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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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#966: Make Yourself Memorable While Networking

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 16, 2009
Updated: Sunday, January 18, 2009
Networking gets to be a pain and what I am beginning to consider a time waster. Although I know it is essential, I am not getting any traction. How can I get more people to stay "in network"?

There are plenty of books and webinars and consultants from whom you can learn the tricks of effective networking so I won't go into the details of those techniques. Needless to say, there are skills and behaviors to be learned for effective networking. There are very few of us who are "born networkers."

A network is a two part process. You want to remember people so you can provide them with referrals, information, and advice, as well as being remembered by them for the same reasons. With more than 90% of business cards collected at networking events thrown away with 48 hours, there is more to being remembered than passing out a card and engaging in small talk.

Tip: Develop a few (memorable) stories about a time when you shone as a consultant. Stories, ones with a setting, protagonist (you), antagonist (the client's problem) and a resolution, all with some clever twists an turns, will remain for years with one who hears it. I can remember stories and the people who told them from a decade ago. I also clearly remember the person, where I met them, what they look like and what services they provide, and how these services are tied to their stories. Another individual's bland elevator pitch is lost to memory, and the event was only a month ago. Consider having several compelling stories for different audiences.

Tags:  marketing 

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#965: Dealing With Project Start Delays

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 15, 2009
Updated: Sunday, January 18, 2009
No doubt I am not the only one to hear clients defer starting projects they had previously enthusiastically approved. Although I understand the reluctance to proceed with prior plans when the world has changed and companies are conserving cash, how can I get a client who really needs consulting support to go ahead with an engagement?

The resolution of this issue is straightforward, even if it is not easy. When the fundamentals on which a decision is made changes, it must be reevaluated under the new conditions. In the case of a prospective consulting engagement, the need for consulting services may have disappeared. If not, maybe your particular approach, skills or cost may preclude you from consideration. Your best recourse is to support your prospect or client to better understand the new conditions by which a decision should be made.

How has the market changed? Competitor pricing and credit availability? Changes in staffing and utilization of employees? Relevance of the company strategy or tactics under the new conditions? Don't forget new governance or management pressures on your client. Are there other consultants who have stopped - or started - supporting the company recently? How might this change your prospects or how does it affect the environment for consultants? How has the ROI on your services changed or can you reframe the nature of your value to the company?

Tip: Prepare a set of these questions, especially putting yourself in your prospect or client's position. Help reframe how any investment decision should be made. Once you have helped in this process, ask to honestly discuss how your services would best be evaluated in the same framework. Most clients would appreciate your helping them to evaluate your services in the same manner as every other investment, instead of trying to sell your services as "unique."

Tags:  practice management 

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#964: Making Your Email Signature Work For You

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, January 14, 2009
I am looking for new ways to increase the visibility of my consulting practices. I have tried blogs, a quarterly newsletter, participating in online and local business communities, and working with nonprofits on a pro bono basis. Each of these work well on a sustained basis but what else do you suggest?

Those all sound like plausible ways to get exposure. Each of these work differently for different people and for different types of practices. The one thing that affects how successful these tactics are is the effective amount of exposure you get and how well recipients understand and trust your message. Pro bono work, beyond the intrinsic value of supporting your community, is only effective in showing people your public service commitment and your expertise if enough people know about it and your contribution usefully shows your consulting expertise. Newsletter and blog subscription base are the same. Getting people to know you, trust you and hear from you a lot is the key.

Many of us under use one avenue of exposure that may be one of the most effective. It is your email signature. You send it out every day to dozens of people with whom you have some kind of relationship. The message you would like to give is one that makes it clear why someone should use your services, tells them how to use them, and makes it easy to access you. Spend a day or two looking at some of the email signatures you receive. You will see some with just a name/email/phone, but you don't really know what services the person provides. Others say what they do but not how services are available - consulting, workshops, training, through products? Finally, some have email addresses or websites that are not linked or have broken links. Why make it hard on the recipient, whose attention you have, to buy your services?

Tip: Do a little thinking and looking at emails of other consultants with whom you correspond. What constitutes an effective email such that you know clearly what they do, how you can access it (even possibly an encouragement to do so) and provides the fastest and easiest way to get to you or at least learn more? Every few months, vary the email to keep it fresh, update with new content relevant to emerging issues in the market, and get some feedback from colleagues about how effective they think the signature is.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing 

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#963: When Clients Aren't Like Those in the Management Books

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Updated: Sunday, January 18, 2009
All the classics of management theory and practice describe the successful manager and the way they lead companies in ways that I barely recognize in some of my clients.What's going on?

By definition, the "classics" of management (or any discipline) are written by the senior, experienced people in the industry. This means that the same factors that make them timeless, may also make them increasingly irrelevant. Not that there are not timeless concepts in them, but that the way these concept are used to manage are becoming blurred because of two factors.

First, technology changes the way and the speed at which we communicate. If you have ever heard a twenty-something say, with mock or real disdain, that email is "so 1990's," when some Boomers are just getting comfortable with it. Setting, changing, and having meetings on the fly is not a typical way organizations instill messages and reinforce influence - according to the classics. Second, the way different generations manage and expect to be managed is up for discussion. Different generations in the workplace at the same time means either more flexibility or managerial incompatibility for more people (other than the ones for whom the selected management style is selected). It is as disconcerting to be at the receiving end of a constantly shifting stream of communication and decision making as it is to be forced to sit in a meeting where discussions seem to take forever and decisions move at a snail's pace.

Tip: Just because your client doesn't operate like the classics of management texts doesn't mean there is not highly effective management going on. As a consultant, it is your job to recognize and adapt to the styles of employees, managers,and customers and not just try to impose what makes sense to your demographic or what everything you always read tells you.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  consultant role  guidance 

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#962: When Your Client is a Former Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, January 12, 2009
One of my current clients is a former ("recovering"?) management consultant. Although I appreciate working with someone with a similar background and perspective, we aren't seeing eye to eye on a lot of things, far more than any other client I have ever had. Is this coming from the "innerconsultant" or just personal style?

Although I can't address the specifics of the situation, this is an important topic for discussion among consultants - and with their clients. What you are implying here is that the perspective and possibly the behavior of a former consultant is fundamentally different than that of a manager without a consultant's experience. Let's talk about two issues: the personality of people drawn into consulting, and the experience of the consultant.

First, the perspective and personality of people who become consultants. At the risk of generalizing too much, consulting is a helping profession in which the consultant applies his or her skills and experience on behalf of another professional. Sometimes the profession is derogatively characterized as "Those who can, do; those who can't, consult." An effective consultant brings a lot to the table: breadth of experience, intellect, abstract thinking, an analytical mind, good interpersonal and communication skills, and a solid business acumen. These skills overlap those of a good manager. Thus, even though a person who was a consultant is now a manager, they likely bring the helping, and not delegating, perspective with them. Thus, they may be more likely to want to be part of the engagement process than a non-consultant manager might be.

Second, the experience of the consultant can't be discounted. More of us than we would like to admit have thought about how, if we were managers, we would more effectively select and manage consultants than most clients. We know what questions to ask, when to intervene, what assumptions to challenge, and how consultants (especially for larger firms or teams) organize engagements. We would communicate better, manage better, and get more value from consultants. Or so we presume. The point is that, as consultants, we have lived in the consulting world and have a residual desire to create the ultimate consulting experience. So, given that former consultants begin with a "consulting" personality and bring a desire to get the most out of consultants, they are likely to want to be more involved in the details of your work than any other clients in your experience. Sometimes far more than we would like.

Tip: This calls for an early, and repeated as often as needed, conversation with your client. Recognize his or her expertise and perspective as a former consultant. Explore what kind of involvement the client intends and what roles and boundaries are expected. Be clear that a great deal of your value comes from your independence and objectivity and that too much involvement by a client in your work may compromise that objectivity. Talk about how you bring both management and consulting, as does the client, but it is important to separate the roles of a consultant advising the client and the client being responsible for taking or rejecting that advice. Far from being disrespectful, setting firm boundaries on roles and responsibilities between client and consultant is a mark of professionalism.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  consultant role  professionalism 

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