All my clients are willing to provide references to my future prospects. However, since I don't know what aspects of my work will be important, I'd rather not get a generic recommendation, so am reluctant to ask for a written recommendation.
Since management consulting is based on trust, a recommendation is important. Almost every prospect will contact a reference, whether or not you provide a written recommendation or not. The absence of a written recommendation can only hurt you in comparison to glowing references in your competitors' proposals. Assuming references are appropriate for your type of work and the bidding process, have a few written references on hand.
You make a good point about generic references. They are so common and often written so blandly that they could apply to anyone. Take a look at references for other consultants and select formats address personal, professional and work styles. Consider if you were hiring a consultant (maybe you would for a subcontractor or teaming partner). What would you want to know up front: Are they easy to get along with? Technically competent? Ethical? Committed to consulting as a profession? Able to react to changes in the scope of work? Effective communicator? And so on.Tip:
Providing your client a recommendation to be signed is unethical. However, you can provide a set of attributes or qualities (similar to those referred to in the questions above) to which he or she can address if they are comfortable. Advise your client how you plan to use the reference and ask whether they want to be informed in advance of your using it (e.g., they may not want a competitor to know of your relationship, or want a heads up if someone will call). Inactive clients appreciate being asked and it is a good way for you to update them on your recent work.© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA