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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 

#381: Negotiate Your Consulting Fees

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 30, 2010
Updated: Monday, August 30, 2010
While no one wants to say the economy is still in recession, clients in my primary market are negotiating harder on fees this year. How can I maintain my fees and still appear like I am sensitive to their economic pressures?

Fee pressure is more likely if you price your services on an hourly or daily basis. When you bill by time, that time becomes a commodity. Unless you differentiate your "day" from that of others who provide similar services, your client will go for the cheapest substitutable commodity. Make sure you can show that your "day" is different (and more valuable) than that of your competitor.

If your services are not priced as a commodity in the first place, you will avoid a lot of the desire to negotiate. Setting fees based on the value of the project to the client means the client is more likely to have to give up some value to lower price. Even if you estimate the fee based on a combination of daily rate (to make sure you are pricing it high enough) and value based fees (to make sure you are compensated for the value you bring to the client), be prepared to quote a fixed fee.

Have a set of alternatives ready, both as add-ons as well as decrements to the original offer. If the original offer is unacceptable, show how more or less (depending on the mood of the client) creates greater value.

Tip: Don't just show how you can cut your fee, even if you are removing corresponding services to match. Human nature tends to shy away from extremes (the highest cost option seems "too expensive" and the lowest cost option seems "too cheap"). When you only cut back your proposed fees, your original offer becomes the most expensive and a client's tendency is to find it even less attractive. When you offer add-ons, they may reject the most costly option, but the original offer appears more palatable.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  fees  proposals 

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#380: If You Assume You Know the Answer, You May Not Understand the Question

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 27, 2010
Updated: Friday, August 27, 2010
With a lot of hard work, we built a solid repertoire of consulting skills and approaches for our market and pretty much everyone comes to us for our knowledge base and perspective. Should we now be branching out to other markets?

This is not to rain on your parade (congratulations though), but there is an element of delusion in providing any service based on expertise. Both the client and the service provider enter a relationship on the premise that the advisor has the answers, or a unique ability to get them. This was easier when problems were simpler, insights were harder to come by, and solutions were more durable. Over the past few decades, there has been an interesting shift in this process to find the "best" answer. What is optimal depends on who you ask so cornering the market in "best" advice is not as enduring it used to be.

Now that agility is among an organization's most valuable capabilities and strategy is as emergent as designed, neither the client nor the consultant may have "the" answer, nor even a clue where it is. Therefore, our value as consultants may no longer automatically derive from diagnosing the problem, recognizing the pattern, and applying the right methodology. We need to recognize that the solution to what looks like an obvious problem needs to be created, not picked from our repertoire. If you have a doubt that this democratization of consulting is upon us, see Malcolm Gladwell's 2004 TED talk on spaghetti sauce (among other things) and on why we have the proliferation of variation on a theme of products in most markets. Even if you know the stories, this talk provides some real insights for your consulting and management practice.

Tip: Even the most senior consultants shouldn't assume we've seen it all. The nature and complexity of the problems we face as advisors is evolving as fast as we develop competent and "proven" approaches.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consultant role  customer understanding  innovation  learning 

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#379: Consultants Really Can Use Humor Effectively

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 26, 2010
Updated: Thursday, August 26, 2010
Including a little light humor in my presentations and speeches seems like a good way to improve how well the message is received. However, a joke that bombs can create a disaster. What should I do to make sure that humor is effective?

"An accountant, attorney and management consultant are in a lifeboat . . ." is one way to start a speech, or "Tom Feldman is the kind of HR Director that . . ." can kick off a client presentation. They can win the audience or start the paperwork to assure you are not welcome back. Humor is something that needs to be planned carefully. If you can't pull it off well, then be cautious about giving it a key place in your opening remarks.

A couple of thoughts:
  • Make sure the joke isn't offensive. You don't have to be mean to be funny
  • Make sure the humor is simple to understand. The audience should not have to work to understand it. Don't require the audience to get obscure references or need information that few have.
  • Make sure the joke is blindingly relevant to the topic of your speech or presentation. Jokes are useful to introduce a topic or point of view, not distract the audience. Too oblique and people might not get or misinterpret the reference.
  • Make sure humor is the best way to make the point. A serious topic should be expressed in ways other than humor.
  • Make sure the humor is timely. Most jokes have a shelf life - be careful yours hasn't expired by the time you deliver it.
  • Try it out on people like those who will be in the audience. This makes sure they get the joke and the point you are trying to get across.
Tip: Your talk doesn't have to incude humor. Martin Luther King, Jr.s, "I Have a Dream" speech and Lincoln's Gettysburg Address both did OK without an opening joke. So can yours.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  goodwill  meetings  speaking 

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#378: Don't Let Your Ideas Die at the Conference Room Door

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I am an experienced advisor with long term repeat business from many clients. However, there is a nagging problem when I work with companies on strategy. Sometimes they just never get around to the implementing stage. Is it me?

Good for you for asking if it is you. Most consultants don't stop to consider that it is their responsibility to assure that their recommendations are competent, realistic and feasible. It would be irresponsible to recommend a theoretically elegant strategy that is totally impossible to implement.

Many great ideas should die (but don't) at the conference room door. What passes for a good idea is insufficiently thought through in terms of implementation. Simple questions that should have been asked often weren't.

Have the people who will implement a new strategy been consulted? Does it align with the culture of the organization or is it a new direction? How much political and cultural capital must be expended to implement and integrate the new strategy? Is your estimate realistic? Have you considered, and addressed, the key barriers to change (intellectual, emotional and personal)? Have you, as the consultant, advised your client on each stage of the implementation? Do you know what you are giving up by changing strategy? Would you give advice differently if you were accountable for outcomes over the next few years?

Tip: Despite what your assignment is, your ultimate responsibility as a management consultant is the outcome, not just the recommendation for action. In many cases it is not the strategy that is the problem, but the execution. Do your clients look to you for new direction when what they really need is stronger execution of existing ideas? Maybe you can be of greater value by being more vigilant as to which ideas leave the conference room.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  customer understanding  meeting preparation  presentations  recommendations 

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#377: Don't Assume You Need to Memorize Every "Best" Business Book

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, August 24, 2010
It seems that every week a new set of business books arrives, each claiming to be the innovative answer to every manager's needs. Consultants are supposed to know about these books but how is one supposed to do the triage needed to pick ones useful for our clients?

Yes, there are a lot of new business books and, yes, most of them are variations on an existing theme. What a good consultant needs is a way to vet these books and use them to refine his or her working set of theories, principles and practical approaches to client service (or marketing, practice management, etc.). As we know, change is not about wholesale rejection of the old for the sake of the new. New business concepts are likely to provide a new slant or nuance on an existing idea and, as such, their innovations can be added to your current solutions book, not require you to rewrite it.

If you have been in the consulting business for more than about five years and have been evaluating your approaches and performance, you will have developed a pretty good set of documented approaches and solutions on which you base your client work. Ask your colleagues which business books pass the logic (and laugh) test before reading them (better yet, read business book summaries or reviews to get the gist). You can't pick over every new book, and you don't have to if your current methodologies are sound.

Tip: Business journals often review the best business books of the year in which they sometimes lay out what is useful and what is not. Harvard Business Review publishes the top ideas of the past year. Sometimes a journal or magazine (See Entrepreneur Magazine) looks back at books written years earlier (maybe you haven’t read them?) and gives the good and bad about why they are important. The point is that it is OK to wait a bit to see if a book or concept flames out within the year before you commit its revolutionary approach to memory.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  innovation  knowledge assets  learning  professional development  trends 

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