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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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#692: Make the Case for Raising Your Rates

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
With downward pressure on prices in general, and consultant rates in particular, how likely is it that I will be able to raise my rates anytime soon?

Although overall economic strength or weakness may mean overall prices "should" increase or decrease, this has little to do with rates clients will pay for your consulting services. In theory, skills in short supply compel people needing them to pay higher prices. In theory. But that is only part of the story.

When the economy changes, the types of services in demand also change. Don't confuse supply with demand. Just because there aren't many other consultants doing what you do doesn't mean that the demand remains high. Sometimes the demand declines along with supply.

Increasing your rates requires you to make the case to prospects and clients that your services will make them and their business more productive. When the economy slows, there are needs for new or different types of services. Your credibility to provide those services is your validation of your greater value.

Tip: Talk to your clients about specifically what has changed in their short term needs. Look at the trade press for points of pain for companies in your area of specialization. For example, for companies with tightened credit or decreased cash flows, how can you recast your services to alleviate these challenges? For example, if your area of specialty is training, often a discretionary expenditure for companies, recast your training to show how your training will increase employees' abilities to sell more products and increase cash flow. Show the direct link between increasing cash flow to increase profitability in the emerging economy and your ability to increase employee productivity through usable skills. Be fully prepared for any argument that your services are worth less because "the economy is slow."

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  fees  intellectual property  market research  marketing  proposals  reputation 

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#686: Don't Pitch a Prospect Until You Know You Are Ready

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 31, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 31, 2011
My track record of getting appointments with prospects is pretty good but there are times the pitch just doesn't go over very well. I always do my research and have a lot of ideas ready to pitch but, more often than not, they just don't seem to connect.

Experienced consultants develop protocols for much of what they do. After many years of delivering similar services, they have honed efficient setup and processes for delivering most of their services. They have the AIDA down pat. They have a storyboard. They conenct emotionally with the prospect's pain, not just their aspirations. For some consultants, however, this need for well-defined processes seems not to apply for prospect meetings.

You say you do your research on the prospect ahead of time but you also say you arrive with lots of potential ideas. This may be where you run astray. Think of it from the client's perspective. They have lots of issues to deal with but probably only a very few they are prepared to talk to you about. To a prospect, your talking about a lot of things you could do for them sounds like you are selling yourself, not solving their problem. If you really have done enough research, you will know the top three issues the prospect needs to address. If you are the right person for the job, then you will have a very tightly scripted pitch to get right to the point of pain. Doing that will keep prospects focused on what you can do for them, not what they need to do for you.

Tip: If you can't identify 1-3 issues the prospect has a passion for, has a need to fix, and lacks the capability in house to solve, then you don't know enough. It may be that you could meet with the prospect to listen and gather more information, but it is better to understand the issue well enough to be able to craft your rather robust process to solve it. Finally, it is worth the effort to dry run your pitch. Don't consider practicing your pitch as something only a novice consultant does. The confidence you gain from a perfectly practiced pitch wears off onto the prospect.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  customer understanding  market research  marketing  meeting preparation  proposals  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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#654: Alternative Ways to Pay Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 15, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 15, 2011
Companies are being squeezed for cash like no other time in our lives. Even though, in theory, they really need consulting services more than ever, how are they, practically, going to pay for them? Can I be proactive to suggest alternative compensation strategies?

We are hearing from a lot of clients that are hitting the wall with all but essential expenditures. As much as we like to think of our consulting services as an investment rather than an expense, and an investment in efficiency and effectiveness, sometimes there is just no getting past the fact that your fees are a check that has to be written. Many clients will increasingly find it hard to pay your fees unless you can help make the case (usually in a new way) that your services are high priority.

Occasionally mentioned but never getting much traction in the past, pay for performance seems to be making a comeback. This is partly because clients want to make sure any investment (including you) is worth the cost, but also because clients are looking for more accountability from consultants. Satisfied with results of other pay for performance or gainsharing agreements for other professional services, executives are exercising their fiduciary responsibilities by asking consultants to assume some of the risk of investing in their intangible services.

What does this mean for you? Maybe nothing, or at least until your client asks you to discuss pay for performance instead of a daily rate or project fee. However, it makes sense to be prepared. Talk to your colleagues in IMC or in your industry about their recent experiences in structure of compensation.

Tip: Be prepared with data and an approach that works for you when the subject arises with a client or prospect. Work out in advance what kind of structure makes sense for you. Recognize that you should only be assuming risk for those portions of the project over which you have control. If you are making recommendations but have no control over implementation, how much risk should you assume? Conversely, this option for risk/reward trade off may be a powerful incentive for the client to involve you more deeply in implementation and management of your recommendations. If this is what you want, build that into your proposed compensation model.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  creativity  fees  innovation  proposals 

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