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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 

#45: Leaderlike Behavior by Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 8, 2009
My firm is a fairly large and well regarded and I am an experienced consultant. What can I do to differentiate myself from thousands of other consultants (and my partners) who do similar work?

Every consultant faces the same issues of differentiation, regardless of firm size or discipline. Certainly your personal reputation from prior work and, often in a multipractice firm, the reputation of your partners make a big difference. However, people shop on rationality and buy on emotion. In the minds of a buyer of professional services, particularly the more senior they are, there is a greater likelihood of identifying with you if you come across as a peer. This means exhibiting leadership characteristics.

One of the best ways leaders relate is by having stories to tell. Stories, more than dry recitations of capabilities that are virtually indistinguishable from others, help you emotionally connect. Great leaders can tell three stories:
  1. About themselves (what you stand for, where you came from)
  2. About the organization they represent (you are promoting your firm as well as yourself)
  3. About how they have made/can make people feel they are part of something bigger than themselves (this can be about past clients, community organizations or missions that you and your audience have in common)
Tip: Your stories won't get you in the door - only your capabilities, experience and value will. Create the stories that define you and your commitment to professional service and you are much more likely to connect.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  communication  consultant role  reputation 

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#44: Giving Back to Your Community

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 7, 2009
What community service opportunities exist for management consultants? I don't mind neighborhood cleanup or tutoring but feel like I have some professional skills in management that could be useful.

Good for you to make this kind of contribution to your community. Yes, management consultants have some unique skills that can help to strengthen organizations, communities and countries. Probably where you can help most is in supporting management teams of nonprofit, human service and nongovernmental organizations. Whatever your industry or discipline, you can donate some time to serve on an advisory panel, board of directors, or just spend some one-on-one time advising executive or governance functions.

Even if you think your industry or discipline doesn't correlate with the needs of any organization in your community, you have more insights and value than you would think. Say, your practice is in military logistics - your ability to manage projects, understanding of governance and control, or your appreciation for lean inventory control are all useful concepts to help a service organization to manage donations of items.

Tip: IMC USA chapters sponsor projects to help nonprofits in their communities. A group of chapter members either designate a favorite organization or solicit statements of need from a range of organizations. Based on the need, IMC members will coordinate a series of meetings with the nonprofit's governance team and donate their time, ranging from a few hours in a single session to dozens of hours over several months. If you are interested in participating in one of these service projects, contact the president of your local chapter of IMC.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  community service  goodwill  leadership 

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#43: The Hidden Risk With Virtual Teams

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I've been working with several other consultants virtually for a few weeks now. Things seem to be going well, but I am used to having more personal contact with team members than I do (although we spend a LOT of time on the phone). Am I worrying needlessly?

Virtual teams are increasingly a fact of life for consultants as well as our clients. We need to be able, through technology as well as behaviors and skills, to adapt to both the opportunities and constraints. The opportunities are that we can open up a larger client market (we can now work with a client several time zones away because we have a local affiliate), serve a wider client base (partner with people with skills not found in your local market), and operate larger and more complex projects (a "team" is no longer restricted to the 2-5 people you "always work with").

The greatest constraint is that we may be working with people we don't know very well, are limited in our ability to know and feel what they are thinking, and often use project management techniques developed for physical teams. The hidden risk is that there can be delays or miscues in communication leading to a loss of control (of which you may be unaware). We tend to think that regular check in calls compensate for high touch interaction. They don't. We must choose our team members carefully for not just their technical skills and experience, but also for how well we can understand and communicate with them.

Tip: Ask for a face-to-face meeting with your team as soon as possible, preferably before the project even starts. Spend enough time in work and social settings to develop a good rapport with other team members, both individually and as a group. Discuss decision making and problem solving processes while you are together in the same room. Build this time together (and as many additional sessions as possible, especially as the project closes out) into your budget. Skype may be great, but relying on it to make up for lack of personal contact can put your project at risk.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  engagement management  roles and responsibilities  teaming 

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#42: Don't Make Your Clients Ask You "So What?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 5, 2009
How much detail should I go into when I report my findings and conclusions to a client? On the one hand, I want to provide enough information to help them take action but I don't want to provide mind numbing detail that they don't want or need.

It's a good question that we all ask ourselves. Obviously, having spent time in a focused investigation of a client's operations or market, we know a lot more than the client needs to know. Doing a brain dump can obscure the critical information a client needs. Providing too little information may not take the client anywhere he or she could otherwise have gone. The balance is in looking at each piece of your findings or recommendations and applying a simple test: ask "so what?".

If your answer to the question is a complicated description of data, context and implications, then it is very likely that the statement you are making is not sufficiently clear or directive. If the answer is not clear, then maybe the statement is not important enough to be included. This applies equally to findings and recommendations. A finding of "Sales increased by 4% last quarter." should be followed by the implications of this statement that would answer the "so what?" (e.g., this is significantly lower than the previous three quarters and represents a loss of $230,000 in revenue that is critical to fund a planned investment in technology).

Tip: Group your findings and recommendations into chunks that stand alone and will make it impossible for your client to ask "so what?". Present your written or oral report to a colleague and ask them to tell you if they are not completely clear as to the implications of each point of your presentation. After a while, you will develop a sixth sense of how to write and speak that will make sure you r client always knows why you included each statement of finding or recommendation.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  communication  consulting process 

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#41: The Coming Online Auction for Professional Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 4, 2009
Updated: Monday, May 4, 2009
As more and more services are being sold by schedule, I am wondering if the market for consulting services is going to evolve (or devolve) into a bidding war. What do you hear?

It has been an interesting evolution for selling professional services over the past three decades. Before 1977, when the Bates v. State Bar of Arizona case ended the prohibition on attorney advertising, professional advertising was sold practically only by "person to person." Fast forward to the last decade when the federal government started to purchase services off of a schedule. Then these services extended to professional services, like management consulting. Now, management consulting firms are listed with services to purchase. Need a consultant? Now you can buy Accenture, the Hay Group, Booz Allen or any consultant global to solo off the rack.

This is the great leveler. Although reputation and capabilities still matter, the previously automatic advantage of cachet is quickly disappearing. If clients want a three person engagement team, they may well buy from a small or large firm. What is more interesting is talk of buying professional services at online auctions. It is only a short leap from services schedules to auctions. Hard to believe? No one thought lawyers would advertise thirty years ago, and no one thought consultants would be picked off a shelf ten years ago.

Tip: Listen to Jim Jorasch, head of R&D for the company that launched Priceline for a (short) video on where his company thinks this market will go. And start thinking how your marketing will have to change as the ground shifts again.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  sales  trends 

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