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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 

#720: Management Consulting is Like Sex . . .

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 16, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 16, 2011
Large consulting firms have developed an institutional brand and formal "approaches" to differentiate themselves. However, as the consulting field for independents becomes more crowded with retired business executives and retired/departed large firm consultants, differentiation is getting a lot harder. If everyone is selling the same strategic planning, process improvement, training, etc. services, what is the best way to make a compelling case to a prospect that your services are truly different and valuable?

It is unclear whether competition is any easier for large firms than it is for independents. Large blocks of consultants are selling the same services that can be described in general terms focusing on process, knowledge management, strategy, marketing, etc. Every large firm sells more or less the same "technology consulting, strategy, leadership, etc. services. Independents sell many of the same services, just at a smaller scale. Management consulting, like most free agent knowledge work, is highly competitive. In differentiating yourself, what is important is not the "title" of your pitch, but the "subtitle."

Look at new business books. Many have a title interesting enough to get you to look closer, but it is the subtitle that creates the emotional hook. To make up an example, consider "Twenty-Second Century Management: Be First in Your Market to Tap Emerging Tools, Technologies and Cultures." The title raises an eyebrow, but the subtitle would probably make you open the book for a closer look.

So it could be for your services. Don't start by describing "what" you do (e.g., planning, training, finance). Go right to the value with a "title" that is an attention grabber. But, and this is important, once you stimulate an interest with your provocative lead (e.g., like the title of this Tip), be prepared to back it up with a compelling reason why your service really is different. Your prospect will remember the hook and be satisfied that you know what you are doing if you tie it all together.

OK, to validate the point and follow up the Tip title, there are a number of one liners that, if you are honest and mature, provide the basis for thoughtful discussion about the management consulting profession, and your particular services. For example, It's all about chemistry (between consultant and client). Nobody wants to admit that they don’t really know what they’re doing (particularly new consultants and new managers). Everyone thinks they are good at it (there is no objective evaluation standard for consultants' work). All remember it as being better than it actually was (witness consultants' claims in their marketing materials). It is not the size of the consulting team but the effectiveness of the consulting process (large vs. boutique vs. independent consulting firms). There are many more but this is a good place to claim victory and move on!

Tip: You won't soon forget the subject of this Tip and are already thinking of your own one-liners to supplement those above. This is just one approach, but with this type of engagement you get a prospect to enthusiastically engage with you. With a bit of wry humor, you have made it possible for your prospect (hopefully now a client) to look forward to a great consulting experience.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  client relations  innovation  marketing  proposals  prospect  reputation  sales 

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#694: Can You Diagnose an Organizational Learning Disability?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 10, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011
Does your consulting practice or your client's organization have learning disabilities?

Just as individuals have disabilities when it comes to perceiving, understanding and applying knowledge, so too do organizations. If we are unable to establish a construct within which to actively seek or passively absorb information around us, it is difficult to acquire new perceptions or develop new habits of behavior. The same applies to applying and benefiting from this new knowledge.

Organizations have the same challenges. If your client's organization, or even your own consulting practice, does not create the conditions for active learning and growth, it will fall behind competitors in being able to deliver constantly improving service and to thrive. There are many constructs for describing how organizations learn but they must be set up to learn, actively learn and structurally apply that knowledge to sustain performance.

Tip: Use a common three-step process to improve your organizational learning. First, investigate the circumstances of your strategy and operations. How well do you understand who you are, where you intend to go, what your capabilities are? Second, evaluate what is working and what is not. Can you identify what activities led to success and failures and why? Third, institutionalize what you have learned. This is the place where many consultants fail - they understand what happened and why but do not do anything about it. Especially for your clients, but also for your own business, take specific actions to make sure your failures are not repeated and that the conditions the led to your successes become part of your practice DNA.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  guidance  your consulting practice 

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#689: There is Some Value in Cold Calling by Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 3, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 3, 2011
I want to extend my practice to an industry in which I have no experience, but for which I think I could provide good service. I have no contacts but would like to know if cold calling is an effective way to make myself known.

Cold calling, as traditionally defined, is generally a bad strategy for consultants. The idea of getting a name off a mailing list or the lobby directory and calling unannounced is likely to result in two things. First, you annoy the person, most likely a senior manager, you are trying to dazzle with your capabilities. Second, you leave an impression that you are somewhat desperate to get work, so much so that you are trying to shortcut the effort required to build a relationship. In essence, you are trying to make withdrawals from a business relationship "bank account" before you have made any deposits.

Recognizing that you are new to the industry and do not have a ready referral network, why not try a "modified cold call," that minimizes the downside of traditional cold calling. This does require some research and, although it is a "cold" route to get to prospects, you do arrive at a prospect's door armed with something valuable to offer.

You probably know enough about the industry that it is an attractive consulting target for you. So, you probably know enough to draft a white paper on key trends in the industry and, given your understanding of the companies, you will recognize several of those companies that are leading positive trends or are in serious trouble. These may well be your prospects, if you can prepare a cogent argument of how your services can bring value to their rise or reverse their decline.

Tip: Prepare a company specific plan of action or white paper targeted at the company or subsector in which the company works. Contact (this is a "cool" call) the appropriate executive with an offer to discuss a specific action they could take to improve their lot. You may have to send the piece ahead to get the appointment, but this should be sufficiently intriguing to land you a face to face conversation about a specific action for which you could provide value. Make sure you have a testimonial/referral or two to back up your claim you can deliver this service.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  communication  marketing  sales 

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#663: Sell More Services by Making Your Client the Hero, Not You

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Selling consulting services seems to get harder over time as clients have more to choose from, consulting services become commoditized and price pressure persists. Selling intangible services has always required some good technique but will it continue to get harder to sell consulting services?

Selling professional services is the subject of many books, seminars, articles and sales consultants. There is no shortage of techniques, nor is there a shortage of theories on why selling consulting services may be getting harder. One we hear most often is that once organizations see how it is possible to weather tough times with fewer staff, they recognize that they may not need as many consultants either. With fewer staff, an organization may use consultants as bodies but some are less willing to pay as they have in the past to acquire expertise.

Regardless of demand for consulting services, how we sell our consulting services makes a huge difference in how successful we are in engaging with a client. Starting with our assumption that our intellectual and technical capabilities are top notch, we have a tendency to show how our research, skills, data, access or technology can save the day for a client. This story reflects our brand but is of less interest to the prospect. They don't care about how well we can save the day; they want to know how we can help them save the day. It is not about us, our firm, our reputation or our capabilities. If we try to convince a prospect to believe our marketing collateral, we are less likely to turn them into a client.

This is all about using the approach writers have refined over decades - the story of the hero. If we mirror the prospect's world and their challenges and relate how the world is changing (or has changed), then we can show how, with our support, the prospect can go from powerless to conquering hero. Again, neither we nor our brand are the point of the story.

Tip: See a solid slide show that relates many of these points in How to Tell a Story that Sells. Watch this a few times (really) and develop a process and content set that works for you. Odds are that your next pitch to a prospect is far more engaging and you will better understand why they need to be the hero, not you.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  communication  customer understanding  marketing  presentations  proposals  prospect 

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#652: Prospects May Know More About You Than You Know About Them

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
When meeting with a prospect, how much information should be sent ahead and how much reserved for the meeting? I worry prospects either won't read send-ahead material or may not understand it the way we intend.

Consider the purpose of the meeting with a prospect - to get to know each other and drive toward identification of a mutual beneficial activity. If the meeting is on equal terms (i.e., both of you have something interesting and tangible to gain) then both of you are compelled to investigate the other to have a productive meeting. If you think the prospect is not interested enough to read your send-ahead material, then you have not set up your value well enough. If you believe the prospect might misinterpret the materials, then you have not provided unambiguous, compelling materials. You can fix both of these.

However, you may also be surprised at how much your prospect knows about you even without your send-ahead materials. The Internet makes it possible for a prospect to know a lot about you even before they contact you for an introductory meeting (or, if you initiated the contact, before your first meeting). If you are an independent or small firm consultant or have a public persona (e.g., speaker, author, panelist, expert witness, community contributor), then it is easy for your prospect to assemble a profile of you in less than ten minutes.

Do you know your online brand and information from which your prospect will draw? Like a credit report, there can be lots of incorrect data about you. It may not be malicious, just wrong. I once discovered an online profile of me that an organization to which I was speaking had created - with a lot of interesting facts that weren't even about me, but was still available for all to see. We no longer have full control over our own brand and that prospect you are so eager to see may never ask for send-ahead material because they already decided to not meet with you - all based on your online identity.

Tip: Create a sell sheet or capabilities statement that you post on your own website and ask that others refer/link to it. This gives uniformity and currency to your online identity. It is tempting to be listed in a lot of directories and social networking sites but you are better off just listing what's needed to pique people's interest then get them to your website (even if you need separate landing pages for different referral sources).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  learning  market research  marketing  prospect  reputation 

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