Apollo brand is what we want – and we help to attract a new wave of Apollo attendees and potential folks to be part of the Young Patrons Program.
If you don’t take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of me as your client?
MR: How would you describe your style?
Nkrumah Pierre: Clean, innovative, a little bit retro, and contemporary. A lot of my initial style came from when I worked on Park Ave after graduating from Lafayette College and I’d see a guy in a white seersucker suit and nice loafers in the summer with no socks. Back then I couldn’t afford outfits like that. I was wearing the $29.99 Donald Trump shirts from Macy’s. But as I got older and had more money, my style game elevated.
MR: Where do you get your fashion sense and what inspires it?
Nkrumah Pierre: My style game was always trying to mimic the dude in the boardroom – during my tenure at M & T Bank, I was able to observe the real movers and shakers of the commercial and real estate industry – initials on the pockets, white collar on a blue shirt, tie bar, and bow ties not pre-made. I noticed that the people winning deals during mortgage committee meetings also looked the part. Their suits weren’t oversized, but fitted. They’re shoes were always shined. These guys had manicures- the attention to detail was imperative. I started to mimic those things. The next thing was having fun with it and switching it up with suspenders, colored socks, custom suits. My style evolved by taking risks and making mistakes. With social media, you can see like 80 different outfits in one sitting, seeing the world around you and social sphere. It’s superficial, but people judge you by the way you dress. You can be full of it, but if you wear a fly suit, people will pay attention to you. The other piece is health and wellness. Are you taking care of your body? Eating right? Exercising regularly?
MR: How would you describe the connection between fashion and business?
Nkrumah Pierre: Some say perception is not reality and others believe perception is reality. In business, you have one opportunity to make a first impression. You might be able to redeem yourself later, but a lot people stick with that first impression. From what I’ve seen, folks that pay attention to their appearance will also play close attention to your business when they win it. I take care of myself how I take care of my clients. It’s a reflection of how I do business. If you don’t take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of me as your client? Fashion and business go hand in hand because I want my client to look good. I was born in Manchester, England. In England they use the term “bespoke,” which means tailored, custom service. I like to use the bespoke model and give that type of custom service to my clients. Every approach is different. I am not a Men’s Warehouse consulting service. I am a bespoke service, like my suits, which are custom fitted for my body. PLG’s strategies for our clients are bespoke- based on strengths, weaknesses, and value proposition.
For more information about PLG Consulting be sure to visit to: www.pierreleegroup.com