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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 

#426: Make Promises You Intend to Keep - No More or Less

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 1, 2010
Updated: Monday, November 1, 2010
I've heard other consultants advise "under-promise and over-deliver". Is that a good approach?

This sounds like logical advice, but "under-promising" might not be the best way to secure business and please your client. A better approach might be to make a meaningful, realistic promise of delivery and then work very hard to over-deliver on that promise. Business people appreciate when a consultant knows his or her business well enough to give realistic and predictable estimates of work effort.

It is better to be seen as a reliable and straightforward partner than possibly as trying to "game" the client. Avoid under-promising on a deliverable thinking you will look really great later - you might not be granted an opportunity to deliver on it at all.

Tip: There are ways, however, to produce the intended effect. Single out one facet of the assignment on which you can make a strong commitment, perhaps even making your fee partially or totally contingent on its delivery.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  communication  engagement management  goodwill  practice management  reputation 

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#425: Don't Be So Quick to Sign a Non-Compete Agreement

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 29, 2010
Updated: Monday, November 1, 2010
I have a client that wants me to agree to a "non-compete" agreement that would prohibit me from working with any of their competitors for two years. Should I agree to these terms?

It's is important to carefully evaluate upfront not only the specifics of what is being asked of you (i.e., the details and rigidness of what is being agreed to), but how potentially important working for these competitors in the future is for you. Are you in a field where there are only a handful of potential clients and many of these are specified as competitors of the client in question? Or do your potential clients number in the thousands and the client simply doesn't want you to share what you've learned from working with them with anyone else. It is critical to gain a thorough understanding of what is being asked of you by signing.

Second, consider what is behind the request. Is this just a common business practice for the person asking you to sign, or does it reflect a lack of trust on their part about you? In either case, there may be a conversation you need to have beyond the subject of the non-compete agreement to resolve some outstanding issues.

Tip: In general, you might avoid having to sign a "non-compete" agreement in your area of expertise by simply stating to your client (only if true, obviously), "I've never been asked to sign one before". Or, "I certainly am willing to sign anything that is reasonable, let me check with my legal advisor. We may want to reword this to our mutual satisfaction."

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  ethics  goodwill  legal  reputation 

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#424: Make Preparedness Part of Professionalism

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 28, 2010
Updated: Thursday, October 28, 2010
A colleague is making me frustrated. She arrives without business cards at one meeting, with the "wrong" flash drive at another one, and often seems to not have the right contact information when we are on the road. How can I help her without it seeming like I am calling her professionalism into question?

You are not talking about professionalism as much as being prepared. The Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared" reflects an attitude that, since you don't know what you will face, you need to be ready for everything.

A consultant is possibly more likely to face the unexpected than many other professions. Because our charge is to provide a wide range of services, we may not know in advance what those services will be on a given day. For that reason, we need to be more formalized in our "being prepared."

Make a list of everything you might need for a client or prospect visit. For example:
  • Cell phone and/or iPad/eReader, fully charged
  • Directions and/or map to your day's destinations
  • Flash drive or storage device - with the right data for today's visit/trip and project data
  • Your business activity projections and commitments for the near future (so you can make or change commitments in real time)
  • Pens, markers, paper, post it notes, other office supplies needed for facilitation or presentation
  • Laptop, fully charged
  • Product or service samples
  • Business cards
  • Power cords and other peripherals, as needed
  • Other items specific to your type of consulting discipline or industry
Create and refine this list regularly. Place it by your door, inside your suitcase, on your phone or by your desk. Refer to it every time you leave your office.

Tip: Give a copy of your list to your colleague as an example of something that helps you "be prepared" for your day. Ask them for comments or to share their list with you to see what you might have missed.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting tools  meetings  presentations  speaking  teaching/training  your consulting practice 

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#423: Get Client Recommendations That Have Value

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
All my clients are willing to provide references to my future prospects. However, since I don't know what aspects of my work will be important, I'd rather not get a generic recommendation, so am reluctant to ask for a written recommendation.

Since management consulting is based on trust, a recommendation is important. Almost every prospect will contact a reference, whether or not you provide a written recommendation or not. The absence of a written recommendation can only hurt you in comparison to glowing references in your competitors' proposals. Assuming references are appropriate for your type of work and the bidding process, have a few written references on hand.

You make a good point about generic references. They are so common and often written so blandly that they could apply to anyone. Take a look at references for other consultants and select formats address personal, professional and work styles. Consider if you were hiring a consultant (maybe you would for a subcontractor or teaming partner). What would you want to know up front: Are they easy to get along with? Technically competent? Ethical? Committed to consulting as a profession? Able to react to changes in the scope of work? Effective communicator? And so on.

Tip: Providing your client a recommendation to be signed is unethical. However, you can provide a set of attributes or qualities (similar to those referred to in the questions above) to which he or she can address if they are comfortable. Advise your client how you plan to use the reference and ask whether they want to be informed in advance of your using it (e.g., they may not want a competitor to know of your relationship, or want a heads up if someone will call). Inactive clients appreciate being asked and it is a good way for you to update them on your recent work.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client  client development  client relations  market research  marketing  proposals  prospect  referrals  reputation  sales 

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#422: Make the Best of Each Airplane Trip

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I travel a lot by air and although I can usually select my seat, the airlines don't give any information on what seats are good or bad. Is there any way to know how to pick the best seats?

Getting a comfortable and functional seat on a flight can mean the difference between a great experience and hours of wasted time. If you want to work on a cross country flight, having leg room, a power outlet and good lighting makes all the difference.

Leg room is usually the first thing to consider. As airlines try to get more revenue from each seat, they sometimes reconfigure more seats into the airframe. Standard seat pitch (distance from any point on a seat to the equivalent point on the seat in front or behind) is now about 32 inches. Some airlines like JetBlue offer higher pitch of 34 inches and, for a price of $10-$20 per seat, 38 inch pitch.

Reclining seats, especially if you plan to nap, is important. We have been in seats right in front of a bulkhead or exit row that reclines little if at all.

Lighting is important if you want to write. Common sense and experience suggest that right handers might prefer the right most seat in a cluster so the light is as far left as possible and won't cast shadows.

What other items might detract from your flight experience? A seat right next to an engine? One with a misaligned window where you can't see out? One without a power port? Right next to the lavatory?

Tip: Check out Seat Guru, which shows you, for each airline and plane it flies (available from your travel agent or online booking site), the amenities and cautions for each seat. The one resource to have before you book a seat.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  travel  work-life balance 

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