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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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#346: It's OK to Get Input from Others

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 12, 2010
Updated: Monday, July 12, 2010
Although it can often be quicker, more empowering, and (in some cases) even necessary to make a decision without seeking the input or opinion of others, are there really advantages to leveraging additional insight from outside? 

Organizing a solid round of independent and objective critiques can take additional effort and time to coordinate, but there are definite advantages to soliciting the input of others during your decision-making process. Obviously, it can help to surface additional considerations that you might have not thought about. It can leverage a wider-range of experience than you yourself might personally possess. It can tease out some biases you may not be aware of. Sometimes someone else's ideas can stimulate new ideas from you. In addition, if you seek input from members of your client's organization, it can help to provide you with additional support and ownership for the implementation of a particular solution.

Tip: Seeking input from others can actually be interpreted by others as a sign of a consultant's strength and not a weakness. This can make for a more complex process at times, but often the results make the extra effort very worthwhile.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  practice management  professionalism 

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#345: How Much Do Consultants Need to Compete?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Friday, July 9, 2010
There are thousands of consultants and business advisors against whom I compete, each with a different focus and competitive advantage. How am I supposed to compete against them all?

This is a great question that reminds me of the joke of "How fast do you need to run to escape from a bear?" The answer: "Just a little bit faster than your friend." You don't have to be the best in all markets, capabilities, technologies, etc. to be effective. You just need to be better (i.e., more valuable to a prospective client) than the alternative. Look at any athlete, actor, surgeon, chef or painter. They are judged - by the person evaluating or receiving the service - as having the right skills, applied in the right way, at the right time. A universal evaluation standard does not exist.

Rethink your strategy. Instead of starting with your abilities and figuring out how to enhance them to beat others, look at a prospect and figure out how to provide greater value than they are currently receiving. The recipients of your service are totally disinterested in your skills except to the extent that their condition is better in the future than it is now.

Tip: Compete against the service received by your prospective clients instead of service providers like yourself. Focus on the nexus of service between you and the client and not on either one by themselves.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  customer understanding  marketing  prospect  sales  your consulting practice 

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#344: The "Walk-Through"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 8, 2010
What is a good way to increase the odds that my recommendations will be successfully implemented?

Professional service providers are (in)famous for recommending activities, structures or processes that, while logical, may be impractical. Despite the fact that your idea worked spectacularly for every other client, you are right to want to be sure that your recommendations will succeed in a range of scenarios with this client. You want to know in advance what could go wrong and prevent that from happening.

Whether it is a recommendation for an assembly line procedure, a script for a sales call, or a newly proposed method for processing a transaction, the "walk through" is an invaluable tool for testing out any recommendation. Try to model the "real world" environment as closely as possible both physically and psychologically. It can be done through role-play, or an actual run-through in a controlled "live" environment. The walk-through helps you surface problems and opportunities prior to full implementation. It will also test the overall soundness of the recommendations, as well as highlighting:
  • Possibilities for misinterpretation
  • Problems with the flow of the new process
  • Areas where things can be improved
  • Legal or regulatory issues
  • Uncertainties over accountability or responsibility for specific tasks
  • Areas requiring further clarification or training
Tip: You might want to do your first walk through with your consulting team but always include your client team in a final walk through. This makes sure they understand and experience its operation and effects before signing off on its use.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  consulting process  performance improvement  recommendations 

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#343: Promises and Delivery

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I've heard other consultants advise "always under-promise and over-deliver." Is this a good approach?

This is logical if your goal is to avoid "under-delivering." However, "under-promising" might be a poor strategy to secure business and please your client, who is likely looking to do the absolute best possible with the available time and resources. A better approach might be to make a meaningful, realistic promise of delivery and then work very hard to absolutely deliver (or over-deliver) on that ambitious promise.

There are many ways to do this. You can single out one facet of the assignment on which you can make a strong commitment, perhaps even making your fee partially or totally contingent on its delivery. At a minimum, you should mutually review the risks and mitigation strategies you will both take to assure satisfactory delivery of your services so that the client gets the outcomes they expect.

Tip: Be very clear with the client what you plan to deliver and when. You are dancing close to an ethical line if you tell them one thing and plan to deliver something else (even if it is an improvement on the cost, quality or speed of your initial commitment). The ultimate risk of under-promising: it may be so unambitious that you may not get a chance to deliver it because you lost the job to another firm with more realistic and ambitious plans.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  communication  engagement management  ethics  goodwill  proposals  sales 

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#342: You Remembered!

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Here's something every service provider should consider: Sometimes it is the little extra things that resonate most with your customers.

Remembering and recognizing a notable date or milestone that is important to your client is an excellent way to show that you hold your professional relationship with them in high regard. A birthday, anniversary of the completion of a project, or even the recognition of the milestone "x years doing business together" are all great opportunities to send a short e-mail or card to your client. And it is not to do as hard as it might seem. And, although it is simple enough to knock off an email (you did put the date into your calendar a long time ago so you would remember, didn't you?), consider a simple hand written note or an aside comment when you are together. Make it as personal as appropriate.

Tip: The impact of these gestures is directly related to how personal the event or item is. If you once talked about their kids and know one of them was going to band camp or got a job in another city, your remembering to ask how they are doing works wonders for your relationship. Furthermore, this is not just about making points; it is a way to better understand what is important to your client (this applies to anyone in your client's organization).

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client staff  communication  customer understanding  goodwill 

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