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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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#341: Writing Articles for Magazines

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 5, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Whenever I write an article for a popular print magazine in my profession, I get very good feedback from the magazine's editors but don't appear to generate any additional consulting business. How might I more effectively maximize my article's impact?

Since you asked about print magazines, we'll leave off the (probably more productive) area of ezines, blogs, discussion groups, online article distribution, etc. Here are some things to help to generate readership and maximize the potential for the generation of contacts as a result:
  1. Be sure to have the magazine include your e-mail address in your byline or description (you may need to fight for this one, and some publications may not want to allow it).
  2. Make sure that you label yourself as a consultant (or advisor or whatever is appropriate for your prospects) in the author info.
  3. Write articles that reference the fact that you perform consulting work for clients in addition to demonstrating your technical/professional expertise. For example, "In my consulting engagements, I have noticed a general discomfort on the part of my clients when discussing the subject of reorganizations." A subtle mention is all that is required; don't be brazen about it.
  4. Try to include stimulating ideas in your article that promote additional questions on the subject. It is likely that readers will come to you to get answers.
  5. If appropriate and additional material is, in fact, available, add a line such as, "For readers who would like a complete copy of this referenced study please contact Mary at xyz@abc.com"
  6. If there is an accompanying photo, see if you can provide a caption, such as "Mary Jones, OD Consultant".
  7. Write articles for other magazines read by your prospects. Leverage the fact that "Mary, a noted consultant specializing in OD, has articles featured in such noted publications as A, B, and C". This requires some research to see what the publication influence pecking order is.
  8. Acquire a supply of "reprints" (authorized copies of your articles obtained from the publisher) and leverage them in your marketing material or as handouts in presentations. You might even use them in a special mailing to prospects and clients, if appropriate. Think print on demand to minimize waste.
  9. And finally, alert your existing clients to the upcoming article via e-mail and perhaps again when the issue "hits the street".
Tip: Even for print (yes, ther are a lot of people who prefer it to online periodicals) there are many creative ways to leverage your writing to generate inquiries. Take a closer look at some established contributors to your field's periodicals and see how they approach generating further interest.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  intellectual property  marketing  reputation  sales 

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#340: Recommendations Under Fire

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 2, 2010
Updated: Friday, July 2, 2010
What should I do if my client's staff attacks my recommendation(s)?

Try to avoid getting defensive. After all, your client's staff might actually be right in questioning your recommendations. They also might have "other" motivations, may be operating under very different assumptions than you are, or even feel defensive themselves. Perhaps you were not clear enough in presenting your recommendations to the team. If any of the above are true, getting defensive will probably not help.

So what do you do? First, try to gain an understanding on where you and the staff differ. Clarify your assumptions, rationale, conclusions, and specific recommendations and be prepared to modify them if required. Let them know that you want to better understand their thinking by asking a few questions.

Here are three potential examples:
  1. "Folks, I was assuming the following parameters are present (describe them). Are my assumptions in sync with yours?"
  2. "Perhaps I was not clear in what I was recommending. May I ask you a few questions to help me understand your concerns with my recommendations a little better?"
  3. "I am sensing that I might have 'stepped on some toes' here. That was absolutely not my intention. Help me to better understand your thinking and concerns, and let me see if I can clarify where I was coming from."
Listen carefully to how they respond and be open to changing your approach where appropriate. While dealing with the individuals or group, be sure you respect their thinking and acknowledge the validity of their approach. Move on to clarify your approach and explain why it has merit.

Tip: The next time you present your recommendations to the client's staff, try labeling them "Preliminary Recommendations for Discussion Purposes". This might set a much better tone for the presentation, showing clearly that you are looking for staff input.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client staff  communication  customer understanding  goodwill  reputation 

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#339: Getting Up to Speed in a New Industry

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 1, 2010
Updated: Thursday, July 1, 2010
I have a new client in a new industry (for me) and need to get up to speed in a real hurry. I don't really know anyone in the industry to talk to and don't have time to do more than read some of the industry journals. Anything else?

The journals are a great idea to familiarize yourself with the terminology, active companies, and some of the major issues of the day. This will give you a good lay of the land but it misses something important: an "inside the company" perspective. Think about it. Trade journals are written for people thinking about the industry at large but, as a management consultant advising a specific individual inside a company, you need a quick education in what matters to a company. Even better, you are best served by knowing those things that matter to a range of companies, each from an inside perspective.

Identify ten companies in your new industry (including your new client and its closest one or two competitors) and review their annual reports for the latest year. These are almost always available from company websites in pdf or HTML versions. Alternatively, you might be able to find a lot of them from www.annualreports.com. In each report, focus on the CEO letter (sometimes called "Management Letter"), a statement of risks or cautionary statement, and in many reports the "company at a glance" statements. Glance through these reports quickly then go back and take notes on common themes in these areas. What risks do companies share? What legislation or regulatory issues do they face? New technologies or customer concerns? Difficulties in revenue generation, expenses, taxes, foreign competition, etc? Most importantly, what is unique about your new client (both strengths and weaknesses)?

Tip: Prepare a "cheat sheet" for your first meeting with your new client. Go ahead and tell them you wanted to get up to speed quickly and wanted to run some of your findings past them. This is a great learning opportunity for you and it might even be so for them. At the very least, they should be impressed by your initiative.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  customer understanding  market research  meeting preparation 

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#338: Where Should You Sit?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 30, 2010
This seems like a silly question but when I go to a client meeting, I am never really sure where I should sit. I want to be prominent enough without appearing presumptuous.

Excellent question. There are business books that assert that you should make sure you sit in the middle of the long side of a conference table, or never sit with your back to the door, or make sure you sit after about half the people are seated. It is likely that these strategies are meant for expressing your status or imposing some form of dominance in a business setting. These are hardly appropriate for a consultant.

Where you sit is based on whether your position at a client meeting makes any difference. This is, first of all, between you and your client. It is entirely appropriate to ask where he or she would like you to sit. This is a conversation best had before the meeting, if possible, as part of your ground rules for how the client expects you to interact with and be seen by the staff.

Sometimes there is value in being "at your client's right hand." Other times it is far better to be inconspicuous (but available). Still others, there is a strategic value in you placing yourself between two otherwise contentious meeting participants. Finally, and this is most of the time, it really doesn't make any difference.

Tip: Let your client know that your participation, placement, and conduct during a meeting can be a significant help to improving the productivity and overall success of that meeting. Ask how you could best help - most consultants wouldn't think of offering.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  client relations  customer understanding  goodwill  meeting preparation 

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#337: Organizational "Undiscussables"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I am working with an organization to help generate ideas for innovation and change from a very talented team of employees. The problem is, every time I meet with them, there seems to be something that is preventing open and honest dialogue. I can't put my finger on what it is. Do you have any suggestions for surfacing and identifying this "unmentionable" so that we can move forward constructively?

Noted Harvard management scholar Chris Argyris refers to these barriers to open communication in organizations as "undiscussables". Argyris theorizes that, over time, organizations can easily become defensive and self-censoring. As a result, communication becomes limited to expressing those views that the company's culture deems appropriate. For example, if a person believes there will be negative ramifications for conveying bad news at a department meeting, they simply won't bring it up.

Since these "undiscussables" can be considered symptoms of deeper organizational issues, left unaddressed, they can worsen over time. What can you do to help eliminate these barriers? One tip is to address them head on by identifying their existence. This can sometimes be achieved by simply asking the group to explicitly identify the "undicussables" openly and honestly, both individually or collectively.

Try asking the following question in individual informal discussions with the team members or with the entire group at the next meeting—"What issues weren't brought up that should have been? If you try this in the meeting setting, encourage everyone at the meeting to contribute an answer.

Tip: If not identified and properly addressed, "undiscussables" can lead to significant long term operational issues, a loss of competitive opportunities and, in general, a dysfunctional corporate culture. For some additional interesting reading, check out Argyris' classic article "Skilled Incompetence" from the Harvard Business Review (9/86).

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  business culture  client relations  communication  customer understanding 

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