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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 

#496: Teaching Seminars Has Multiple Benefits

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 7, 2011
Updated: Monday, February 7, 2011
I'd like to teach a seminar in order to gain some additional experience and to get publicity for my practice. I have some previous public speaking experience. How do I seek out opportunities to do this?

Before you begin actively seeking out opportunities, make sure you have a clear idea of the kind of seminars you might want to teach and what value you intend to get from doing so. Start by making a list, from basic to advanced, of the subjects you want to present and the benefits you hope to accrue. Also, recognize that you are going to have to put in many hours of preparation. A good rule of thumb is somewhere between 5 to 10 hours of preparation for every one teaching hour (depending on how fast you work, how skilled you are, what you already know and what knowledge you will need to obtain).

To find opportunities, try your industry association, other associations, local universities, junior colleges, etc. Identify those individuals who teach the same or similar seminars. Contact whoever is currently offering the kinds of programs (or those offering programs related to what) you want to teach. Check the industry journals in your field, various association websites/monthly calendars, and even with your clients.

Tip: To really test the market, talk to colleagues you think might want to attend your seminar. What sources do they pursue when advancing their education? Finally, remember that teaching of any kind requires you to really learn the material, so even if your goal is to get publicity, you end up honing your skills.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  learning  pro bono  speaking 

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#495: Set Expectations With Your Client, Not For Them

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, February 4, 2011
Updated: Friday, February 4, 2011
How do I deal with a client whose expectations for my recommendations are not realistic? Many times my client has far too high expectations for the results of a particular proposed action.

According to the IMC USA Code of Ethics, management consultants must mutually establish realistic expectations of the benefits and results of their services with their clients. One way to help ensure that realistic client expectations are set is to explicitly describe the anticipated impact of each your recommendations. In addition, there are a number of ways to augment these descriptions. Here are just a few:
  1. Label the area that will be positively impacted (e.g., "Increased Revenue", "Improved Market Penetration", "Improved Product Quality", etc.).
  2. Where possible, provide a realistic range of the expected impact this recommendation will have (e.g., Days in Inventory could potentially decrease from between 1-5 days).
  3. Rank your recommendations in order of significance or impact.
  4. Use a labeling system to indicate potential impact, risk, or effort required (e.g., "High/Medium/Low" etc.). Make sure to provide a clear key of what each value represents and explain how it was determined.
Tip: Recognize that when you submit a proposal, clients will jump to different conclusions about the likely impact unless they gain all required additional information, disclosure, and guidance. It is your job to ensure that your client possesses a realistic and complete understanding of the potential benefits and risks of your recommendations. Actively manage their expectations by developing those expectations jointly.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  engagement management  recommendations  reputation 

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#494: Make Positioning Your Consulting Services Clear

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 3, 2011
Updated: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Too often consultants try to be all things to all people and, as a result, lose credibility. But what happens if you do a lot of different kinds of consulting work spanning more than one specialty area? What's wrong with being a generalist?

There is a time for being a generalist and a time to be a specialist. You might appear to be useful to a wide prospect base if you are not too specialized but your best value comes from providing a deeper, more nuanced and forward looking expertise in a specific field. Some consultants have separate, customized biographical information that they use for each of the different audiences they serve. For example, they might have one bio for speaking engagements, another for mailing to specific category prospects. Also, you might have general processes for diagnostic work and different service sheets for each industry segment.

That said, you may be a generalist in marketing your services, but recognize that your client is hiring you for a particular problem that requires specific skills. Once you are engaged and into a project, you will need to shed the generalist mindset and narrow your focus. The more you consider yourself a generalist, the more you will have to work to narrow that focus once you start to serve the client.

Tip: You can't be all things to all people, but you can be different things to different people. Position yourself appropriately for each audience and, once you are engaged, keep focusing to provide more value in increasingly narrower areas of need.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consultant role  consulting process  engagement management  marketing  proposals 

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#493: Be Sure You and the Client Are Solving the Same Problem?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Frequently clients will come to us and ask us to address a "problem" that is unspecific, such as poor performance, or they have a desire to improve overall performance, effectiveness in a certain division or bottom-line. Clearly defining the specific problem they need to solve cmes before identifying the "drivers” and crafting solutions. How do you approach this for clients who don't know what they don't know but expect you to just solve it?

Clients may expect a lot from consultants but being a mind reader is not part of the job description, nor is making priority decisions addressing the scope or sequence of performance improvement strategies. These are management decisions and your role is to help get them to the point where they can set the priorities. Then you can get on with your "second" job of helping diagnose the causes and recommend solution options. Arguably the biggest value a consultant brings at the outset of an engagement is the clear definition of the problem(s) to be addressed. The client may want an immediate solution but their inability to articulate the problem provides a clue as to why it has not been solved.

So as to not leave you hanging, here are a few approaches to make sure you and your client are really on the same page at the engagement start:
  • Ask the folks who work there, and I mean before the obligatory staff diagnostic interviews. Although they may not identify the actual "root cause” or won't know how to accurately assess the impact, this is the best place to start your search. Make sure you understand the nomenclature and culture of the problem before you start in on the solution.
  • Look hard at the financials, current and historical. Compare the information to baseline data from the industry. Ask "why?” several times to see how far the client staff really understands the organizational system. This will tell you who, if anyone, will be able to confirm your suspicions about symptoms or root causes.
  • If possible, look at the client’s competition and see if you can (with help from others) determine what they do differently. Does your client think their problems are unique or more or less like everyone else's?
Tip: These steps may seem obvious to most consultants as part of the solution diagnostic, but you may need to conduct a separate, formal diagnostic process (closely with the client sponsor) to agree on what problems you are really being hired to address.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  diagnosis  engagement management  roles and responsibilities 

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#492: The Possibility of Liability Comes With Your Recommendations

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Am I liable if I make a recommendation that doesn't work out for my clients?

Yes and no. You are always going to be held "professionally" accountable (or measured) by your client based on your performance. Whether there is a presumption of legal liability depends on the kind of consulting work you do and how you position it with assumptions, disclaimers, etc. This is both a business and legal question. For the legal portion consult your attorney and check out The Consultant's Legal Guide published by Jossey Bass/Pfeiffer.

Tip: As a matter of good business, make sure you have both boilerplate disclaimers and qualified recommendations. Larger consulting firms have more to lose than independents simply as a matter of financial resources/exposure. Errors and Omissions insurance can be a useful risk mitigation strategy, at least to moderate the downside financial exposure incurred with a litigious client.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  legal  recommendations  risk analysis 

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