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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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#700: Get Prospects to Return Your Calls

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 18, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 18, 2011
How do I get people with whom I am not currently doing work to return my phone call? When I get voice mail, I have a hard time finding the right words to compel the action of a return phone call.

People vary in their responsiveness. Most of us were raised to return all calls, but when you are out all day and return to 10 voice mails, we have to do some triage.

The first to get ignored are unsolicited requests or offers when there is not a clear benefit (usually someone wanting to sell me something they have no idea whether or not I need). I also don't answer ones where it is unclear what they want or the request is a long and rambling one. I usually get to all others eventually.

My suggestion for you is to script the voice message - I mean really write it down, not just go over it in your head. Follow the AIDA principle of marketing: Attention (why should I continue to listen to this voice mail?), Interest (is there something of relevance to me?), Desire (is this something I want?) and Action (what should I do to take advantage of the offer?). If a call is a request for my time without a hint that there is something in it for me, I am less likely to answer it.

You just need to know what is of interest to the person you called. Part of your script should be to clarify this. If you are soliciting business, how well do you understand the needs of the person you are calling? If you don't, they certainly know this and won't hear what they need to hear in your voice mail.

Tip: Leave a voice mail that proves to them that you are really interested in getting in touch with them. Leave them a date and time you will call back if you don't hear from them sooner, or tell them that you will send them a letter describing in more detail your intended discussion, and make sure you follow up.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  market research  marketing  prospect  sales 

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#693: What is Your Consulting "Killer App?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 9, 2011
If many of the services a consultant provides (e.g., assessments, process reengineering, market research) are increasingly commoditized, and the pace of change in most industries renders "long experience" less valuable, what is left to the professional consultant to differentiate their services from any other consultant?

Every discipline, business and individual has something that differentiates it from its competitors. It could be the unique value proposition, the proprietary technology or the brand. Given the nature of the profession and the implied value of creative, customized service, the equivalent for a management consultant might be called the "killer app."

The definition of a killer app (applied to computer programs) is a program or element of a program that makes it indispensible to the operation of a larger program or a "must have" product that compels purchase of the platform on which it resides. Bill Gates described Internet Explorer as a killer app in that it was so useful that it would induce people to buy Microsoft products. In the same sense, consider consultants who have a similar service, database or capability that is so powerful that it compels clients to seek them out - despite the fact that most of their services are indistinguishable from those of other consultants. The platform is your suite of consulting services, among which is your killer app.

This is a similar to a strategic competitive advantage but does not have to be as grand in its scope. Since clients are selecting from your suite of (largely intangible) services, they are looking for some (marginally tangible) service they can relate to and appreciate as unique and valuable. In this sense, your whole practice does not have to be superior, just one or two compelling items.

Tip: Find (at least) one service, asset, capability, set of data or infrastructure that you have created, that few others could duplicate, and that you know is an easy sale to clients. This establishes your services as high value, making offering additional (non killer app) services easier and giving you a position of relative strength to negotiate their value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  consulting skills  consulting tools  innovation  intellectual property  knowledge assets  presentations  product development  prospect 

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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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#659: Time to Reassess Your Pipeline

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 22, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2011
I am worried about my client pipeline now that the economic conditions are changing. What's a good way to evaluate where prospects stand?

Now is a good time to reevaluate your pipeline, although maybe with slightly different criteria than historically. On a sheet of paper or spreadsheet, list your prospects and grade them along criteria of attractiveness for the coming year (add or modify this list as you see fit):
  • consistency of likely engagement with your practice strategy
  • engagement revenue volume (big or small job)
  • profitability (considering possibly greater cost of service for travel, staffing, materials)
  • risks (overweight of project as % of total practice and impact of termination)
  • industry profitability over the next year or two
  • likelihood of follow on business
  • referrals possibly generated
Now, rate your clients/prospects from A to F:
  • A clients - low risk, high referral, long term, likely to add services
  • B clients - modest in all categories but not likely to grow much
  • C clients - difficult to adopt new services, slow to pay, high risk
  • D clients - you have concerns and will probably not renew
  • F clients - these are low margin, problem clients, may be ethically challenged, and you'll seek to terminate when your obligations are fulfilled
Take a hard look at your clients in the context of changed economic conditions. Which clients are in need of more or less of your services? Which are going to be pressed to pay on time? In which client personally do you have better chemistry? You may be surprised how some clients move up and others down in the rankings. Focus on the A clients or prospects, try to upgrade the B and C clients and plan on dropping the D and F clients.

Tip: Discuss your ranking criteria with your colleagues. Do you agree on which industries are good prospects, on the attractiveness of your specific services, on the likelihood of selling additional services to named clients? You may gain insights from discussing these criteria, or you may find common ground for collaboration.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  prospect  sales 

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