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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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#90: What Metaphor Describes Your Consulting Practice?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 10, 2009
Updated: Friday, July 10, 2009
I've distinguished my consulting practice with a vary specific image based on a military model. I see myself as the adjutant and the client as the general. This works for me. Is this an approach other consultants use?

Adjutants occupy various roles in military hierarchies, such as chief administrative officer, director of operations, or chief planner, although the point is that you are serving as advisor and operational associate to your client. This is one role a management consultant can play but not the only one. How you relate to your client and any metaphor used to define that relationship depends on what works for both of you. A metaphor is a generally a simplified comparison between two dissimilar entities. Many businesses brand themselves in metaphorical terms.

As a consultant, you could use a metaphor that defines how your company operates, how you relate to your market or how you relate to your client. Examples include the military model, where you are “at war” with other companies and will “take no prisoners” (probably better for a litigation firm in an adversarial relationship or competitive manufacturer fighting hand to hand for market share than a management consulting firm). You might also consider casting your approach as raising a family, managing a sports team, studying an ecosystem, designing and tuning up a machine, serving as a teacher, or even cooking a meal. In each one, the metaphor serves to make a clear and familiar model to help communicate your consulting process and approach to others. It also can serve as a frame on which to organize your various services and practices.

Tip: Find a metaphor that fits your style and ability to explain, but don't force it. The worst thing you can do is to be inauthentic when it comes to casting yourself in one frame when you act by other principles. For example, saying you work like a sports team in your practice when you aren't a sports fan and have never coached or even played competitive sports will seem, and be, disingenuous. Finally, make sure your selected metaphor syncs with your client's self image and organizational brand. Imagine trying to sell your military model when advising a ministry.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client relations  communication  consultant role  marketing  reputation 

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#89: Shifting Your Network into Reverse

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 9, 2009
Updated: Thursday, July 9, 2009
I know how important networking is for a consultant, both on behalf of individuals and their firms. We do a good job collecting intelligence and leads to keep our pipeline full. How else can we leverage our network?

You seem to have a handle on one aspect of networking - the inbound flow of information, contacts, introductions and referrals. In this way, you use the knowledge, information, and influence of others for your benefit. However, a network, by definition, works in many directions. Have you considered using your networks to pass information and influence in the opposite direction?

What about using members of your network(s) to pass information to your marketing and sales targets? Once you have identified a company, association or agency for which you would like to provide services, see where you can use your network to validate, recommend or support you?

Tip: As a complement to your own "inbound" networking plan, consider preparing collateral for your network members about your services, how to reach you, and testimonials about the value of your services. Let them create demand for your services, in addition to providing you with a supply of referrals.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  communication  networks  presentations  recommendations  reputation  sales 

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#88: Source of Information on Legislation Affecting Your Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, July 8, 2009
My client wants me to research federal laws relation to its business but I am having a hard time using search engines. Is there a place I can go to get more information?

Any logical research task worth doing is likely to generate a service or website to facilitate this task. As it happens, there are a number of legal sites that can help you out. The best place to start is Thomas, a site run by the U.S. Library of Congress, the largest library in the world (named after Thomas Jefferson, whose donated library formed the basis of the original Congressional library). In addition to actual signed legislation, it provides access to Congressional intent as reflected in conference reports, Congressional calendars (i.e., schedules for upcoming legislation that would affect your client), the Global Legal Monitor (if your client needs to track foreign legislation), and state legislation.

Tip: This is not just for lawyers or legal scholars. If you are advising management, then unarguably every business, association or nonprofit is affected by current or impending legislation. Your recommendations about change in strategy or operations must be judged against law in areas of pricing, antitrust, human resources and labor, advertising, environmental, safety and other areas. Some laws apply across all businesses and others only apply to specific industries. Consulting in the real world has to accommodate real laws and a good consultant is up to speed on all the rules.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  regulation 

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#87: Always Have Your Script

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Although I am an experienced consultant, there are times I leave a client meeting or sales call and remember something else I should have said. Is it is appropriate to send a note later or call and make that missed point?

You can certainly do that but it is better to make your points all at once so you make them all, make them in the right sequence, supported them with your presence and nonverbal cues, and you can see the other person's reaction. I can understand that, as you get more experienced, the extent of your knowledge and examples of applied consulting grows. But there is nothing wrong with rigorous preparation for a sales call or client presentation. Sometimes we get overconfident that we are so experienced that we will have everything on the tip of our tongue. This wasn't true when we were new consultants and it isn't true for senior consultants.

Tip: Prepare scripts for important conversations. Whether you use them for advance practice, as last minute check aids, or for talking points in a session, these are essential to make all your points in as cogent and complete a manner as possible. For example, if you are making a preliminary sales call, lay out the key points of your personal story, the relevant issues with the prospect's firm, the scenario of your supporting them, and the imagined future after your engagement. Include side bar conversations about people you know in common, past engagements on similar issues, and recommendations for other consultants for related opportunities. All this can fit on a single sheet of paper, and if you make sure you have answered each of these issues, you will be prepared and deliver a complete pitch. And you won't have to worry about forgetting something next time.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  information management  learning  marketing  meeting preparation  presentations  sales  your consulting practice 

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#86: The Point to Management Stories

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 6, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I try to have a lot of examples, either from my own experience or management journals, to make points to my clients. However, some of these cases or examples from the literature these seem awfully dry. Should I just leave them like they are or creatively edit them to make my point?

I infer you are asking about the ethics of taking a case study or description of a real situation and altering it for your purposes. Let's also assume that these cases do not involve disclosure of proprietary information or trade secrets. Finally, assume that these are not original works of an author presented in, say, a book on management. Given these conditions, if a story is widely known, say reported in various trade journals, it is presumed to be public knowledge. If you want to change the story, I suggest you are obliged to relate that you are changing the "facts" and present the case as a hypothetical. For example, you might tell your client about what could have gone differently if Coca Cola had named their product "Vintage Coke" instead of "New Coke."

The caveat is to not tell a story about a real company or individuals that involves facts, motivations or actions that you have made up. Whether or not you intend to disparage someone, this might be interpreted be the person reading or hearing it as libel or slander, either stick to the facts or create, and disclose as such, a hypothetical example to make your point. In other words, only relate a story that is factual and complete; otherwise use your own story or present a hypothetical.

Tip: Better yet, use short examples for which there is a clear point. Use the work of business authors like Russ Ackoff, who is both a splendid observer of managers and their enterprises, but also of consultants. One good source is Ackoff's Best: His Classic Writings on Management, where Russ talks about a range of business situations form a systems, planning and applications viewpoint. Sometimes contrarian, sometimes iconoclastic, often funny, his observations are sure to expand your insights into your clients situation and your possible contribution to a solution.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  client relations  communication  ethics  marketing  sales 

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