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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 

#946: Templates to Save Time and Increase Clarity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 19, 2008
I think I spend too much time assembling proposals and reports. I am a reasonably fast writer but starting over for each client burns up time I'd rather spend doing other things.

Taking you at your word that you write fast enough for your standards, it is logical to see how you could write less. First, do you really need to include as much material in your writing product as you currently include? For example, does your prospect really want to read about your entire company history, all of your projects, and the third level project plan? Just because you want to write it doesn't mean the reader needs or wants it.

Second, don't write custom when repurposing can save a lot of time. This does not mean to copy a proposal or report and just do a global search and replace of the client name. It does mean planning your writing, using parts from other documents appropriately, followed by a final quality control. If you wrote it and it was good enough for a prior use, then it is probably good enough to get ahead of the writing task this time.

Tip: Templates. Invest some time after you do write something to parse the document and file away the components you could use again. Create templates of all the possible writing products you will need, complete with a detailed table of contents. You won't have to use all elements of this detailed template but you will have a full list from which to choose. Keep a folder (electronic) of parts of documents that you could use for each part of the template. Examples are short, medium and long summaries of past projects, descriptions of your quality control approach, and synopses of various trends in your industry or technical discipline. Be deliberate in setting up your resource library so you can assemble a first draft in far less time than you are currently spending.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  writing 

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#945: Putting Client Staff on Your Team

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 18, 2008
Updated: Friday, December 19, 2008
I know consultants have different opinions about this but I want to, if possible, have a member of the client staff participate on the consulting team. Is this a good idea or not?

I like the idea of having a member of the client staff participate on the consultant team. At a minimum, you gain a quick check on your assumptions, access to information, and validation of preliminary findings. With the right person, the consulting team will find a eager and willing partner to bring fresh ideas (including ideas that may have been offered before by the client staff but were not as readily accepted).

A second great reason is that your diagnostic, analysis, and process improvement techniques can be learned and repeated after the consulting team is gone. As much as we might like to be invited back to provide additional services, the client is best served by learning how to conduct many of our services by themselves. this helps a client sustain and advance the improvements you have provided.

Tip: Talk with your client at the beginning of a project and suggest having a member of the staff "shadow" you, if not serve as a full participant on the project team. Make sure you understand the staff member's capabilities and skills and work with them to assign appropriate responsibilities.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  sustainability 

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#944: Naming Names

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 17, 2008
After I do interviews, my notes are full of names of individuals referred to by interviewees, such as "Mary really is the problem because . . .". Since they were specifically named, should I include those names in my report to the client, but not externally?

There are two answers: "of course not" and "probably not." First of all, it is likely that your interviews were confidential, and this means internally as well as externally. To associate the content of an interview with the name of the interviewee is a breach of trust, unless you explicitly get agreement from the interviewee what you would like to pass along and to whom.

The other situation is where you are reporting the results of your interviews or analysis and you would like to report names of individuals to whom you would attribute certain characteristics. These are not quotes from an interviewee or a staff member with whom you have spoken; they are your own subjective impressions and recommendations. In this case, it is usually better to attribute your observations (and you should qualify them as such) to "the Vice President of Finance" and not the name. The reason for this is because you are best evaluating the structure or processes of an organization, not the individual. Only when the behavior or actions of the person, unrelated to their position, is an issue should you consider naming names. If possible, make your recommendations about the position ("shipping profitability is greater when the VP of production is held accountable for closeouts").

Tip: Unless your task is about improving a specific person and not organization structure and processes, leave the names out. Your recommendations should apply to whoever fills the position.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  attribution  confidentiality 

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#943: What Do They Say About You?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Updated: Tuesday, December 16, 2008
When I hear some consultants talk about their colleagues in an unfavorable light, and the comments seem to be inconsistent with my experience with the people they are talking about, I have two reactions. One is that I wonder what they are saying about me when I am not around. The other is I wonder how much I can trust them to be honest with clients and colleagues if I were to team with them. Should I be worried?

You are right to be worried about comments like that. Disparaging one's colleagues in public is unprofessional and, in fact a violation of the IMC USA Code of Ethics. Paragraph 14 states: I will not advertise my services in a deceptive manner nor misrepresent or denigrate individual consulting practitioners, consulting firms, or the consulting profession. Of course, if you have solid evidence to think unfavorably about another consultant, then you can certainly make your own decisions about teaming based on that knowledge.

If a consultant has something to say about another consultant, they can say it to the person's face. You are not the only one who notices these things. Clients occasionally say that one of the most important factors in judging the professionalism of their consultants is how well they get along with other consultants. For these clients, your bad mouthing another consultant will just damage your own reputation with the client.

Tip: Make it a point to get to know other consultants personally, more than just by reputation. Until you do, and begin to appreciate their perspective, experience and skills, refrain from commenting judgmentally about their character and consulting acumen or expertise.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  ethics  professionalism  reputation 

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#942: The Follow Up Call

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 15, 2008
Updated: Monday, December 15, 2008
I am building a prospect pipeline with a contact application and have prepared for a series of networking events to attend to kick off my initial contacts. Other than capturing the names and relevant information from people I met and consider potential leads, what else do I need?

You are off to a good start. Capturing leads in a formal way, whether it is on a ruled sheet of paper or in a software contact manager, is essential to managing a prospect pipeline. A box of scraps of paper and business cards as a strategy for getting clients is looking for trouble. Let's not get into how the contacts make it into your list, but the critical next step after first contact: the follow up call.

Following up means doing it before the memory fades (yours and theirs) and doing it in a way that leads to a higher probability of a good business relationship. Once you have identified a person who is marginally qualified, you should follow up to set a time to discuss a mutual business relationship. This is your chance to decide whether and how you commit valuable time to pursue the relationship or you will drop them in the "cool" (as in not worth pursuing right now) contact list.

Tip: The follow up call should be done within 3-5 days, preferably the next business day. You should have a follow up call script that includes a reiteration of the circumstances that brought you together, the premise of why your two businesses might productively work together, your interpretation of pressing needs of the other person (and questions you could ask to verify), an example of work you have done that relates to this need, an offer of a contact or piece of information of value to the other person (goodwill), a possible working relationship you could mutually benefit from, and suggested next steps to move toward a working relationship. Preparation and some forethought, along with not letting the prospect get cold, are the keys to turning a business card stuffed onto your pocket into a live prospect.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  contact information  goodwill  marketing  process  prospect 

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