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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 

#671: Is Now the Time to Increase My Rates?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 10, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 10, 2011
With downward pressure on prices in general, and consultant rates in particular, how likely is it that I will be able to raise my rates anytime soon?

Although overall economic strength or weakness may mean overall prices "should" increase or decrease, this has little to do with rates clients will pay for your consulting services. In theory, skills in short supply compel people needing them to pay higher prices. In theory. But that is only part of the story.

When the economy changes, the types of services in demand also change. Don't confuse supply with demand. Just because there aren't many other consultants doing what you do doesn't mean that the demand remains high. Sometimes the demand declines along with supply.

Increasing your rates requires you to make the case to prospects and clients that your services will make them and their business more productive. When the economy slows, there are needs for new or different types of services. Your credibility to provide those services is validation of your greater value.

Tip: Talk to your clients about specifically what has changed in their short term needs. Look at the trade press for points of pain for companies in your area of specialization. For example, for companies with tightened credit or decreased cash flows, how can you recast your services to alleviate these challenges? For example, if your area of specialty is training, often a discretionary expenditure for companies, recast your training to show how your training will increase employees abilities to sell more products and increased cash flow. Show the direct link between increasing cash flow to increase profitability in the emerging economy and your ability to increase employee productivity through usable skills. Be fully prepared for any argument that your services are worth less because "the economy is slow."

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  fees  market research  trends 

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#670: The Curse of Specialization

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 7, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 7, 2011
My mentor and many consulting books tell me that I have to specialize to survive and that the days of the generalist consultant are over. Does this make sense?

Let's step back a bit and ask what specialization gets you as a consultant. Although he didn't start the trend, Frederick Taylor and others have impressed on management the need to examine major business processes in more and more detail. For nearly a century (actually dating back to the Enlightenment of even further), deconstruction of systems presumably has provided more insight, predictability, and, thus, control.

This resulted in rapid specialization of business functions, and professions like law, engineering and consulting followed suit. This subject matter and functional specialization created the organizational silos management now decries and, indirectly, created a need for management consultants and other professionals to bridge and integrate them. It also highlighted the need for a systems view of organizations, made even more critical as systems become more complex and networked.

Thus, the serious downside to specialization is a loss of perspective of first principles about the systems within which you specialized. Ask a consultant with a specialization in human resources about the fundamentals of process management and they may not be able to discuss it, even though those principles are fundamental to understanding how HR functions work. Or see if two consultants in strategy and leadership really speak the same language.

So, to answer your question, it is useful to have one or more areas of specialization for the purpose of gaining a more defined reputation and the ability to deliver highly valued services in a specific market. Remember, however, that the rest of business and management principles are evolving rapidly and you need to be conversant in those principles across the entire range of the enterprise.

Tip: When you develop each year's research and education plan (you do have an explicit one each year, don't you?), remember to include survey work on management topics outside your specialization. For example, if your area is strategy, include in your reading finance, intergenerational relations, quality management techniques, cybersecurity, and emerging topics in business schools (e.g., ethics as a competitive advantage).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  professional development  systems  trends  your consulting practice 

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#669: Strengthen Your Brand With Your Voicemail

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 6, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 6, 2011
How important is my voicemail message?

How important is any aspect of your presence that makes a first (or reinforced) impression? Our voice mail message is often ignored as a part of our branding. Most of our voice messages go something like: "You've reached Mary Smith. I am not here now but if you leave your name and number I'll call you back as soon as I can." Efficient, but it may miss an opportunity to reinforce your brand.

The above message leaves a few questions unanswered. Is there something Mary Smith would like to reinforce in the mind of the caller - such as the fact that Mary is the author of a new book or is known as an expert on supply chain safety? How likely is Mary to call back any time soon (I know one consultant who says "I will return your call at my convenience" - maybe true but hardly customer friendly)? It even sounds like Mary was in a bad mood (or whispering into the phone) when she recorded the message.

Whether the caller is a colleague, client, prospect or reporter, you'd like to make sure they know who you are, what you stand for, and how you want to relate to them. Use your voicemail message to strengthen your brand by scripting what you want callers to think and feel as they leave you a message. Reinforce your core brand. Clarify your operational style and values. Leave them excited about your return call.

Tip: Think about your brand and write a few alternative voicemail scripts. Run them by a colleague and confirm that they accurately reflect your intended image. Consider having someone with an "announcer's" voice record your message. Also, you may want several messages on hand to provide variety or to emphasize different elements of your brand. Once you are using your new voicemail message, ask your friends what they think when they hear it.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  communication  image 

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#668: Offset the Economy's Decline at Confab 2011

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
This economy worries me. Usually an economic decline provides opportunity for consultants. This time, however, clients are pulling back on most fronts. How can I best use this time to strengthen my skills and business pipeline?

Consultants can always use more time, skills and clients. Our income grows as we use time well, specifically by more efficient marketing, service delivery and practice management. Business moves fast, so consultants who don't constantly learn new skills quickly fall behind in their ability to provide high value to clients. Finally, although we nurture long term relationships, we are always interested in finding new clients who could benefit from our expertise.

Anyone can sit at home and read a business magazine or book but the most effective way to strengthen our practices is to engage with other experienced consultants. We learn more from hearing about emerging markets, new technologies and new client service approaches. Conferences provide a perfect crucible for us to get out of our safe zones, ward off consulting obsolescence, build a national network, and fill our business pipeline. We can't do that from a book or talking to our long term colleagues.

The best conference by consultants and for consultants is Confab 2011, an intense 2 1/2-day conference (October 22-24, 2011) that builds your value and access to clients. Now in its 34th year, Confab is being held at the newly renovated Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, NV. This conference is well known for its unique sense of sharing, where your new colleagues make introductions, sessions bring new marketable skills and your practice expands.

Tip: We can stay home and hope the economy turns around in our favor or take charge and invest in a known business builder. For less than a single day's consulting fees, Confab is a profitable investment to launch, expand or refine your business. Hear what successful consultants who attend year after year say about its value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  conference  consulting colleagues  consulting skills  consulting tools  innovation  marketing  networks  practice management  professional development  referrals  teaming  trends  your consulting practice 

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#667: Cell Phone Manners

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 4, 2011
The great thing about texting is that I can stay in touch with people even when I am in a meeting without interrupting anything. Isn't this better than taking a cell call?

The message you send (and I mean the one to your client, colleague or others with whom you are meeting, and not the text message) is that they are easily demoted to lower importance by anyone else who happens to want your attention. Most people feel the same way about being bumped by a text message as being told by someone with caller notification who says, when beeped in the middle of a call, "oh, just let me see who this is." The message is that whatever we are talking about is so unimportant that, even though I don't know who is on the line, I'd rather be talking to them.

The same applies to texting, even though it is less obvious. If you know you are likely to be interrupted with an emergency message (e.g., waiting for word from the hospital) then announce this in advance to the person or group you are meeting with, just as you would with an expected incoming phone call. If you must make or receive a text, excuse yourself from the room while you do it. Just because it does not involve conversation does not mean that it does not interrupt or annoy others.

Tip: The good thing about cell phones is that you can turn them off when you are in a meeting or talking with someone else. Giving them your undivided attention is just a matter of basic respect.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  goodwill  meetings  reputation  technology 

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