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Between 2005 and 2011, IMC published Daily Tips every weekday on consulting ethics, marketing, service delivery and practice management. You may search more than 800 tips on this website using keywords in "Search all posts" or clicking on a tag in the Top Tags list to return all tips with that specific tag. Comment on individual tips (members and registered guests) or use the Contact Us form above to contact Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Daily Tips author/editor. Daily Tips are being compiled into several volumes and will be available through IMC USA and Mark Haas.

 

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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#195: Using Case Studies to Expand Your Thinking

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 11, 2009
I am either "in the groove" or "in a rut" with my consulting, depending on the day. I am really successful at what I do but have been doing it for many years. What are some ideas for exploring other industries or disciplines?

Two ideas come to mind, one about doing and the other about thinking your way to a "new groove." First, talk to colleagues about teaming as a way to experience new areas and types of consulting. Use your industry experience to team with colleagues who bring other disciplines to bear. The combination of, say, your finance skills with a colleague's marketing expertise will expand your perspective and skills in the same industry. A few of these experiences of leveraging your skills can lead to a more interesting consulting practice. Alternatively, work with others with expertise in the same discipline who work in other industries. You may find that your "rut" is really boredom with the same industry, not with your particular discipline.

Second, dedicate some time to working on case studies. These provide a way to quickly take a broader view of different disciplines or industries without working through individual engagements.

Tip: Even if you are not in a rut, pick up a few books with cases studies to go through. Fiona Czerniawska and Paul May's Management Consulting in Practice: A Casebook of International Best Practice provides two dozen short cases, a few in each of human resources, operations, etc. Another source is in The Strategy Process: Concepts, Context and Cases (3rd Edition) provides several strategy related cases of large companies, whose effectiveness you can probably see (the cases are drawn from the 1990's).

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  knowledge assets  learning  professional development  your consulting practice 

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#194: The Close is a Challenge for Both Consultant and Prospect

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 10, 2009
When the close for a consulting engagement takes a long time or never happens, I always wonder what I could have done differently. How can I get over this feeling that I didn't do enough?

In good times, clients call us out of the blue and referrals reach out to inquire about our services. The new normal is that businesses are more prudent about investing in outside advisors instead of fully using existing staff. Your need to make the case of your services as a wise investment hasn't changed, but the bar has been raised. The world changes even if you don't and your attitude going in to a pitch determines to a large extent how you feel after.

Consider your discussion with prospects as an proposed exchange of "value for value." You have something of value (expertise) and they have something of value (compensation). Assuming you have correctly characterized the opportunity or challenge they face, you may or may not reach agreement on fair compensation or the path forward. That evaluation by the client is only partly under your control and they may not see your value or be able to compensate you adequately for it. Remember, the close is as much a challenge for the prospect as it is for you. If you are even having the conversation, they see intrinsic value in your expertise. A "no" only means that your perceptions of the value differ, and is usually as much a disappointment to the prospect as much as it is to you.

Tip: As many books on closing will tell you, a "no" does not mean your services have no intrinsic value. It just means that they don't for this client at this time. Lest you think this lets you off the hook, a "no" is also an opportunity and a challenge to refine both your selection of prospects and sales pitch so that you can find the best chance to get to "yes" next time. Although it may be a disappointment at the time, consider a "no" as advice on how to increase the value of your services.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  communication  customer understanding  market research  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#193: How Your Clients Should See Your Performance

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, December 9, 2009
On long engagements, I always worry that increasingly familiarity leads to clients no longer highly valuing my services. Even if I am not "going native," how do I assure clients continue to value my services?

For those not familiar with the term, "going native" means spending so much time at a client site you become considered one of the staff. For example, if you are asked to be a member of the committee to plan the annual picnic, you have long ago gone native. Every consultant wants to provide high quality, relevant and timely services. Doing so will mean that your services maintains their ""wow" factor and leads to client appreciation of their value. What can happen, however, is that your highest value services are delivered at the beginning of the engagement and later services are seen as less valuable.

At some point, management and staff start to see your services as something that they can provide. One way this can happen is that the capabilities of the client organization improve so much that they truly can conduct activities originally thought to be only possible by the consultant. You may have underestimated their improvement, or overestimated their need for your expertise. Either way, when your services lose value in the eyes of the client, it is time to reset your engagement plan. Ultimately, the client gets to choose when your services are in demand.

Tip: Florence Nightingale once said about nursing, "Nursing is… an honorable calling. I must not crave for the patient to be always recognizing my service. In the contrary—the best service I can give is that the patient shall recognize my presence MOST by recognizing that he has NO wants." Have you done such a good job that clients no longer need your services?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  consultant role  engagement management  ethics 

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#192: When Your Win/Loss Ratio Seems Low

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I have been losing a lot of prospective engagements lately. Even when the clients specifically call me to see what I can do for them, the ratio of wins to losses is way down.

There is certainly a lot of competition in the market today and, as the economy starts to recover, the consulting market has not yet hit bottom. Although various consulting markets are on their own schedules relative to the economy, generally consulting lags the business cycle by one or two quarters. When the economy started down, the consulting market was still relatively good. Now that the economy is picking up, clients are still cautious about engaging consultants. This is especially true in markets where management salaries are being cut and staff laid off. It is hard to justify to staff why a company is paying consultants when staff is being cut back (even if this is a logical investment from a business standpoint).

At a minimum, don't get upset by your win/loss ratio. Remember that George Washington only won three of the nine major US Revolutionary War battles he commanded. He knew that some losses were acceptable against unfavorable conditions. He was positioning himself for battles he knew he could win, even though he knew he needed to at least partially engage in battles he would probably lose.

Tip: Focus on the types of engagements that play to your strength but more so to the emerging needs of clients. Instead of thinking about what consulting services you prefer to provide, consider what services your clients need most to emerge from the recession in a stronger position. Pay attention to their reasons for why they can't use your traditional services right now. Turn a rejection of your services into a learning opportunity.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  learning  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#191: Making a Powerful Impression with Stand Alone Presentations

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 7, 2009
Updated: Monday, December 7, 2009
I would like to find some way to differentiate my consulting company. We have nice collateral, both design and content, but it seems many others do as well. How do I separate myself from the consulting marketing noise?

In any competition for mind share, the key word is memorable. To stand out from the clutter, your few seconds in front of a client must be high quality, relevant to the prospect's needs, and have an element of intrigue. There are legendary stories of product sales pitches for which a demonstration was vivid and relevant and became the new standard for that industry (usually until the creator of that novel pitch came up with something even more memorable).

It is important is to weave your service value into a story. An archetypal story with a setting (in this case, the business environment), protagonists (your prospects and their competitors), conflict (the "unsolvable" problem or opportunity they face) and resolution (that would be your services) is a powerful weapon to get them to consider your firm. This is more than a case study, which appeals to the intellect. Create a narrative that appeals to their emotion - it is likely to be the only one they hear.

Tip: Also consider format. Most consultants know the "Shift Happens" or "Did You Know" videos. Consider the impact (as evidenced by the number of viewings on YouTube) these messages have. Rather than putting your "corporate capabilities" into a folder of slick sheets, what if you created a 3-4 minute presentation that got right to the point about the pain your solutions could reduce? Because it is about the client and not the consultant it is more emotionally engaging. The unique and fast pace of the format makes it more intriguing and easy to absorb. The fact that the structure leads directly from their problem to your solution makes it effective. Finally, if you host it on your site, if allows people to look around for other services they might need. If it is really good like the Did You Know videos, it might just go viral!

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  presentations  proposals  sales 

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