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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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#185: Retaining Your Independence and Objectivity During Interviews

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 27, 2009
After a few weeks on an engagement, I get to know the staff pretty well and have earned their trust. When interviewing them, I want to leverage that trust and not come across as cold and factual. What is the right balance?

One of our primary values as a consultant is our independence and objectivity. Earning the trust of your client is also a measure of consultant effectiveness. You seem to be asking how to trade off one for the other. This is not necessary. You can maintain your objectivity without giving up the trust of the client.

Your ease with, and trust granted by, a client is useful to get into deeper conversations. It is not an offer to provide your opinions or take sides. Imagine the loss of trust if you were the client and word got back to you that a consultant said in an interview that "person X is a jerk"? It might be true, it might be the prevailing opinion, but it is not your place to say so.

Tip: Be very careful to not let your comfort with a client organization slowly morph into inappropriate friendship and bonding. When someone says to you, "I shouldn't be telling you this but . . .", it is likely a breach of another's trust and should be a warning to you to be wary of trusting that person with your own secrets. Do not let yourself slide into a conversation that takes sides or gives opinions for which you may be giving up your credibility or lose the client's trust. Keep your objectivity and opinions to yourself and keep your objectivity, and the client's trust, at the top of your agenda.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  ethics  goodwill  reputation 

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#184: A Consultant's Enthusiasm is Part of Their Value

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 26, 2009
Sometimes a client organization is less than enthusiastic about the change initiative management has started. To what extent is my job as consultant to support the change culture?

Although your scope of work is between you and your client sponsor, anything you can do to support, encourage and facilitate the success of your client's change effort is within your potential scope. Consider that the staff may be reflecting some bad experiences with prior change efforts, the general state of their business or their relationship with management. It also may be that the focus of change is on rational/process aspect and neglects the emotional aspect.

Given that you may be involved with many of the staff, and certainly management, your enthusiasm can make or break the change effort. The ways you prepare for and conduct meetings, the premise under which you interview staff, and the "informal" time you spend talking to staff during the engagement are all reflections of your own enthusiasm for the engagement. If you add a little fun into your change processes with staff (e.g., showing videos appropriate and relevant to the change effort, facilitating upbeat engagement between staff, creating and reinforcing a positive theme to change) they will react more positively to you and the effort. How do you react to people who are "all business and no fun"? Fun can't replace competence but the combination is a powerful addition to your effectiveness.

Tip: Make culture an explicit part of your discussion with your client about your engagement. Tread cautiously if your client is not in the mood to make the change effort a positive experience. You don't want to create an environment at odds with that desired by your client. However, a spirit of excitement and enthusiasm can be a high value-add for your engagement.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  client relations  consultant role 

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#183: Help Others Find You

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I am always amazed by consultants who deliver a memorable talk but sometime later, when I want to ask a follow up question or refer them to a client, I can't find their contact information. It got me to wondering how visible I am to audiences I speak to.

A cardinal rule of sales is to make it easy to buy. This means, at a minimum, making sure every prospect has your contact information. It is amazing how many presentations have no contact info on individual slides or on a page at the beginning or end. Your name, company name, email and phone number should be on every piece of literature, presentation, card, report, disk, and brochure you produce. If possible, add a very brief description of what you provide to a prospect, to trigger their memory of who you are. I regularly come across business presentations years later with no contact information or a business card with no indication of the person's expertise.

This does not mean your documents should look like a NASCAR vehicle, but it does mean anyone can find you to discuss any piece of data, speech, research or advice you produce. Make a plan to assure that each marketing piece and work product has your contact information. For example, develop a template for your presentations that has your website in the footer, and a closing page with contact and brief biographical info.

Tip: Make a list of ten ways you can get something of value into the hands of prospects (e.g., speech, white paper, article, referral, research report, business suggestion) and make sure you have a way to include your contact info on each one. Some are harder than others. For example, when you send a copy of that interesting newspaper article to a client, did you remember to (subtly) include your name on the article?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  presentations 

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#182: Meeting Summary Reports

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I just attended a meeting with my client and the assigned project team. Although there was a lot of really great ideas and approaches discussed, I fear that very little will be acted on and I'm not sure what to do.

Take the "soft" initiative of preparing a summary of the meeting. Organize it in a smart and actionable manner. For instance, include key headings such as "Key Points Discussed", "Issues/Root Causes Identified", "Suggested Actions", "Expected Benefits", and "Open Questions".

Here's a short example...

Meeting Summary
Key Point Discussed: Uncommonly high rate of spoilage in inventory.
Root Cause Identified: Unacceptable level of refrigeration system temperature variation
Suggested Action: Purchase new refrigeration system.
Expected Benefit: The $17,000 cost should be recovered within 16 months based on demonstrable reduction of spoilage. In addition we should see a significant reduction in customer complaints and resulting loss of business.

Tip: Providing a blueprint for action in the form of a well-designed meeting summary will make it much easier for your client to act on the recommendations discussed.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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#181: "What Was Your Greatest Consulting Success?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 23, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 23, 2009
Occasionally a prospect asks about my best and worst consulting engagements. I have a great one and, regrettably, one that didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. Is there any way to polish up the bad one?

Not every prospect asks the question but we do owe them an answer to the real question they are asking. That question is "if we use your services for the project we have talked about, where are the risks and (of less interest but asked for balance) how might you surprise us in a good way?" They are really not as interested in the specifics of your past work unless it affects them (which is logical).

Consequently, avoid the temptation to select the same "best" and "worst" engagement to relate to all who ask. Offer the prospect a choice of one or two of each to discuss. You will have a good idea of what the prospect is thinking but lay out the choices with an explanation. For example, say, "In this case, the client was bought out in mid-project and we were never able to complete the engagement as designed' or "In this case, we ran into a tough relationship with one of the client's managers who kept changing the contract scope." This is an opportunity to show the breadth of your ability to adapt to a difficult situation. The alternative is to pick a story that doesn't help the client understand your abilities.

Tip: You would be better prepared by creating an assessment of each of your projects. For each project, summarize the problem, solution and result as well as a description of "what went well" and "what went poorly." This is great education for your professional development. It would also be interesting to add to the "what went wrong" a prescription of what you would do now to resolve the problem. How does this differ, now that you are older and wiser, than how you reacted originally?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  learning  marketing  proposals 

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