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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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#556: Draft Your Presentations Without Words

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 2, 2011
Updated: Monday, May 2, 2011
We all know how awful it is to hear a "Death by PowerPoint" presentation that is read off word for word. However, for consultants, who often have to provide a lot of conceptual information, dense text is a logical way to present findings and recommendations. What is a good way to resolve this conflict?

If concept is the communication objective and dense text is the enemy, then the solution may be easier than you think. Think creatively for a second. You want to make a conceptual point, have it be quickly understood and memorable, and not have the audience be distracted by reading your points from slide text. Try making each slide a single image and convey your concepts verbally.

Consultants are infamous (having spent days or weeks collecting and analyzing data) for wanting to provide all this "knowledge" to their client audience. There are a limited number of points an audience can or wants to remember. Pick an image that powerfully and memorably expresses the main point you want to make. If you are talking about finding a way to reach a new market with a pilot prior to a full scale campaign, consider a photograph of a rope bridge. If you want to show how the client's organization is ready to make changes, use the iconic "We Can Do It" poster from World War II showing how women were ready to take up industrial jobs.

Tip: Be creative and find just the right image (after securing the appropriate digital rights) to express the emotion and concept. The best images are the memorable ones, either because they are iconic (a familiar poster or person), unique and/or induce an emotional reaction (funny, sad or empathetic). Help your audience to mnemonically associate your concepts with your images.

P.S. Consider creating your presentation as a set only of images. If you can clarify your message with a set of 5 or 10 images, then you can (if you really think it helps) expand or supplement with word slides. You might be surprised how powerful a limited set of images can be to create a memorable and clear presentation.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  information management  presentations 

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#555: There are Pros and Cons of Consulting to "Widow-Makers"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 29, 2011
Updated: Friday, April 29, 2011
I am starting an engagement with a new senior executive whose predecessors all seemed to self-destruct in short order before leaving the company. It is unclear whether they weren't up to the job or if the job itself is just one in which no one can succeed. I can't tell whether this is a good consulting opportunity or a bad one, given that the consultants to those departed executives are also no longer advising the company.

This is called a "widow-maker" position in an organization, so named because it defeats even the most capable executives (regardless of gender), as if it were predestined. Often the cause is a poorly designed job, created for some crisis or emerging trend, the resolution of which is poorly understood. Companies most susceptible to these positions are ones that are changing fast, whether they are growing, shrinking, entering new markets or adding capabilities or technologies. The Board or CEO sees a need and decides to vest its management in a new position and staff it with someone who has been successful in "similar" positions, although the new position is unlike any existing one.

How good this appears to a consultant at first is usually a function of your confidence. If you think you can improve any executive's performance, you will feel good about it. However, because the position is new, the consulting advice necessary to make it successful is also somewhat untested. Sure, you have some of the same skills and perspectives your new client has, and you may be able to significantly improve their chances of success. Conversely, your experience may not be enough to help rescue an executive whose responsibilities are poorly designed, whose job is inadequately resourced, or whose performance criteria are unreasonable.

So, it can be good or bad to consult to a "widow-maker" executive. The trick is to recognize whether or not your client falls into that category. And, remember, a change in responsibilities, economy, technology or corporate organization can thrust your client, and you, into a position where you are newly advising a widow-maker.

Tip: Be realistic about your ability to successfully advise an individual or organization. Sections 3 and 4 of the IMC USA Code of Ethics specify that you must only accept assignments for which you have the necessary competence and that you and the client mutually understand what will be done and the expected outcomes. It is your responsibility to recognize widow-maker engagements and unambiguously advise your prospective client about what you can and cannot do for them.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  customer understanding  engagement management  ethics  prospect  recommendations 

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#554: Consultants Are a Dime a Dozen - Why Should I Pick You?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 28, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2011
We are a 22-person consulting firm that never had a hard time marketing and selling a range of services. However, sales cycles are longer and hurdles higher to close business. Some of us feel it is just regular competition and others feel the consulting market is changing. Which is it?

A little bit of both but there is another factor that you may not be considering. It may be that your services were unique and high-value a few years ago but the way clients buy consulting services has changed in ways you may not be aware of. I assume that you have upgraded your services and freshened your marketing approach, but you may need to offer a key feature on which consultants never competed before.

If you were waiting for the definitive feature that will place you head and shoulders above your competitors, I regret to say that I don't know what that is for your firm and your market. It will vary with your type of services, your firm's ability to create and sustain this feature, your client's inclinations and industry, and what your competitors are dreaming up for their own strategies. But here are a few candidates.

Consider low margin, high competition markets where products are mostly substitutable. It is not a marginal improvement in price or performance of the product that wins over the buyer because these are always being improved. It is often something else about the buyer's purchase, use or service experience that no one has seen fit to address before. What is it the user or beneficiaries (not the direct purchaser) need that is not being supplied and whose satisfaction could significantly influence the purchaser? Find something that you can provide at low marginal cost that has high marginal value for your clients. There are features or service augmentations that only you can provide, depending on your specific capabilities and firm structure.

Tip: For example, limited lifetime warranty for consulting services - call any time, even 6 months or a year after the engagement ends (clients tend not to abuse this but the good will it generates is incredible). Your firm then becomes known as the "lifetime Warranty" firm, one that stands behind its work. Create a list of ten such ideas and run them by your clients to see which ones resonate.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  customer understanding  innovation  market research  marketing  proposals  sales 

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#553: How to Tell if a Client's Operation is Under Control

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
We are often brought into a client's organization to address a "crisis" that may or may not be hiding a set of other problems. To limit being tagged with being "unable to fix" a problem we didn't see was tied to the one we promised to solve, how can a consultant know - before being let in to conduct a diagnosis - whether the problem set is more serious than presented by the client?

Interesting question and one of which consultant should take note. Most of the time, clients specify their needs, the consultant lays out an approach, and the terms of an engagement are agreed to and activity started. Missing from this process is the due diligence to determine the scope of the problem, whether it hides other problems and whether the entire system is really under control or not. Presuming that general organizational health is unknowable without a (fee paid) diagnostic task is wrong.

Peter Drucker said that you can tell how well an organization is managed by simply looking at its daily flow of operations. A well-managed organization flows quietly, smoothly and predictably. An organization out of control is characterized by recurring crises, stop and start flows, and inconclusive decisions. A sharp eye on a walk though of the office or factory with your prospective client should tell you a lot about the symptoms of effective systems and processes. Most of us are not even looking for these symptoms on our walk through - or don't even ask for a full tour before we start to negotiate what wonderful things we can do.

Tip: Put on your detective hat before you go for that first or second visit. Make sure you get the full tour so you have all the information you need to make a cogent evaluation and recommendation of your engagement process and expected outcomes. Finally, start building a "pre-negotiation investigation" process based on a comprehensive model of organizations (e.g., the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence is a good place to start).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  consulting process  customer understanding  meeting preparation  performance improvement  prospect 

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#552: Be Aware of A New Type of Corporation: The B Corp

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I have heard about the new B Corporation (benefit corporation) but am unsure how this relates to consultants or their clients.

Many companies, consumers and consultants prefer to work with socially and environmentally responsible companies. However, there is little other than a company's own assertion that they are a "good" company on which to make a decision to purchase, partner or invest. A B Corporation is a values-driven company that is certified by its mission, legal structure and actions to be organized and operated by its commitment to the triple bottom line of people. planet and profit. It embeds social and environmental responsibility into its structure, processes and culture.

Benefit corporations were established to supplement the traditional C Corp, S Corp and Limited Liability Corporation. Maryland was the first state to establish legal status for B Corps in 2010 and other states are in process, with the intent to provide incentives and tax breaks for socially productive companies. Given that investors and consumers increasingly demand hard evidence of socially responsible operations, there are now certification and audit standards and processes to assure that a company commits to stakeholders as well as shareholders. As of January 2011 there were about 400 B Corporations.

How is this important to consultants? Other than being aware of this form of organization and sharing this with your clients, as appropriate, consider two possibilities. First, this is a potentially new area of consulting in helping companies move toward certification and passing their audits. Second, B Corps may be interesting targets to whom you can consult if you provide sustainability, customer service or other stakeholder-centric services.

Tip: The B Corp legally recognizes that customers increasingly mandate environmental and socially responsible investing and purchasing. Consultants should be well ahead of their clients and communities in this area.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  certification  legal  trends 

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