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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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#60: The Customer is Not Always Right

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 29, 2009
Updated: Friday, May 29, 2009
My clients range from wonderful to challenging. What are some tricks to trade the latter for the former?

What you consider wonderful and challenging depends on what you value in a client. Is it intellectual stimulation, socially productive work, or just a fast pay cycle? Regardless, the clients you have are a function of the clients you seek and cultivate. When you set your marketing and sales plan in motion, are you placing a high enough weight on those factors you value and excluding prospects (or evolving clients) who exemplify factors you don't like? Consultants are susceptible to the same blind spots when it comes to selecting clients as any other consumer - we sometimes ignore factors that would improve our decisions.

Perhaps one of the common blind spots is the assumptions on which we evaluate our current clients. for example, as advisors, we seek to serve the interests of our clients and assume their purposes, their approach and our role is all to the good. Unfortunately, the customer is not always right (for us). Are we pursuing a high fee client for one that causes us endless aggravation? Do we decide to enter into a relationship with an interesting engagement that results in our putting up with long hours? Have we stuck by a client whose speed of payment and intellectual challenge of the task long ago slowed to almost nothing? It might be time to reevaluate how we select (or at least pursue) our clients.

Tip: What may look like a dream customer to others may just not be right for you. Think about the 80/20 rule and identify that 20% of your business you would elect to get rid of if you had the chance. Be very clear about your evaluation protocol, including revenue, lifestyle, work environment, professional growth, etc. Now work hard to replace that bottom 20% and, when your task or engagements are at an end, find a colleague to refer those customers to. You can choose to replace the when that customer is not right for you.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  customer understanding  marketing  planning  prospect  sales  your consulting practice 

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#59: Getting to Yes in Securing New Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 28, 2009
Updated: Thursday, May 28, 2009
No surprise that it takes a longer to get new clients than retain past ones. However, it is distressing how long it takes to get in sync with a prospect when you are both mature professionals. Are there any shortcuts?

There are not, nor should there be any "shortcuts." The process to build trust takes as long as it does because both parties need to get to a place where they are as comfortable as they need to be to do business. In the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time, Greg Mortenson tells about the slow steady process in Baltistan (northern Pakistan) required to build trust. He relates a Baltistani proverb that says, "The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time, you are an honored guest. The third time you become family." Maybe it takes more or less times than three times, but you still need to go from introduction to trusted advisor.

Tip: Getting to yes means making haste slowly. Be deliberate in the relationship development process, taking each step with specific outcomes in mind. How long do you think it will take for your prospect to think of you as family?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  client development  client relations  communication  customer understanding  goodwill  marketing  sales 

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#58: Creating in Front of Your Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Updated: Thursday, May 28, 2009
I like to be prepared with slides and data that I might need about questions that might come up during a briefing or meeting. How much "extra" preparation is appropriate for a presentation?

Although part of your job is to be prepared for any briefing, presentation or discussion you have with your client (or a prospect), having all the answers may be less important than being able to create the answers. What I mean is that people are more amenable to understanding and accepting reasoning that is developed at a pace at which they can apply logic and absorb. When you come loaded with "all the data" on prepared slides or charts, you may miss an opportunity to adapt to the conversation and go in a new direction.

It is a marvelous skill to be able to go from a blank piece of paper to a wonderfully compelling graph, chart, list or figure. This process mirrors the recipient of your presentation's path from not knowing what you are going to say to fully understanding it. Thrusting a complex chart in front of someone, as may consultants are wont to do, can overwhelm even the most knowledgeable client.

Tip: Spend some time developing your artistic skills. Not all of us are naturally good at drawing. Practice with notebook paper and easel paper in drawing your assumptions, logic, findings, schematics, recommendations and picture of the future after your recommendations are implemented. Bring graphics into discussion lets you engage both the right and left brain and more easily get your message across. One trick for drawing on an easel in front of a room: prepare your charts ahead of time in light pencil, sketching out figures and lists of most likely items to list. When it is time to "create" the charts, you will have both an easier time drawing and a readymade set of memory aids that will allow you to go with the flow.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  meeting preparation  meetings  presentations 

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#57: Getting Visibility for Your Blog or Content

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The blogosphere is getting crowded and I'm at a loss of where else to promote my website, blog or written material.

There is probably no one "best" target for getting your message out, since it depends on the industry, what type of information you are promoting, and the type of response you are seeking. I do have a tip for you, however, on one approach to setting up a comprehensive strategy for any specific type of content. Draw up a schematic on how your target audience gets its information and what ways you are most comfortable in sending it out. This may seem overly simplistic but it quickly gets complex as you realize how many possible vectors there are (website, blog, audio or video, webinars, Twitter, social networking, disciplinary or industry forums, online affinity groups, etc.). Start crossing off the routes that you consider ineffective or methods you prefer not to engage in. Eventually, you will come up with a "best" strategy for you, for the reaction you want and for the current time.

The graphical exercise is important and one that many consultants will refuse to do, considering it easier to do a list. But forcing yourself to think through the spatial representation of the universe of possible routes to get noticed is the key to this exercise. You may have to test the routes you have selected to see if they indeed get you the response you expect, but you will have a graphic that will allow you to see your options.

Tip: Use compilations of publicity and networking lists to help you get started. As you go through these suggestions, place them on your schematic in a way that is most understandable to you. Build the consulting practice universe that works for you.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  blogs  communication  publicity  website 

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#56: Low Budget, High Effectiveness Visibility

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 25, 2009
What are some moderately priced ways for consultants to increase visibility and connect with customers?

Slow markets are exactly the time to step up your marketing efforts. Customers want more information about what kind of services and skills you have than in the past. A list of past clients, and services offered don't seem to differentiate you enough. Given that list and description of your "approach" to providing services is "what you do," it is critical that you find a way to help customers understand "who you are."

You know the long-standing methods: advertising, membership in networking groups, attending conferences, etc. These don't give a prospect much insight into who you are. You've also heard of high-tech approaches that some praise as the "wave of the future": airline radio, teaching, YouTube videos, CD by mail. What has become increasingly clear, however, is that some of these methods are questionable as to their effectiveness in today's business culture. Much of the problem with these is that they are too fixed in how they present your qualifications.

Tip: Customers look for someone with insight into their emerging problems. Show them how you think, not just what you do. This puts a premium on regular blogging, public speaking, workshops on current topics in the industry, vidlogging (video blogging) giving your ideas about trends in the market, and writing white papers. With these approaches, you can refresh your content and respond quickly to current events. Pick a format that fits with your capabilities and keep up with it.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  marketing  publicity 

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