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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 

#666: Poor Grammar Can Kill Your Reputation

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 3, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 3, 2011
I have a client who rails about consultants with poor grammar. How big a deal is this?

I can't say how prevalent this is with consultants but I suspect these kind of errors in grammar can be a deal breaker when you are trying to impress a client with your command of language and precision and care taken in communication. What does it say about you when you utter sentences such as "He is the one that (who) conducted the focus group," or "There (They're) probably ready for the presentation," or "I think it would be well (good) to approach a new supplier"? Confusing its and it's is unusually common.

Part of the decline of grammar and spelling has been attributed to the increase in IM/texting, where informality is part of the culture and started when each letter transmitted was a challenge. Another reason is the lack of reading, particularly among younger people. Television competes with reading and the proportion of adults who read a work of creative literature in the past year has declined to less than half. One in four adults have not read any books in the past year.

Tip: You don't know what you don't know. To be sure you are not inadvertently committing grammatical errors, get a list of common grammatical mistakes in speaking or writing. Examples include five common mistakes or ten common mistakes in business writing.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  reputation  writing 

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#665: Consultant's Picks for Social Media Sources

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 30, 2011
Updated: Friday, September 30, 2011
All good consultants have their favorite research and data sources, usually specific to their industry and professional discipline. Given that traditional media is being overtaken by social media, where should a consultant go to get the best collections of social media generated news and information?

This is a great question. The issue at hand is where do we go and who do we trust for valid and timely information when traditional media sources are closing, merging or shrinking? At least for the US, we are going back to the early days of the country when we had more than 10,000 newspapers (admittedly many were of limited circulation), providing a lot of information, and a lot more opinions. Over time, these consolidated into the trusted news sources we have enjoyed for the last century. Now we are faced with the struggling business model of print news media and provided with thousands of sources, many of which we can't verify as to quality and veracity. So, who do you trust/

My suggested selection criteria relate to how news is collected, how well the news is presented, and how responsive the outlet is to its readers. More reporters from diverse sources, committed to long term relationships with the outlet is better than a steady stream of one-off submissions from itinerant reporters. Outlets that invest in an a platform that presents information in quickly searchable and accessible formats (including mobile) is better than an old-line media that just put all their content " on the web." Finally, 24-hour news cycles are no longer unidirectional, so the opportunity to comment on content and engage with authors, editors and readers is better than static content.

I recommend four sources to keep up with general trends in business, politics, social issues and technology (hard-core business wonks will have to find their nuggets elsewhere):These four sources provide a quick way to be current on news and to participate in topical discussions. Each has invested in the technology and design to incorporate the best of social media into their offering.

Tip: One of the best benefits of these type of new media is the ability to use the technology to create your own aggregator of information on the topics you most care about in a format best suited to your needs, including mobile applications. Examples are BBC's section on Ethics, ProPublica's Tools and Data, and Mashable's Trending Topics (to which you can subscribe).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting tools  education  innovation  intellectual property  market research  professional development  social media  your consulting practice 

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#664: Client Satisfaction is Not Enough

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 29, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2011
I would guess most consultants review their project with their clients at the end of the project, if not regularly during the project. If the client retains you or your firm for subsequent projects, you might assume they were satisfied, but not necessarily. How "satisfied" does a client have to be to make ongoing work likely?

For al the discussion, books and articles, research and methodologies developed about customer satisfaction, it is amazing that we still use the term "satisfied" when referring to evaluation. Consider how you feel about a product you buy or a service you use. If you are just "satisfied," it is as likely as not that you are looking for something better. You won't be disappointed enough to not use the product or service again but you wouldn't go out of your way to do so.

What we should all seek is customer "enthusiasm." We want an emotional connection, a desire, or a need to use your services - not just a "good enough" reaction. We can’t find this out by asking "are you satisfied with our work" type questions. We can do this by exceeding expectations, making the impact of our services as much emotional as intellectual, and baking our work into the culture of the client organization, not just its policy manuals. In both design and delivery, think about how your intervention can be a pleasant surprise that client staff will talk about after you deliver it.

Tip: We tend to be pleased with ourselves when we deliver sophisticated, effective, elegant solutions. These are good attributes but if the client is not wowed that you have significantly made their life easier or better in some surprising way, you will not generate the customer enthusiasm needed to guarantee your ongoing relationship. Think about how you feel when you see a movie or go to a restaurant or read a book you just have to tell your friends about. Look at a video of the Dubai Fountain (by the same designer as Las Vegas' Bellagio fountain) and think how amazing it is. Make your clients feel just as amazed.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client relations  reputation 

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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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#662: How You Can Influence the Image of Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Why is it that individual executives seem to like consultants so much but there is a lot of contempt for consulting and consultants in general? Where is the disconnect and what can/should I do about it?

I suspect this is much like people's impressions of Congress: it is an awful institution, but my Senator or Representative is great! The disconnect comes from your familiarity with the consulting profession, relationships with specific consultants and the value consultants can and do provide. I spoke last week at the Annual Conference of Ethics and Compliance Officers and we had a lively debate about the impact on client organizations of consultant ethics (or recent lack thereof). Most of the discussion centered about high profile incidents of large consulting firms but I suspect there are also issues with smaller firms. Everyone agreed that the problem was with consultants other than those of their own organization!

Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit. When you ask executives who are involved in the decision to retain a consultant, are involved in their selection and management, and are close to the benefits they provide, consultants get a good or excellent rating. When you are an employee, an individual in "another" company or division, or a vendor whose business has been or will be disrupted by a consultant's recommendations, the reviews are not so positive.

What does this have to do with you? Well, since you are going to have an impact that will be perceived differently by different people, it may be in your interest, as well as your client's, to manage these perceptions. You don't want your recommendations to die in implementation because you didn't properly help staff understand what, why and how these recommendations are necessary for the company. Maybe this is the client's responsibility, but your effectiveness depends on laying the cultural groundwork for your recommendations to grow.

Tip: Work with your client to be sure that your role and the need for your services are properly explained to employees and other stakeholders. Don't assume that this is being handled by a simple letter of introduction or one all-hands meeting. You will need to manage expectations about how others understand and react to your presence and attempts to improve their organization. Above all, let them know that you consider ethics important and that you are bound by third party ethics compliance practices (like IMC USA's) and not just your own company's.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  consultant role  ethics  goodwill  reputation 

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