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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 

#531: Think About Networking in Terms of "Net Positive"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 28, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 28, 2011
I occasionally get tired of having to go to networking events for my consulting firm. It is part of our overall marketing effort for senior consultants but is it effective for every consultant to participate?

Depending on your type of consulting practice, networking by every consultant in your firm may be more or less effective, but this depends on what you expect from it. If you believe that networking is a "have to" type of activity instead of an "opportunity to" activity, you are likely to be disappointed by your time spent doing so. I have two thoughts.

First, the strongest elements in a network are deep relationships. Take the time to find the right people to make part of your network, considering that half of the people you meet may not be right for your, or their, networking needs. Let "slow and steady" be your guide. The more times you connect with a person, the deeper your relationship.

Second, every individual benefits from a personal network, regardless of how "connected" your firm is. If your senior partners build powerful networks, that's great, but you still need to develop your own. Your personality, consulting approach and emerging needs extend beyond those of your firm.

Tip: Approach networking as an opportunity to help others, not rack up a collection of business cards. Your value as a networking partner is invisible until you make the offer to provide it to others.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  goodwill  marketing  networks  trust  your consulting practice 

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#530: Mind Your Ethics When Creating Case Studies for Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 25, 2011
Updated: Friday, March 25, 2011
My client has asked us to provide case studies to use in training his internal consulting staff. He specifically asked that they be based on my own experience and to include how I handled the situations. Should I be worried about using the situation of my other clients?

Absolutely. Setting aside your client's desire for you to use your prior client experiences, there is a serious ethics issue here. You are obliged to protect data and, in most cases, even inferences, about your client's operations, products and even business strategies or plans. Even with your best attempts to redact facts and "fuzzy up" strategies, someone who knows the market of your client may be able to piece together who you are talking about. And, your clients may even prefer you not divulge the nature of your work with them.

It is better to create cases that don’t relate to your clients - at least don't relate one case to one client. Remember, it is perfectly appropriate to create case studies that are entirely fictional. Think of the standard movie disclaimer "All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

Tip: You can only use prior client experience if your prior client signs off on your case write-up and its use for training your (specified) current client. You are better off advising your client that professionalism prevents you from the fact or appearance of divulging potentially proprietary information.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  education  ethics  teaching/training 

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#529: Think Twice About Discounting Consulting Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, March 24, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 24, 2011
I have been successful winning new work recently by offering discounts. I am assuming that once I become known to the client, I can go back to my full rates. Is this your experience?

There are several issues here, first of which is your conclusion that discounting rates constitutes a "success." It is more likely that you have landed a client who values discounts at least as much as your work. If they did truly understand the value you bring to their organization, you wouldn’t have had a discussion about cutting your fees.

Discount chasers can, and always will, be on the lookout for other discounts. At best, you should consider discount shoppers only for cash flow and not those clients for whom you can do your best work and grow your capabilities. Furthermore, you are likely to be resentful of having to discount your fees when, as a professional, you will still provide top quality service.

Second, don’t assume you can raise your fees once a client comes to know you and love you. For the same reason as above, your relationship is built on that discount, not on your full value. If you do succeed in raising your fees, then it is likely at the expense of resentment from the client at your new "higher" fees being paid for the same service.

Tip: If your fees are fair and market-based then you should focus on better explaining why they match your value, not send the message that you believe your services are worth less than your full asking price.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  fees  market research  proposals  reputation  sales 

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#528: Trust Your Consultant Gut

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I sometimes don't get why some companies seem so successful and others do not. By any objective standards, financial, operational of market, these successful companies are described as being so because of some magic strategy (usually attributed to a consultant) that doesn't sound like it should work in any company. What am I missing?

At a minimum, the questioning of appearance, facts and assumptions is a large part of what makes consultants valuable to our clients. A bit of cynicism is always useful. We are all too familiar with the poor performance of many of the companies in the book In Search of Excellence. The authors made a methodological mistake (to be fair, many of us do the same) by looking at successful companies, finding common attributes, then branding them as "best practices." We then intend to use them for our clients to, in turn, make them successful.

The problem is one of logic and methodology. Strategic intervention does not necessarily lead to a successful company, just as a successful company may not result from a presumably great strategy. Don't confuse causality with correlation, despite the claims of strategy consultants. Also, it is not necessarily true that what looks like success will always be so. You may remember the investment fund that shorted the stock of companies whose executives graced the covers of business magazines (it beat the market).

I highly suggest The Halo Effect: ... and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers as a wakeup call to think harder about why a firm (or consultant) is successful or not. One of the delusions the author describes is "Connecting the Wining Dots" trap In Search of Excellence fell into.

Tip: Trust your (supposedly cynical) consultant gut. Companies are not successful because someone says so and provides a "simple truth" of why they are so. Have faith in your experience and make the effort to hone your logic and methodologies.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  assessment  consulting tools  customer understanding  diagnosis  management theory  methodology 

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#527: Rethink Email Addressing Categories

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Where a person is addressed in your e-mail (direct send, "CC" [or carbon copy] or "BCC" [or blind carbon copy]) can make a huge difference on how your message is received and processed.

In today's instant delivery of information, the use of addressing categories of "CC" and "BCC" can be double edged swords. Both save you the effort of composing multiple individual emails for every intended recipient. BCC actually helps you to work around some of the issues that can arise when using the "CC" (privacy, discreteness, elimination of a large number of addresses at the head of the email's body, etc.).

However, have you ever thought closely about how the recipient views their placement in the address categories? How does Laura view being "CC'ed" versus directly addressed? Does she pay less attention to the message, feel less important, or is she just happy to receive the information? Was this your intent? What do you expect her to do with this information if she adheres to the convention of being addressed as CC implies you do not expect a reply.

What about Terry's placement on the "BCC" list? Is he being given access to information that others would not feel is appropriate, or has he been placed there because the sender does not want his name to appear to the other addressees? Think about what would occur if the addressees in the "Send to:", "CC" and "BCC" categories were interchanged. Perhaps it will provide you with a new perspective on how and when to use these categories.

Tip: Consider the order people in which addressees are listed. Even if you don't care, your recipients may consider the address order as hierarchial. Take a moment to think how each recipient will view their selected placement. Always be sensitive to others and be careful not to unintentionally slight someone through careless ordering.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  confidentiality 

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