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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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#486: Make a Good First Impression In What You Say

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, January 24, 2011
Updated: Monday, January 24, 2011
Whenever I am presenting an idea or making a recommendation, I'm often uncertain of how it is going to be received. I'm fairly certain that my recommendations are solid. Do you have any suggestions?

Here's something to keep in mind: when you introduce any idea, recommendation, or proposal - the "opening line" can help set the mood for you audience and thus impact the likelihood of acceptance, rejection, "piggy-backing", or the request for further investigation or testing.

For example, here are a few different examples of strategically-placed opening lines to help illustrate the point:
  • "Here's how we might want to approach this problem."
  • "I would bet my reputation on this approach."
  • "After a careful and thorough analysis of the relevant data, the key to solving this problem lays in the following area:"
  • "I'm not certain there is any one elegant solution to this problem."
  • "Here's what I have seen work very effectively at other organizations."
  • "There are a number of effective ways to address this issue."
How confident do you think you would be in accepting the subsequent solution after hearing each of the above opening lines?

Tip: The next time you are planning to suggest, present or recommend something think carefully about that opening line. Be creative and be certain to have your main objective in mind when choosing it.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  meeting preparation  presentations  recommendations 

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#485: Are You and Your Client Headed For Trouble?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 21, 2011
Updated: Friday, January 21, 2011
I get along great with most of my clients, but I occasionally have some that I never seem to sync with. A few years ago I had a client I really didn't like, either as a person or a client, even though her staff loved her. What gives?

Is this any different for clients than with other people you associate with? It may seem so because people we associate with in social settings are usually preselected because they share a common interest or lifecycle stage. We associate with clients because they come to us for professional advice and don't always share their philosophy or approach to management.

The first step is to know who you are. Look at your MBTI, Harrison, Prevue, DISC, or other personality profile to understand your interests, inclinations and style. Recognize that your approach to communication, tolerance for risk, willfulness, and so forth will affect how you relate to corresponding aspects of your clients.

Next, understand your client, both as an individual and in his or her business setting. Are your profiles compatible, complementary, or somewhere in between? This is something we rarely do but it is critical to understanding how to most effectively work with and make recommendations to a client. See what you can do to adapt to your client's profile in ways that do not compromise your professional services.

Tip: Recognize that your job is not to get a new best friend. It is to provide professional advice in an objective and independent manner. If your conflicting personal styles interfere with your ability to be objective, you are obliged to withdraw from the engagement.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  consultant role  customer understanding  ethics 

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#484: Pause (Twice) Before Delivering Hard News

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 20, 2011
Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2011
I am assisting a client with the streamlining of their financial reporting. From my initial analysis, her small firm appears to be quickly approaching bankruptcy. Although I might be able to suggest a number of longer term recommendations for avoiding this predicament in the future, it does not appear that anything is currently being (or can be) done to prevent this impending situation and, to make matters worse, I don't think she sees it coming. I have not been working with this client for very long. Should I discuss this with her, or should I keep my views on the relative health of her business to myself and simply perform the work I was contracted to do?

Although delivering this type of message is never easy or pleasant, you have an ethical responsibility to communicate your concerns to the client. A fundamental tenet of the IMC USA's Code of Ethics is: "I will serve my clients with integrity, competence and objectivity, and professionalism and will place the best interests of the client's organization and public welfare above all others."

Re-check your analysis, making sure that your observations appear to be sound, are based on facts, and that your concerns do not represent an "over-reaction" on your part. Calmly discuss your concerns in an open, honest and confidential manner with the client, making sure to focus on the data behind your prognosis. Make sure to fully explain the reasons why you feel it is necessary to share your thoughts on this matter with the client and be certain position your views as "your opinion." Unless you possess specific expertise in emergency turnarounds or bankruptcy/bankruptcy law, acknowledge your experiential limitations and offer to recommend appropriate specialists to the client.

Tip: Honestly communicating your concerns in a timely manner to your client regarding the financial health of her business is an ethical responsibility that, if done with care, can significantly build trust in you and increase respect for you as a practitioner.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  consultant role  presentations  recommendations 

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#483: Dealing With Your Client on Conflicting Approaches

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Consultants can occasionally run into a situation in which the client and consultant have differing views on the correct approach. What can (should) the consultant do?

There are two core rules about consultant-client relations. Rule One: "The client is always right." Rule Two: "The client hires you for your expertise, independence and objectivity." Both are applicable but you still need to use your judgment about which rule takes precedence. Well, that doesn't help much does it?

Say you want the client to use your suggested approach. The client wants to do it their way. The client has a strong rationale for doing it their way, and you have an equally strong rationale for approaching the problem our way. Who is right? Who is wrong? Don't fall for this mental "trap."
  1. Never personalize an approach or point of view with the words "my" and "your". There are usually advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Taking away the indications of ownership sometimes helps all parties to view the issues and options more clearly.
  2. There may not be a "right” or "wrong” approach, but more likely a "better” or "even better” one. Spread out your offered solutions to find alternatives along a continuum.
  3. Explore the key decision factors for each option, such as risk, timeliness, cost and impact. Dominating the decision in the short run may not be in the client’s best interest in the long run.
Tip: Never personalize or use the descriptors "right” or "wrong”. Always look for better ways to do things for your client and closely examine the criteria and parameters behind evaluating an approach and use those factors in the evaluation of each of the proposed approaches.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  presentations  recommendations 

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#482: The Day Will Come When You Leave Your Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Despite the possibility of offering more consulting services, for some clients we have done all we can and it is time to end the relationship. Any tips on how best to do this?

Above all, make the exit a well managed one. Just reaching the end of the current task, submitting a final invoice and saying your good-byes is not enough. Three areas are worth attending to:
  • Fulfill and document all work commitments to assure your reputation for integrity remains intact. Make sure the client has the data and tools to fully implement your
  • Conduct an orderly "social" exit, in which you spend enough time with key client staff to make sure they understand and can implement your work products and processes. Explain the terms under which they can contact you for additional assistance and the basis for your departure.
  • Make a plan to connect with those individuals from client staff who have moved on and the terms of how they may use your services in the future. Specifically, it is likely that when they left the employ of your client, you were precluded from working with them in their new jobs. You may be obligated under contract with the client you are about to leave to limits on how you may contact them and/or work with them. These terms may change with your departure so you should be prepared to reengage with them as appropriate.
Tip: Spend plenty of time with your primary client sponsor leading up to your departure. To smooth the transition, especially for clients you have served for several years, talk about what services you will no longer be providing and how (if needed) those skills and services will be replaced by client staff or other service providers. Make sure they are fully aware of all the value you have provided. Finally, express your gratitude for the opportunity to provide services during your tenure.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations 

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