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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 

#461: Use Phone Scripts For More Professional Interactions

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 20, 2010
Updated: Monday, December 20, 2010
I like to have freewheeling conversations with prospects, letting them explore various aspects of my services and talk about whatever is on their mind. How important is uniformity in telephone calls with prospects and clients?

There is a tradeoff between flexibility and thoroughness in such conversations. While it is important to go with the flow and be responsive to emerging prospect and client issues, there is also value in assuring you maintain control in these conversations.

A phone script is as much a process as any financial or operational process a consultant would improve for a client. Telephone salespeople use scripts to assure that all desired points are covered and in a specific sequence. They regularly evaluate scripts for effectiveness and modify them as needed to improve desired outcomes.

Having a script does not preclude flexibility. You can still address issues that are not on the script, either ones you think of during the conversation or issues a prospect or client raises. A script just means you have thought out the conversation ahead of time and makes it less likely you will say after the call ends, "Gee, I wish I had thought of/said that during the call."

Tip: Prepare a series of scripts or outlines for each type of important call. For example, you might prepare separate scripts for "cold calls," referral calls, inquiries, project kickoff calls, etc. For each call, list the desired outcomes, information you need for the conversation, main topics to be covered and the sequence in which you prefer to cover them, risks and your approach to dealing with each, records of prior calls (including results of any action items for which you were responsible), and expected next steps after this call. You will appear, and actually be, more prepared and on top of the conversation and more likely to achieve the outcomes you want.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  reputation 

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#460: Taste the Grass Before Moving to Greener Pastures

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 17, 2010
Updated: Monday, December 20, 2010
With the skills and experience I have, there are probably several other industries I could target for my consulting practice. What's a relatively easy way to scope out these industries?

There are the usual suspects: team with another consultant, go to seminars, attend industry trade shows or conferences, etc. These are one-shot opportunities and have some value. However, they do not provide insight into the full range of culture, operations, and trends of an industry.

Consider immersing yourself in several candidate industries by reading journals of that industry or technical specialization. At this point, you are thinking, "I barely have time to read my Daily Tips, much less subscribe to a bunch of journals."

I am not suggesting you devote a lot of time to each industry. However, consider this a marketing investment - there are more difficult and expensive ways to familiarize yourself with an industry than reading about key players, technology, finance, vendors, trends, customers, best practices and opportunities for improvements.

Tip: Subscribe - for free - to several industry journals at freebizmag.com. You can receive weekly or monthly journals in IT, education, supply chain, healthcare, strategy, procurement and others. The selection of available magazines depends on your stated profile (industry, position) so describe yourself carefully. Make sure what you thought would be a good business move is right for you.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  market research  marketing  your consulting practice 

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#459: Make Your Consulting Practice Scalable and Extensible

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 16, 2010
Updated: Thursday, December 16, 2010
I have been a consultant for a few years and this is tougher than I imagined. After thinking about my years as an executive, I am coming to the conclusion that selling hours is a hard road to financial success. Is there a secret I am missing?

Producing any commodity that has both limited supply and that is arguably substitutable is a hard way to make money. You only have so many hours available to advise clients and there are any number of other consultants who provide similar services, even if you assert that no one is like you. As I suspect was true with your former company, the prospect of financial success comes from higher prices for unique (i.e., highly valued) services that you sell each hour, or through a scalable and/or extensible set of consulting offerings.

Scalable means that you break the hourly barrier by producing multiple units for a fixed input of resources (hours in your case), maybe by creating a book, webinar, seminars, intellectual property or other product you can create once and sell repeatedly. Extensible means taking into consideration a path for future development, growth, evolution and expansion. Although extensibility is most commonly used in terms of software engineering, it can apply to consulting where you design your services to accommodate adding complementary services and products (e.g., training courses that can be augmented with modules to expand the range or comprehensiveness of your practice).

Tip: It is hard to break out of the hours trap but work on your business design with principles like scalability and extensibility in mind, along with other principles that might lead to higher value services, such as frugality, transparency, (future) regulatory conformance, and others that fit with your more output for your limited input.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  intellectual property  knowledge assets  practice management  product development  teaching/training  your consulting practice 

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#458: Help Your Client Take the Hard Journey to Jiseki

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, December 15, 2010
My clients hired us for our advice, experience and diagnostic skills. Yet, when we present what we consider incontrovertible evidence of a pressing issue, we get all kinds of excuses about our work, or that it isn't something they want to deal with. How do we break through?

The resistance to come to terms with uncomfortable truths is an aspect of human nature we all deal with, but there is something as consultants we can do about it when it afflicts our clients. In fact, the thinking follows a well-prescribed path to coping:
  1. Stage One: "The data are wrong.” This is total denial, couched in the unwillingness to accept that data reflect reality.
  2. Stage Two: "The data are right, but it’s not a problem.” This accepts that data reflect reality but that the data are variants on the desired and predicted reality of consequence to us.
  3. Stage Three: "The data are right, it’s a problem, but it’s not my problem.” This is when the problem is neither your fault nor should you have any role in its resolution.
  4. Stage Four: "The data are right, it’s a problem, and it’s my problem.” This is acceptance of a role, even beyond the scope of your contribution to the problem, to take responsibility and come up with a solution.
This is about taking on the burden of creating something new that goes beyond just fixing a problem. This is the Japanese work "jiseki," meaning, I'll take care of this, I can and will fix this, I will make it all better.

Tip: As with Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief, understanding this progression from denial to acceptance can help you design a process to move your clients from one stage to another. And let's not forget, this applies to us as well as our clients.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  change  client relations  coaching  consultant role  consulting process  customer understanding  engagement management 

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#457: Deciding Whether to Call or Email

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Although I prefer the personal visit or phone call to the less personal email, what are some thoughts about when to chose one over the other? The choice of whether you should communicate through phone or e-mail is not always an easy one as both have their pros and cons. It is ill-advised to limit yourself to using one or the other in all situations. If you do, you forfeit the benefits of the other in certain circumstances.

Email is the most common method of general business communication, is usually faster, clearer and easier. It can help to ensure and track timely delivery (or non-delivery). It can eliminate the inconveniences that can occur when attempting to make contact by phone (e.g., voice mail "tag", missing return calls). Email can also provide you with the ability to think a little more carefully about the content of your message. Finally, it creates a permanent record of delivery and can usually be easily reproduced, referenced, or forwarded to others as needed.

On the negative side, when the dominant purpose of the communication is emotion rather than content, e-mails come off as impersonal and cold. Whatever nuance you thought you were sending was probably lost. Email is also inefficient for actively discussing an issue, since it is more like trading punches than having a conversation.

Phone calls allow for synchronous communication. During emotionally charged/ sensitive conversations or when addressing client concern or confusion, issues or misunderstandings can be cleared up easily during the scope of a single call. In addition, if the topic is complex, it may actually take more time to explain what is being requested in a lengthy e-mail than via a quick call. Unless recorded (in most states this requires advance notification) there is no record of the call, sometimes desirable.

Tip: The choice is really about what the recipient needs to think and feel as a result of the communication. Here's a novel thought: ask your client what method they prefer and for what circumstances. you might be surprised to hear that for requests, they would rather they be by email because it provides a record - or - that they prefer they be by phone because they do not provide a record.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication 

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