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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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#20: Consulting Opportunities in the Stimulus Bill

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 3, 2009
The economic stimulus legislation is going to spend a lot in 2009 and later years. What opportunities exist for management consultants?

Change means opportunity for management consultants. New business priorities, technologies, social trends, legislation, and demographic shifts create a need to manage that change. Whether your consulting practice is focused on training, finance, process, leadership, marketing, or information management, the kind of changes implicit in the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) mean new opportunity. How do you find your opportunities?

First, see www.recovery.gov for a quick overview of the legislation, or see Wikipedia for a good summary. Second, familiarize yourself with the particulars of the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Third, most trade associations have summarized the impact of ARRA on their member companies and describe the challenges of implementing these new spending priorities. I found such summaries for realty, engineering, research, construction, education, health care, and banking. The federal emphasis on these market segments will induce additional investment in education, healthcare and green technologies, areas that will need your expertise if you are there when the need arises.

Tip: Talk with your current clients about how they plan to take advantage of this change in spending, either directly or because of actions of their customers. Given your new familiarity with the legislation itself and how others in the their industry are reacting to these new priorities, you can suggest how they could position themselves to emerge from the economic slowdown ahead of their peers.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  sales  trends  your consulting practice 

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#19: Is Now The Time To Rebrand Your Consulting Services?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 2, 2009
Our consulting group has always been successful at providing needed services to clients and our experience is that those clients have in turn succeeded because of them. However, we are not getting the same kind of interest as we used to because the economy has changed. Are there typical ways to extending services into new lines of business?

There are two ways to look at your situation. One is that your services are no longer in demand because clients are looking for different services. The other is that their needs have changed and they don't recognize the value of your services in the terms you use to describe them. The response to the first requires a change in your consulting focus and business strategy. You will need to be confident that this is happening for all your clients (and potential clients) before you assume this perspective. Also, before you abandon your consulting practice, consider whether your services will be in demand again when the economy turns around.

The second outcome, clients just not seeing the value in your services, is something you can react to. Similar to the point in Tip #12 about how people react to messages, clients see different needs in their organizations when the economy or their markets shift. It may be a simple matter of recasting your services in terms of what the client's point of pain. For example, if you r expertise was in process efficiency or supply chain management, you may need to reframe your described value in terms of cost control or even finding new "revenue" from your operations. If your service is training, instead of letting someone characterize it as a discretionary expsense, make sure you can present training as a way to get 15% more productivity out of every employee without increasing headcount.

Tip: Your brand is about the promise you make to the client. When the needs of the client shift, your promise may have to shift to match. I am not saying to offer less service or reduce your integrity. Just look at the way you describe your services. This may be uncomfortable and unfamiliar but it is necessary to make sure you are highly values (and compensated) for providing what the client sees as "critical services" in the new economy.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  marketing  planning 

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#18: Creating Leaders as a Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The expressions goes something like, "The job of leaders is not the create followers, it is to create more leaders." What role can consultant play in creating leaders in their clients' organizations?

While I suspect this is outside the scope of most of our engagements, you present an interesting opportunity to provide extra value. If our goal is to improve the lot of a client's organization, this logically extends to creating in client staff the ability to develop leadership skills. In most organizations, leaders come in all flavors, not just the one at the top of the org chart. So, how does a consultant provide those skills and experiences that foster leadership?

I see three ways to do this. The first is by setting an example of a person who diagnoses, explores, challenges, and pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the organization. This is usually what you are asked to do in an organization, but you develop leaders by sharing your process and including staff in your deliberations. Second, what if you formally asked your sponsor to "assign" one or more staff to shadow you on the engagement? This allows you to, with sponsor approval, delegate some responsibility for project outcomes. Third, offer to train staff not participating in the project in some basic skills in organizational assessment, diagnostics, selected aspects of your technical disciplines and your philosophy about organizational change.

Tip: Beyond just delivering a better path forward, much of your value comes from sustained implementation of that improvement. This is best carried on by staff after you have concluded the engagement. Make development of technical and leadership skills a part of your engagement, and charge for the time you spend working with staff as a value add. Broadening your contribution to trainer as well as consultant may be in the best interests of everyone.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  consultant role  leadership  sustainability 

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#17: Being the Smartest Person in the Room

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, March 31, 2009
For a few clients, some staff are distant or even hostile to my presence. They seem to challenge my conclusions and disparage my skills as unnecessary to solving the client issue? It doesn't happen all the time, so is this about me or them, and what can I do about it, if anything?

In several Tips we have talked about the importance of the client's confidence in your diagnostic, analytic and communication abilities. Consultants are hired because of their expertise, for their experience and knowledge, and their skills in tackling tough problems. We should be the smartest person in the room because that is what our clients expect of us. We are also supposed to be one or two steps ahead of the client, up on the latest technology and conversant in key business trends. It would be foolish to think we should be any less than our qualifications dictate. Their knowing that we are on top of their business is key to their having confidence in our recommendations.

If this is how you think of your role as a consultant, and we all know colleagues who think this way, then consider how this comes across to a client. Sure, you might have specialized experience and skills, but this does not demand that you abandon all sense of how your demeanor affects the client sponsor or others in the organization. Remember that you are being called in to support the organization, not run it. Your client may or may not be somewhat uncomfortable about having to call in help, and the reputation of consultants as being arrogant, whether fair or not, may precede your own image in the opinions of client staff. Reactions vary, but your providing value does not have to be accompanied by a sense of arrogance. You are there to advise, not make decisions about the organization. Whether you are from the US Midwest, where modesty is a central part of the culture, or from another culture where aggressiveness or self promotion is the norm, professionalism means respect for your role in the organization. Those in the client organization will respond accordingly.

Tip: A little humility goes a long way. I don't mean to just tamp down how impressed you are with your special skills. You are acting as a member of a profession whose reputation has an effect on how likely clients are to trust a consultant's recommendations and engage them in the future. Your overt show of respect and care for the well being of your client's staff pays benefits in their willingness to contribute to your success and the client's success.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  goodwill  professionalism  roles and responsibilities 

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#16: Practice Your Briefings With A Tough Crowd

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 30, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Even though I am confident our firm does great work, I still get nervous when presenting a major briefing to a client. How can I get better at this?

Your desired outcome in communicating results is for your client to understand, remember, and have confidence in your work. Your job is to make sure your presentation includes all relevant findings and recommendations and that you are confident in your material. The stakes are high, given that the client is relying on your team to come up with the "perfect" answer to their challenges. Being nervous is perfectly acceptable, especially if the alternative is overconfidence.

Here is where we have an opportunity to better serve clients. We normally focus on assembling our content in a robust presentation of which we are justifiably proud. However, we polish our content far more than we polish our delivery. This runs two risks. First is that we are not as sure as we might be that all possible reactions to the material have been considered. Second is that we are not as confident in our delivery as we might be. Spending more time practicing delivery of your briefings would improve client service in both areas.

Tip: As the saying goes, "Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect." Find a colleague to act as your client for practicing your presentation. Deliver your briefing in the same setting you will deliver it to your client. Familiarize them with the client and ask them to be really tough with you - ask questions, give alternative interpretation of your findings, and challenge your recommendations. Then go back, armed with these reactions, polish both your content and delivery. Your client will be better served as a result.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  communication  meeting preparation 

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