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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 

#701: Communicate Powerfully - Nonverbally

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 21, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 21, 2011
I am always amazed by the disconnect in some people between body language and the words coming from their mouths. It got me to thinking that consultants, given that we are supposed to be experts/authority figures, should probably pay more attention to our nonverbal cues.

You raise a good point. It is hard to be authentic as a trusted advisor interested in client issues when you are sitting across from them, leaning back in your chair, with your legs and arms crossed and your hand on your face - all gestures suggesting you are closed off from the other person. However, leaning forward, arms in front of you with palms open, eye contact, appropriate facial expressions, and other indicators of interest will engender more trust.

Unless we take the time to recognize how these gestures might be interpreted and pay attention to our own nonverbal communication, we are possibly cutting off trust by our clients and that may hinder our ability to deliver good value. Alternatively, you may want to become a student of body language and other subtle (or not so subtle) cues so you can better judge where your client is coming from. Nothing says be careful like a words of confidence spoken by a person whose body language says they are not so sure.

Tip: Diversity in all its forms, whether ethnicity, age, nationality, lifestyle, gender or other types, brings with it complication of what body language really means. A friendly gesture on one culture may be seen as disrespectful in another. What is common in one generation may be confusing in another. A great book to sensitize you to how various cultures see the world and how to act and think appropriately, is Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands (The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More than 60 Countries). This book opened my eyes to how to better understand verbal and nonverbal communication as well as appreciate different ethnographic and cultural perspectives (not only among countries but within your own). It is a fun read and valuable reference book.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  travel  trust 

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#700: Get Prospects to Return Your Calls

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 18, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 18, 2011
How do I get people with whom I am not currently doing work to return my phone call? When I get voice mail, I have a hard time finding the right words to compel the action of a return phone call.

People vary in their responsiveness. Most of us were raised to return all calls, but when you are out all day and return to 10 voice mails, we have to do some triage.

The first to get ignored are unsolicited requests or offers when there is not a clear benefit (usually someone wanting to sell me something they have no idea whether or not I need). I also don't answer ones where it is unclear what they want or the request is a long and rambling one. I usually get to all others eventually.

My suggestion for you is to script the voice message - I mean really write it down, not just go over it in your head. Follow the AIDA principle of marketing: Attention (why should I continue to listen to this voice mail?), Interest (is there something of relevance to me?), Desire (is this something I want?) and Action (what should I do to take advantage of the offer?). If a call is a request for my time without a hint that there is something in it for me, I am less likely to answer it.

You just need to know what is of interest to the person you called. Part of your script should be to clarify this. If you are soliciting business, how well do you understand the needs of the person you are calling? If you don't, they certainly know this and won't hear what they need to hear in your voice mail.

Tip: Leave a voice mail that proves to them that you are really interested in getting in touch with them. Leave them a date and time you will call back if you don't hear from them sooner, or tell them that you will send them a letter describing in more detail your intended discussion, and make sure you follow up.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  market research  marketing  prospect  sales 

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#699: Does Your Title Really Matter?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 17, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Some of my consulting colleagues head up small or solo consulting practices. Between them, they are President, Principal, Managing Partner, Chair, Executive Consultant, CEO, CXX (any number of "creative" titles), or no title at all. Does any of this matter?

To whom?

These titles are important in a large firm to differentiate between various executive, management and staff jobs. It helps outsiders know which roles and responsibilities an individual has. HR departments use these to describe a job to applicants. Inside a firm, it helps define accountabilities, and who gets what size office. Certainly if your business is related to the Internet or marketing, there has been an arms race in creative job titles.

For a solo or boutique firm consultant, this boils down to what your ego needs and what makes your mother proud. It really doesn't make any difference what you call yourself. Clients are hiring you for your expertise, perspective, skills and behaviors, not because you are CEO or President or Grand Poobah.. I've heard more than one client express some disdain in reaction to a consultant whose business card reads "CEO and Chairman" when they are a one-person firm or "Managing Partner" in a ten-person firm.

Tip: Call yourself whatever you like, but know that it is mostly for your own benefit.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  goodwill  professionalism  reputation 

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#698: Consultants Should Still Dress for Success

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
This may sound like a stupid question, but there are times I feel overdressed for meetings at my client's office. Every Friday is a "casual dress day" and there are some people who never wear a suit and tie or nice dress, including the CEO. Can I dress professionally and still be "overdressed"?

It seems that every generation goes through this question of how to "dress for success." There are plenty of books written and classes offered to help you select and dress "appropriately." Yes, there are even consultants whose practice centers around advising others how to dress for the job. Some consulting firms, in effect, have a "uniform" that supports their brand - either suit and tie or business casual, depending on the markets they are in, and they always dress in this style. Others are more flexible, letting individual consultants tie their dress to that of the client.

There are a few basic rules about how to approach this. The first is that this is about you and not your client. Regardless of what the dress rules are for your client, what kind of image do you want to project? What makes you comfortable and what do you want your dress to say about you? Dress or pantsuit? Sport coat or three piece suit? "Power tie" or no tie? You don't have to match the dress of your client (especially if each of your clients vary) - pick a style that works for you.

A second rule is addressing occasions that call for attire other than the office standard. For example, if you are invited to a company social or sporting event where causal dress is called for, you can dress casually. Casual, however, does not mean sloppy. Have a set of casual clothes specifically assembled for such events, don't just throw together whatever.

Tip: Select your clothes from a one or two sources that fit your style and budget and stick with them. This will help you create "brand continuity" and make sure your attire is not an issue of note. The bottom line is that your dress not be a distraction from what you are there to do - deliver services.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  client relations  customer understanding  goodwill  professionalism 

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#697: Consultants Need Business Continuity Plans

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Given that I am an independent consultant, is it really necessary to have a formal business continuity plan?

This all depends on what you mean by a business continuity plan. Traditionally such a plan is created to manage an organization through a disaster such as a fire, earthquake or other unusual and catastrophic event. This is the old "disaster recovery plan," which has been expanded to accommodate more organizational components (than just saving financial or data records) and more preparation and even training. The goal is to minimize the disruption to the business in the event of a disaster.

As a solo practitioner, your systems are likely to be fairly simple and a formal plan may be overkill. Conversely, many small businesses have quite a few systems or assets to protect and operations to provide for. You may have computer files that call for offsite backup, ongoing client communications that need redundancy, a base of operations in which to work during recovery, etc. Being small doesn't mean you don't need planning, it just means the scale of response may not be as big as for a bigger business.

Furthermore, there are hazards you face that larger businesses do not. Illness of the entire staff (you) is little different from the impact of pandemic flu keeping a company's whole workforce off the job. Your business may be less complex but there is greater risk of entire systems being compromised, such as when your laptop (the company's entire IT department) gets flooded when a pipe bursts.

Tip: Make a list of your critical systems and a list of what is the worst (and second and third worst) things that could happen to compromise them. How will you market and deliver services to your clients under each of these situations? What can you do to both prevent their occurrence and speed up response and recovery? Maybe it's not a formal plan, but at least you will have thought this through. Ask to see a friend's plan and see what each of you have missed.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  agility  planning  practice management  risk analysis  security  your consulting practice 

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