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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 

#706: Build Innovation Into Your Consulting Practice

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 28, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 28, 2011
I know that my consulting practice should be changing as fast as the businesses of my clients. I just don't have time to create new lines of service. Any ideas how to put a little more innovation into my practice?

Good question, and one many consultants don't ask themselves. Whether you call it staying fresh, ahead of the curve, or innovative, consultants must constantly create new value. Let's talk about how.

Your inspiration for innovation should come first from your clients, and those organizations you wish to serve. They are either in need of new services or are actually asking you for additional services. Be attentive to their needs and discuss possible new services with them. Be aware that your innovation can come from processes, technologies or culture, and it can be about how they do business or about how they are served by you or others.

The second source of innovation is from your colleagues and from consulting conferences. Members of your network are providing services that, with a few adaptations, could add to your own. Find a collection of consultants with diverse practices who discuss trends in consulting and are also looking to innovate. Conferences like Confab are great places to meet with senior consultants with whom you can develop new areas of interest and potentially team.

Tip: However you decide to innovate, do it through a steady process, whether you develop new areas of practice or are tweaking current ones. Take one of your primary services and spend a month improving it. Find a more effective way to describe your service to prospective and current clients (this might give you some ideas about what areas of value might be missing). Work on delivery mechanisms, taking advantage of new analytical technologies, communication approaches, or adult learning research. Ask colleagues for examples of how they provide similar services. Finally, ask your clients how you could improve your service - they will probably appreciate being asked, since so few consultants do so. Work on innovation; don't just wait for it to happen.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  efficiency  innovation  market research  process  product development  quality  technology 

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#705: Know How and When to Apologize to a Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 25, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 25, 2011
Sometimes I make mistakes in selling or delivering services to my clients. When I apologize, I don't want to make it worse and have clients lose confidence in me. What's the best way to apologize for a mistake and keep your reputation intact?

First, be on the lookout for a comment, action or outcome that is a mistake in your clients' eyes. If you think something is appropriate that your client thinks is not, then you have your first problem. Be sure you understand your client's criteria for success and high performance, even if it means talking to him or her specifically about those criteria.

Second, if you do recognize a mistake, don't wait to acknowledge your responsibility, even if it is indirect (e.g., when you are part of a team accountable for a mistake). Talk to your client immediately about the intended outcome and your role and responsibility for the mistake.

Finally, make sure your owning up to the mistake has a positive outcome. Both you and your client should be better off as a result. Some people offer what seems like an apology but really take no ownership (e.g., "If you were hurt by what I did, then I am sorry"). Others apologize but make no attempt to avoid the situation in the future or make sure they make things right.

Tip: When you realize you have made a mistake, create a strategy to make sure it doesn't happen again, even if it was not entirely your fault. Go to your client and suggest how, together, you can make the organization stronger and better able to avoid such mistakes in the future. And make sure you include your own behaviors and practices in that strategy.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  apologize  client relations  communication  trust 

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#704: Take Care When Recommending Other Consultants to Your Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 24, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 24, 2011
I sometimes want to recommend another consultant to my client but feel that it might take away additional opportunities for my consulting business. After all, there is limited money in their budget and only so much time to devote to a consultant. Am I wrong in being concerned about this?

Your feelings are very natural, but think of it this way: you are there to help the client in any way you can. If you believe that recommending another consultant will add value or provide much needed assistance to the client, you can rest assured that you are doing the right thing by making the recommendation. Sound referrals will help build trust and demonstrate your interest in the client's ultimate success even if it does not translate into direct business for you. Here are a few guidelines when recommending someone to your client:
  1. Issue a clear disclaimer so you don't appear to guarantee the performance of the other consultant.
  2. Recommend more than one consultant for the job (if appropriate and possible). Let the client make the choice. This is important to avoid the appearance of a possible conflict of interest where you might be seen as recommending someone with financial or other ties to you.
  3. Let the client do the interviewing and selection.
  4. Try to avoid opportunities for uncomfortable "pairing" if you will be working alongside the other consultant.
  5. Always be supportive and helpful to the other consultant in every way you can.
  6. Don't look for a referral fee from the client.
Tip: Recommend another consultant any time you genuinely feel it will be helpful. Putting the client's needs first is why you are there.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  recommendations  referrals  teaming 

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#703: Consultants Can Take a Few Tips From Sherlock Holmes

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Isn't consulting the same as detective work? Don't we both look at the facts and try to "solve" the client's problems?

Consultants might want to learn how to play detective, using the techniques of the famous literary character Sherlock Holmes. We are often asked to solve a problem, figure out what caused a failure (or success), etc. Think of yourself as that famous London-based fictional sleuth of the late 19th/early 20th centuries created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The next time you face a quandary, think "What would Sherlock Holmes do?" He would:
  1. Keep an open mind, not being swayed by the preponderance of opinions as to the "obvious" solution.
  2. Employ deductive reasoning, based facts you have confirmed.
  3. Investigate all possibilities thoroughly, especially ones that at first seem implausible.
  4. Look carefully at the details, again especially at those details that may seem irrelevant.
  5. Look for connections, relationships, consistencies and inconsistencies.
  6. Ask lots of questions, and don't automatically accept the first answers you are given.
  7. Wear a disguise (OK-you might want to scratch that one!).
  8. Be relentless in pursuit of the solution.
The next time you are given a challenging question, remember to ask yourself the question, "What would Sherlock do? What processes would he use? How would he outsmart the problem at hand and not just follow well worn solution paths?"

Tip: Did you know that Holmes never actually uttered that famous line "Elementary, my dear Watson" in any of Conan Doyle's four novels or 56 short stories featuring the character? Holmes does say "Elementary" in the book The Adventure of the Crooked Man, but the famous line does not appear in its entirety in any of Conan Doyle's stories. The full phrase seems to have originated in either a subsequent film or theater play (the actual source has been long debated) based on Conan Doyle's original work.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  customer understanding  engagement management  learning 

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#702: Find Opportunities in Your Client's White Spaces

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Several of my clients are planning to restructure or downsize in advance of tougher times in their market. I worry that this might reduce my opportunities to provide consulting services. Any advice on how to avoid this?

Recognizing that clients do not exist for the purpose of providing you consulting opportunities, changes in a client's market or overall economic conditions do present a challenge for consultants. However, if you are in a position to see how your client is changing, it is also a great opportunity to increase the value you can provide.

Almost every change in an organization means a change on the organization chart. Positions are added or removed. Reporting relationship are altered. Overall structure may be leveled or new layers added. Each of these changes presents an opportunity to provide some services to smooth the transition. Ostensibly, these changes were thought out and intentional. However, sometimes they are made with some, but not enough, forethought.

Look at your client's organization chart as it is likely to be over the next year. You may have even suggested some of these changes. How are these changes going to affect the "white spaces," those parts of the org structure that are not related to specific authority and reporting relationships? What can you do to make them work better.

Tip: Once you have confirmed what the org chart is likely to look like, develop some recommendations of how you think it might work even better. Talk to some of the people involved in some of the changes (without violating any confidentiality rules) to confirm your insights. Once you feel you have a solid grasp of the emerging situation, develop some recommendations of how your services might help the transition. Thinking at the highest level will help you better understand your client and will likely let them see you in a more strategic light.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  creativity  customer understanding  recommendations 

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