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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 

#546: Build a System to Help You Keep Your Promises

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 18, 2011
Updated: Monday, April 18, 2011
It is embarrassing when a client takes me to task for a member of my consulting team failing to deliver on a promise that I didn’t know about. I have tried action planning sheets and daily debriefs but these don't seem to work. Short of removing this person from the team, are there any clever consultant tricks to solve this problem (and might work for my whole team).

Removing this person from your client-facing team or not allowing them to make commitments to the client is no replacement for inherent professionalism and business maturity. Project organization and client communication are essential skills for a consultant, even for a junior team member.

However, being in a fast-paced consulting engagement (or several at a time with several clients) can be a challenge to keep track of client and other commitments. Most of us keep these in a calendar, in an online journal, contact manager, email system, project management system, or separate client notes. There are a lot of systems to track formal projects deliverables but none I know of specifically to track those commitments that arise continuously in conversations and informal written communications.

You may want to develop a system that could work for your whole team that tracks these "loose" commitments. I have used a low-tech system that is relatively effective in not losing commitments and helping me evaluate how and how many these I create (knowing when you are overpromising is also important).

Tip: I use a deck of colored 3x5 cards. Each color represents a different person or type of person to whom I make a commitment (client, family, self, colleague, association). On it I write date, person to whom I will deliver, the product to deliver, likely time/resources required, and due date. On the back I can add notes or references as I discover them. Cards are for explicit commitments, not general "notes to self." I can sort the cards by target, date, or effort required (the latter so I can knock off a few short tasks or know when I have a major task to complete). When the stack gets big, I lay off on voluntary commitments. When one color dominates, I trim it down. When due dates arrive, I make sure to set aside the time. If I forget cards, I (usually) make a note and transfer to a card when I can. Invent a system that works for you and let/make your team use it.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  consulting tools  engagement management  information management  innovation  your consulting practice 

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#545: Keep Your Referral Pipeline Full

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 15, 2011
Updated: Friday, April 15, 2011
Competition among consultants makes new clients harder to come by these days and companies seem to take longer to hire consultants. How can I hear about opportunities as soon as possible?

Learning about potential engagements early means having someone "on the inside" looking out for you. If this isn't someone who actually works for a prospect's organization, it means having people who know the organization well - and know what you could do for them. We are talking about referrers.

First of all, let's talk about what referrers are and what they are not. They are not limited to people you approach at networking events and ask for referrals. These contacts rarely know you well enough to make effective referrals.

Instead, look for people who understand the role of a management consultant and would be able to describe both you and the value of the services you provide. We hear about how you should develop a broad list of potential referrers, such as your mail carrier, dentist, and college roommate. This may work for the best known and common professions but this approach is less effective for management consultants.

A complete referral strategy is more involved than this tip can explain but I suggest you identify a dozen people you are confident understand what you do and the value of your services. Next, provide them with a list of about a dozen target companies for which you would like provide your services and (this is important) for each company, include a short description of what service you might provide and what value each services would provide. A sentence or two for each company is about right.

Tip: The value of this exercise is two-fold, but only if you actually complete it. First, writing it down helps you focus on specific targets, services and value you might provide. Second, it puts you on record with an explicit list of referrers, with whom you should check in regularly. Once you have this list under control, meaning that people on your list are really looking out for you, consider making separate lists for different aspects of your practice.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  networks  proposals  referrals  sales 

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#544: Always Have a Speech Ready to Give

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 14, 2011
Updated: Friday, April 15, 2011
Most consultant websites show a lot of speaking subjects and it implies that a speaking client would contact them and pick from the list. I don't have a lot of topics to talk about so how do I get started?

Don't presume that a long list of topics means a person has a variety of topics on which to speak. I know a lot of consultants who have a few stock speeches or seminars and can adapt them to various industries and circumstances. You might be surprised at how a basic "leadership" speech can be tweaked into a dozen talks for different industries or aspects of leadership.

This does not imply that there is something shady about the approach. A client wants a talk to be specific to the needs of the audience, not necessarily built from scratch. If there are fundamental principles of quality, performance and innovation that you have created and applied to a particular topic, how you dress it up to provide high value is your call. The "list" of various speaking topics most usefully helps a client think through on what they want to hear, a starting point for your customization. You don't necessarily have to have given that specific speech before.

One approach to create a "portfolio" of topics is to create a speech about one topic you know well, applied in a situation you also know well. Create and practice that one talk until you can do it in your sleep, in various length versions (e.g., 15, 30, 60 minutes). Have it available to give on a moment's notice (keep flash drive with slide deck or note cards in your briefcase). Let people know (without being obnoxious) that they might be interested in your work on this topic (which you know so well that you can give an impromptu talk anytime).

Tip: Rather than creating a portfolio of speaking topics, focus on this one "core" speaking topic. You will be able to adapt it to client needs on the fly by combining you comfort with your core topic with the needs of the client at hand. Each time you do one of these talks you add to your portfolio. Start small in your comfort zone and expand as you create opportunities.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  knowledge assets  presentations  product development  speaking 

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#543: Be Sure You Are Measuring Your Client Correctly

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Are there a set of best practice performance measures or do these vary by industry, region, type of organization, etc.? It seems that there is no agreement as to the "right" metrics (or do people just pick the ones for which they compare favorably)?

It does seem sometimes like performance measurement is a combination of art, science and public relations. Good practice suggests a consultant select a formal measurement and management model, develop a portfolio of metrics that can be used to compare progress over the long term (and with competitors or benchmarks), and compile and validate performance data. The dirty part of this exercise is the selection of metrics that are valid and actionable.

There has been some effort lately to rethink the traditional performance metrics. Financial metrics have a lot of history and may stay the same but measures like public trust, raw material sustainability, employee loyalty, innovation, knowledge asset growth, organizational agility, and process efficiency are being debated. The key is to find a set of metrics that are valid (measure what they say they do), reliable (measure consistently over time) and actionable (support fact-based decisions). Creativity may be necessary to develop a suite of metrics that support emerging strategic or tactical direction of the organization. They may not look like those of your client's competitors or that it used in the past but you owe it to your client to measure effectively.

Tip: If you are interested in this issue at a national scale, check out Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn't Add Up. Joseph Stiglitz addresses the longstanding problem of making national policy on GDP, a fundamentally flawed metric that excludes some desirable value added activities (e.g., unpaid work, sustainability) and includes destructive activities as "productivity" (e.g., weapons production, pollution, and clear cutting old growth forests). This serves as a counterpoint of how you might discuss a new set of metrics with your client.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  consulting tools  customer understanding  decision making  evaluation  innovation  methodology  performance improvement 

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#542: Put Your Client in the Headlines

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, April 12, 2011
What are some effective visioning exercises to use with my clients in strategy development processes?

As with all such techniques, think through whether or not this process works well with your client's culture and fits with the rest of your strategy development. Clarity in strategy always starts and ends with simplicity - start with a clear, focused concept and expand it as needed but, ultimately, it has to be easily communicated to stakeholders.

Here's an idea that seems too forced or trite to work but is incredibly powerful. If not constrained, a client team can consume a day of enthusiastic debate on this one exercise.

Have each member of your working group imagine a headline about the company at some point in the future, say in 5-10 years. Ask them to select a newspaper, journal, or industry magazine - whatever they individually think would provide the best visibility and credibility for the company. This means not just the local newspaper but the most influential journal or opinion source in their industry. Have them write down a headline and a sentence or two of the story lead. You may be surprised how different each person's aspirational view of the future is.

Tip: Create a mock up of the newspaper or journal. Start with the consensus headline and build out the story, in journalistic style, starting with the key features, followed by subordinate facts. Add a picture if appropriate. If you have time and interest, sketch out the adjacent stories that might appear on the page to reflect conditions and trends in associated industries, contemporary political or economic events of importance, and maybe even a view of what might come next for your company. There is no best format - let it organically grow from the enthusiasm and needs of the group.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  consulting tools  methodology  planning  process 

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