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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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#75: Consulting to Friends

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, June 19, 2009
Updated: Friday, June 19, 2009
I have been retained by a long time friend. We have discussed separating the roles of advisor and friend and felt we were clear about boundaries. However, this is just a bit strange and I am beginning to wonder if this was a mistake.

I suggest that, despite your discussion of your respective roles with your client, you still have a problem. Yes, you "disclosed" the facts surrounding the nature of your relationship with your friend. Presumably, you also talked about exactly how you will maintain independence and objectivity, the two foundations for ethical consulting. The fact remains that your advice is still, to some extent, compromised. Recognizing this is a necessary first step to resolving this conflict. Recall Solon's warning that "In giving advice, seek to help, not to please, your friend."

Consulting for family and friends can be done but there are two general ways to step back from the subjectivity in advice you just may not be aware you are providing. The first is to identify those areas in which you have an interest. These might include financial (any loans or shared investments?), personal (marriage or history of intimacy?), or legal (is the contract for consulting services the same as for any other provider?). If these conflicts exist and the scope of your services require you to make personal judgments about the individual who is your friend or the position he or she occupies, then you should offer to recuse yourself from decisions in those area. Second, if your special knowledge or unique perspective or experience makes it difficult to recuse yourself, and with the approval of your client sponsor, suggest bringing in another individual for what would constitute a "second set of eyes" to support you.

Tip: This standard of care should apply not only to the time when you start advising clients, but also throughout the engagement. It is quite possible for you to develop financial, legal or, most common, personal relationships with a client during the course of providing advice. What was a truly independent and objective relationship may no longer be so after a few months, or even years. Your continued vigilance is required to assure a developing relationship does not create a compromise.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  ethics  roles and responsibilities 

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#74: Being Ready for a Conversation About Your Services With Any Prospect

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 18, 2009
I don't have a brochure or hardcopy sales collateral (those are "so 1990") but instead rely on my website for prospects to get a full description of my services. Is this sufficient, especially since my services vary so much, depending on the client?

Just because a sales or marketing strategy is old does not mean it is not effective. Recognizing that a website can provide more dynamic and extensive descriptions than your sales package, consider the purpose of such hardcopy collateral. It serves more than just a source of information, which your website is probably most capable of providing. Having

To a prospect, your brochure or flyer is something tangible (a piece of paper) to represent an intangible service (management consulting). Having a one page (and only one side, at that) focuses attention on a few key benefits or features of your services. You can elaborate, as appropriate, in your discussion but the prospect needs to be clear about what it is you are providing. If you can't get this reduced to a few core principles and benefits, you may not really understand your business value as much as you think. The exercise of "writing a brochure" is not so much in the having as in the creating. Dwight Eisenhower said that “plans are useless but planning is indispensible.”

Tip: At all times, have a one page description of your services. If needed, you can have more than one, but each needs to be complete in itself. Be prepared to use this as a talking guide to review your core services and how these services would be adapted to each client's needs. Your sales presentation will be more refined as a result, with each discussion following a familiar path. After each discussion, adapt and improve your one-pager as needed.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  planning  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#73: How to Get Your Clients to Call You a Second Time

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I have had some great clients that offer glowing referrals but rarely call for more services. One could read several things into this - either these clients got such great service that they just don't need my services again or something worse. How can I tell?

It is usually dangerous to try to ascribe motivations to others without at least some confirming information. When the opinions or conclusions you seek are related to your skills, abilities and services, this conflicts with your objectivity. It will be hard to ever know whether you are truly valued or not by your clients unless you have established a trust relationship with them. Only then can you talk openly about what your client's expectations and how well you have previously or can in the future meet them.

Some types of services are just one-time opportunities, so the lack of follow up does not mean your services were not appreciated. Be realistic about why you may or may not get a second call. The client may need a series of services, of which yours is only one. You can be of as much value by providing the right referrals to the right services (other than yourself) at the right times. This is why having a strong network of other consultants you know well is so important. Clients will remember you when you get them the expertise they need, even if it is not you.

Tip: Knowing if you are valued enough for follow-on work begins by setting clear expectations at the outset of the relationship. Talk about your desire to provide, if appropriate, services over the long-term and explore how/whether you might be able to do this based on your developing understanding of the client and his/her situation. Ask to be able to check in occasionally after your first engagement is compete. However, do this on the basis of having something of value to offer, not just asking "hey, got anything else for me to do for you?" Keeping up with emerging client needs will give you a stream of ideas that will increase the likelihood that you will get that second call.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  client service  consultant role  customer understanding  referrals 

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#72: How Visible is Your Website Relative to Other Consultants?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, June 15, 2009
I can find out how my website's popularity in general but how do I find out whether my website is more popular or visible than other consulting sites?

Use Marketleap to gauge your site's attractiveness relative to other consultant sites. It offers three free services: (1) link popularity check, (2) search engine saturation, and (3) keyword verification. It also provides some resources in search engine optimization (SEO), or how to improve your site's visibility, regardless of where you are now.

Using Marketleap, we can see that IMC USA ranks fairly well, better than PWC Consulting and Consulting Central and less than less than Bearing Point and Accenture (with a lot more resources devoted to maximizing visibility). On Search engine saturation, IMC USA ranks close to Boston Consulting Group.

Tip: See where you rank with each major search engine (Google, AOL, HotBot, MSN, Yahoo, FAST, AltaVista) and use Marketleap's resources to highlight your site. For IMC USA members, this increasing visibility is a solid reason to make sure your consulting profiles are complete and you participate fully in our communities of practice.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  market research  marketing  website 

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#71: Can an Independent Consultant Effectively Use an Intern?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Sunday, June 14, 2009
Updated: Monday, June 15, 2009
I have been getting inquiries from college students about available internships. Having never considered using an intern, I am wondering whether or not this is a good use of my time.

There are two considerations at play here. One is what services you are receiving from an intern to help your business, whether building up your practice or supporting client work. There are several areas in which an intern can leverage your time or create content. For example, an intern can research prospects or industries you have targeted, or maybe edit your initial reports of findings, or do draft (or final if this is their skills) documents or graphics for presentations. Another set of eyes (and perspective) is almost always a good idea, even if they are not as experienced as you are.

The second consideration, which isn't so obvious, is what managing an intern can do for your own skills and abilities as a consultant. Many consultants dismiss the idea of using an intern because "I don't have the time to train or supervise someone." This is a false economy in two ways. First, although true that you will invest time to get them up to speed, this is an excellent test of your clarity of thinking about your methodologies, knowledge and perceptions. How effectively you teach and train an intern is a good measure of how well you know your subject matter. Second, it is a good test of your priorities. Your decision on which projects to put your intern is also a way to refine your business priorities. Is your marketing pipeline more important than next week's deliverable or do you most need to look into a speaking opportunities? The discipline required to manage an intern makes you a better consultant.

Tip: Summer is the usual time when interns are most available but college students (even graduate students) are often looking for part time work. Many students in business, engineering, finance, design, and planning can provide skills and insights into the the latest technologies, techniques and subject matter that you wouldn't necessarily have access to. Plus, they might just be a new hire for you in the future.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  practice management  teaming 

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