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

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 26, 2008
Updated: Sunday, December 28, 2008
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 your 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."

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  fees  marketing  practice management 

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#950: Your Best Consulting Moment Ever

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 25, 2008
Updated: Thursday, December 25, 2008
Today's tip is about reflection and perspective on what delights you about the profession and your practice of consulting.

Spend a few minutes thinking back over your consulting career. Close your eyes (after you are done reading this) and go over the research, marketing, selling, engagements, client conversations, analyses, interviews, publicity events presenting findings and recommendations and being called back to provide additional services. What were the one or two most satisfying and rewarding events or moments you have experienced?

Was is when a team received applause at a board meeting for your work? Was it winning an engagement you had been pursuing for some time? Was it reaching a unique conclusion or insight after a long period of analysis? Was it the times you spent with a valued colleague working on a hard problem? What about being able to speak to audiences about your work or about consulting? Or is it the flexibility of lifestyle consulting can accord?

Tip: Is there a pattern? What were you doing when you experienced your favorite moment? If you think about a few of your favorite moments, is there a pattern? Are they all related to selling your services and wining an engagement, or re they mostly about doing the work? Are the winning moments all of one type? If so, how will you make 2009 a year when you get to experience more of those delightful moments? Why shouldn't you focus your efforts on living a consulting life full of joy?

P.S. Conversely, what were some of the worst moments of your consulting career. Is there a pattern? Can you restructure your practice to eliminate or at lest mitigate them?

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  planning  your consulting practice 

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#949: Use of Type I and Type II Errors by Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I always hear about Type I and Type II errors in business and how important it is that consultants understand these concepts. Why should I care about this?

People are referring to a statistical concept where a Type I error is a false positive and Type II error is a false negative. For the statistician, a Type I error is rejecting the null hypothesis when it should have been accepted. For a businessperson or consultant, a Type I error is seeing something that is not really there. Type II errors are missing something that is really there (and potentially company making or breaking).

A Type II error (false negative) can be serious when looking at competitive markets or human resource issues such as culture or employee opinions. Inadequate surveys or incomplete analysis may lead a consultant to conclude that there are not serious competitors or impending revolts among employees when, in fact, there are. Depending on the situation, a Type II error may result in serious losses for a company or put it out of business.

False positives are of most interest to consultants engaging in diagnostic or investigative activities, in two ways. As a consultant whose job it is to find problems to solve or opportunities to capture, we are looking for something on which to act. Maybe a process is "broken" or a market is "large and available" to your client. In either case, you may identify something that is not really significant enough to expend resources on. Alternatively, as a result of your activities, you conclude that your impact is significant when it really is not. In both cases, you have overstated the significance, or even existence, of your role to the client. Understanding Type I and Type II errors gives you good perspective on your role and significance to a client.

Tip: Think in terms of medical testing when you consider how you are going to control for Type I and Type II errors. The worst outcome when looking for a serious disease is to conclude it is not present when it is (Type II). To accommodate that, we use screening procedures that are relatively fast, cheap and for which we can tolerate a Type I (false positive) error. As a consultant, you may want to develop protocols that let you quickly tease out potential problem areas and for which you recognize there may be Type I errors. Those items that show up may be real or, more likely, false positives. Then you can proceed with more focused and rigorous protocols to look more closely at an issue, recognizing that what you want to avoid is a Type II error (false negative). You don't have to be a statistician to understand the concept and how your ability to mitigate risk on behalf of your client is a significant value added.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  planning 

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#948: Getting What You Need Most to Accelerate Business

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Updated: Wednesday, December 24, 2008
For all the good consulting ideas I get from business books, conferences, my colleagues and your Daily Tips, I am still missing something that would really jump start my business. It is the guidance of a mentor or someone who could give me the unwritten tips of the trade. How do I find such a person?

Having a guiding force early in your career has always been a good idea. However it seems to be all the rage today for anyone at any stage of their career to find a mentor, coach or advisor. Finding someone (or several someones) to provide guidance makes a lot of sense for consultants, whose careers require development of skills and behaviors in a wide range of areas. But how does one go about finding someone who can guide them?

The first step is to really understand who you are and where you are headed. Is what you lack related to your business or personal life? Are you more interested in building your business than expanding your service offerings? Do you feel comfortable with your work-life balance but not with understanding where your career is headed? Answering these questions comes first before trying to decide what kind of person to seek to help guide you (that person will ask similar questions once you start working with them).

Tip: Think of the one person you would really benefit most from talking to. Aim high. Who do you admire that could give you that one nugget of information that could unlock your business or personal potential? Now, find out how to approach them, whether through colleagues or through formal channels. Don't assume that because someone is famous or presumably busy that they won't make time for you. After all, this is the most important issue you face, your future. Remember, you are not asking to develop along term relationship with them, just get that one piece of advice you really need.

P.S. Whether this works or not, pick the next person on your list of "the person I'd most like to talk to" and have a conversation with them.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  guidance  mentor 

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#947: Your "First Date" With Your Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 22, 2008
Although I have been consulting for a few years, it is always hard to know how much to press on the first meeting with a client. Some clients take a "full speed ahead" approach and others a "go slow" approach. For my part as a consultant, is one approach better than another?

How fast a client goes on the initial meeting is up to the client. However, a consultant can create a bad impression by not being in sync with the client. Go too fast and you make the client uncomfortable. Go too slow and you risk perhaps letting the client believe you can't keep up.

Part of your job as a consultant is to feel out how comfortable clients are. You need to anticipate how much they trust you, their sense of urgency about addressing the issue they asked you to tackle, and their general pace of work. Remember, some executives feel, whether they admit it or not, like they are ceding power to a consultant for a job they were hired to do. You can help them go as fast as they can by not pushing them faster than they are willing to go.

Tip: Treat the first meeting like a first date. Think ahead of where the meeting could go if the client is open or guarded. Have a plan to deal with both. Talk to your client specifically about the pace of how he or she wants to proceed and let them know you can accommodate their speed. Don't ignore this topic and just hope everything will work out.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  communication 

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