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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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#105: Have Business Cards Passed Their Expiration Date

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 6, 2009
I used to use a lot of business cards but not lately. Are business cards still useful?

The business card custom started a long time ago and were used in a very different way than they are used today. What we now call business cards started as "tradecards" in early 17th century England. Because there were few newspapers or public advertising, these tradecards often contained a map or directions to a merchant's place of business. Two things changed over the centuries. First, the number of businesses multiplied into the millions, with each merchant having their own cards. Second, the use of the cards expanded into social arenas and were termed "calling cards." In this case, cards were handed out to those one visited as well as would be given to someone to whom you want to be introduced. Eventually, everyone seemed to have business cards and used them liberally.

Only you can determine whether business cards create value for your business, but I see drastically lower use than even a decade ago. Part of the reason is the availability of business information through search on the Internet. Also, the "networking mixer," although still conducted, is less popular than a decade ago, resulting in fewer pocketfuls of business cards than a decade ago. Instead of handing someone a business card, you can even beam your contact information from your phone.

Tip: One practice that can increase the value of your business card is to include more than just your contact information. After a business trip, conference or large meeting, how likely are you to remember the details of each person whose card you now have? Use the reverse side of the card to list your services, explain your brand, or make a specific call to action. This will make it more likely that the recipient of your card will both remember and act on the card in the way you intended.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  publicity  sales 

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#104: Before You Refer Someone

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 6, 2009
When I refer a colleague, some of whom I know better than others, to a client or other executive, I want to be sure I am doing the right thing. If I don't know the consultant well, should I make the referral with caveats or not at all?

The strength of our networks is strongly tied to who we can refer when we don't have the skills or time to provide services ourselves. The value of our network to a client is how strong those referrals are. If our referral base is weak, we do ourselves and our clients a disservice. The trick to using a strong network is to know when to refer and when to defer.

Each referral has value along several dimensions. First, technical skills and experience. How broad is the consultant's experience base, in how many different industries have they worked, and what certifications or other third party endorsement do they hold? Second, consulting skills. Do they have emotional intelligence, can they communicate well, are their engagement process skills of high quality, and do they have business acumen and insight? Third, ethics and professionalism. Do they follow a rigorous Code of Ethics like IMC's, are they sensitive to the fact or appearance of conflicts of interest, and would you trust your best clients to their care? Are any of these weak or missing in your potential referral? Consider whether this weakness disqualify someone from being referred.

Tip: Make a specific list of consultants you would consider referring. Now, score each along the above criteria. Whatever rubric you use, clarify any data you are not sure about (e.g., you know someone's technical skills well but are not sure about their general business acumen). By whatever criteria you set a minimum qualification, how many are in your "acceptable" referral network now? Probably not as many as you thought, would like to have, or are fully valuable to your clients. Time to selectively build your network.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  referrals 

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#103: Schlock and Awe

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Updated: Thursday, August 6, 2009
Is it really necessary to have an elaborate corporate qualifications dog and pony show when pitching an engagement to a client? I hear from clients about how impressed they were with how much multimedia and exciting graphics were in consultant X's presentation.

A few questions. First, are we talking about pitching to a client who doesn't know anything about you? Talking to a prospect who, before your meeting, knows nothing about you (or a prior client who has forgotten the details from your last engagement) places you on an even footing with every other consultant. It may even put you at a disadvantage to consultants who have been referred or have a more visible public image. You can fix this to some extent by making sure your reputation arrives before you do. Too often, a consultant diligently prepares to meet a prospect without making sure the prospect is prepared to meet the consultant (this is a tip for another day).

Second, if you are pitching to a client who is wowed by a fancy presentation more than substance, is this the client you really want to partner with? It is naive to think that we would dismiss a potential engagement just because of the impressionability of a client; after all, we do make sure any communications we make and work products we deliver are top quality. If it seems like style is more important than substance (and it really is to a few people) then decide whether your skills are better used elsewhere.

Tip: Don’t get me wrong. Having a polished presentation of your capabilities and how you propose to address a client's situation is important. It’s just that you can make it professional without going overboard. Over the years I have had many clients wonder aloud how much that razzle dazzle presentation must have cost to put together - and extrapolate how much waste they are going to have to pay for during the engagement. If it is too gaudy, a prospect will be impressed, but only by how much schlock they have to endure. Sometimes the most powerful impact is made with a only marker and an oversized sheet of paper, which lets you create the project right in front of the client in real time.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  meeting preparation  prospect  sales 

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#102: The Implications for Consultants of New Leadership Paradigms

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I'd like to move my consulting focus to more closely work with leaders. What are the trends in leadership at the top I need to be aware of?

One of the most significant changes in leadership thinking is that leadership is not, if it ever was, about command and control from the top. Scholars of leadership over the past few decades considered that intellect, exercise of power, and control over subordinates and communication were main components of leadership influence and success. However, a closer look at highly successful organizations where the nominal leaders did not have these characteristics reveals a few insights about the real source of leadership. If you are thinking about leadership, it is important to build on these new insights.

Probably two of the more important aspects of this new view of leadership are that leadership comes from many places in an organization and that coordination and facilitation are more important than command and control. A consultant does not necessarily need a CEO as client sponsor to strongly influence leadership in an organization. Also, your skill set does not have to be about command processes. A better strategy is to help your client tap into the social, work and communication networks of the organization, understand the psychology and culture needed to help work teams reach consensus, and even better attend to the trappings of a leader's position (e.g., pay, perks, dress, behaviors, resolving disputes). Unlike in the past, employees have more power to decide whether and how they will be led. Your best advice for a leader is to understand how best to define how your client can find that "just right" leadership style and skill.

Tip: An increasing amount of research is being conducted to help both organizations operate with respect to leadership and followership. One good summary is from a Scientific American Mind article The New Psychology of Leadership, an article long enough to give you insights about how you can increase your value to clients. The point made here is that the most effective leaders are ones who help shape a group's identity and vision, then create a feasible strategy to get there. This makes it clear that a consultant's skill in traditional strategic planning process may have to give way to a new focus on helping leaders understand, facilitate and communicate from within a culture rather than From above it.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consultant role  customer understanding  leadership 

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#101: Remember Your Place as an Ethical Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 27, 2009
Updated: Monday, July 27, 2009
As part of my engagement, I am interviewing executives and board members across the company. As part of this, I am privy to a lot of confidential information, some of which, while not illegal or dangerous, seems like something I should relate to the CEO since it seriously affects the performance of the company.

This is both a professional and an ethical question - and, yes, the two are related. Part of your job as a trusted advisor is to conduct yourself and your activities consistent with the terms and expectations of your client. If you are conducting confidential interviews on behalf of your client, those interviews are confidential except in cases of imminent danger or criminal activities. In those cases, consistent with the IMC USA Code of Ethics, you are obligated to advise the proper authorities, inside or outside of the company.

In your case, you are now aware of information that may be inflammatory, exciting, possibly of interest to your client, and seemingly inappropriate. However, if this information does not constitute an imminent threat or cross legal boundaries, you are bound to maintain the confidence implicit (and hopefully explicit in your preface to each interview) in each private discussion.

Tip: Discuss with your client when the engagement starts these kind of issues. If you are uncomfortable with the terms of your engagement (e.g., your client demands to know everything regardless of your stated confidentiality), then you need to recuse yourself from the interviews or the entire engagement.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  confidentiality  consultant role  ethics 

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