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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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#366: Make Sure Your Referrers Know You as Well as You Hope They Do

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 9, 2010
Updated: Monday, August 9, 2010
I want to make sure that clients have an accurate picture when evaluating whether to hire me. My proposals and presentations are great. Sometimes I have not gotten a job that I thought I was more qualified for than anyone else. What am I missing?

A referral is a testimonial by someone who sees value in what you have to offer. But this doesn't happen without some intervention on your part. Four things must happen to get great referrals. The referrer must (1) recognize specific value in what you have to offer, (2) know that a referral is of value to you, (3) know to whom they should make a referral, and (4) have a reason to make the referral.

First, be clear what you want them to value. They hired you for a reason but you might want referrals in another area. Tell them specifically what skills and behaviors you want them to tell others about.

Second, clients are not mind readers. Your relationship is based on you helping them, not the other way around. Tell them you'd appreciate a referral. Most will be happy to do it if you just asked.

Third, make a list of specific people or types of people you'd like a referral to. Don't make your clients do work to give referrals on your behalf. They can look at a list you've given them and think of people to whom they could make a referral that you didn't even know existed.

Last, make it worth their while. Why would they take time and risk their reputation? Because you can provide a client's colleagues with the same value you provided them. Like a recommendation for a great restaurant, create a desire in your client to make the referral.

Tip: Here's a novel idea: ask people who you think are your top potential referrers what you do, for whom and for what value. This is not a thought experiment - actually ask them. You might be shocked.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  market research  marketing  prospect  recommendations  sales 

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#365: Consultants Can Effectively Use Social Media

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, August 6, 2010
With one-fourth of people's online time using social media, I wonder whether this makes any sense for consultants.

Social media, started as a person to person venture, has steadily morphed into a business to business enterprise. If the purpose is to be social and share information about yourself, then this seems an excellent way to both market your services as well as deliver them. Consider at a minimum the search capabilities of LinkedIn, the community building power of Twitter, the impact of many shared bookmarking sites, or the growing ability to create communities of interest. All of these work well for consulting firms and we should all have a social media policy as part of our overall business plan.

Although nothing replaces the personal referral, current and prospective clients find value in a professional presence and a more or less continuous contribution to the body of knowledge through discussion forums or posting of content in your area of specialty. This content must, however, be in the media locations related to the client's interests, not just those populate by other consultants. There are a lot of the latter and, while participation in discipline or consulting forums can be valuable for your professional development, leveraging social media for market research and to sell your services requires client-centered areas. If you can't find any, consider starting your own.

Tip: For a good perspective on how your consulting firm can use social media, see Consulting Firms Using Social Media to Market Their Ideas in the August 2010 issue of Consulting Times.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  market research  marketing  networks  social media  trends 

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#364: Consultants Can Have Too Much Knowledge and Not Enough Skills

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 5, 2010
Updated: Thursday, August 5, 2010
We've noticed over the past few years that a few of the consulting associates we've hired from high-end business schools present an interesting paradox. They have a stellar resume and academic credentials but just don't seem to have the experience foundation to be agile and creative. Is this an issue for business schools, consulting or just today's education system?

The knowing-doing gap is widely apparent in individuals whose preparation for the job market is primarily academic. Real aptitude comes from both pattern recognition and a rich experience base (i.e., "I've seen this type of situation before and I have alternative approaches to a solution"). Consulting competence comes from breadth of experience in business situations that you have actually tackled rather than just reading case studies. Having gone to a graduate school that relied on cases, it was immediately apparent who had "street smarts" and who was doing thought experiments. The intellectual agility and skill base required to be an effective consultant to management comes from serious practice with real situations.

This is why many consulting firms move beyond the traditional interview and require demonstration of practical abilities. They will give you an (often incomplete) example of a client situation to see how you reason and what experiences you summon in its solution (e.g., people who grew up on a farm have an advantage). This practice of requiring candidates to demonstrate skills has been working its way into other occupations who want to see what you can actually do, not just what you know.

Tip: This is relevant for management consultants because this effect exists in organizations as well as people. An excellent discussion of this is in The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting skills  knowledge assets  learning  performance improvement  professional development  teaching/training 

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#363: "Take a Hike" for Creativity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, August 4, 2010
When I get stressed out, I need to take a day off and cool down, having set aside a number of days for these mini-vacations. Does this make sense?

That's something you have to decide, based on how much is on your mind, and whether a day off reduces or adds to your stress. Some people find that stress coming from overwork is only made worse by taking time away from work. In these cases, you probably need to look at the source of the stress problem rather than the specific approach to temporarily reduce the symptom.

For situations where the pressures of work starts to get to you - consider just standing up, moving away from the desk, and taking a walk. This is anathema to some hard charging, Type A consultants but it is amazing how well it works - in any weather. Go outside, take a deep breath and walk with no particular destination for a half hour or so. Don't focus on the problem at hand. Just give yourself a short break from the business. You will be surprised at how a little exercise, a change of venue and some open air can help you to clear your head and come back to the issue refreshed and perhaps with a "fresh" perspective. There is even neurological research that shows why this works so well.

Tip: Decide in advance that this is a legitimate approach to get more energy, more focus and more productivity than just plowing ahead under stress. This will make it easy to justify it as a good strategy when the situation is upon you.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting lifestyle  health  work-life balance 

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#362: Keep Your Ego in Check When Selling Professional Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, August 3, 2010
What can a consultant do with a client whose experience or that of his or her peers leaves them with a sense that consultants are arrogant and their advice needs to be viewed skeptically?

Regrettably, there are some consultants (like in any profession) whose attitude and presumption of being the expert will leave clients with the feeling you describe. The seemingly regular stream of negative newspaper stories and expose books on the consulting profession do not help the image of the consultant. However, you can mitigate this impression by your own behavior, both during the selling process as well as during the engagement. Both have to do with checking your ego at the door.

It is understandable to promote your successes when marketing your services, but clients only want to hear about what you did for the client, not how great you were in doing so. Remember, it is about them, not you. During the engagement, provide information and suggestions, not dictates. There are consultants who present findings as definitive and recommendations as conclusive. Both findings and recommendations are your best professional advice but reserve some humility that you might be in error and that it is in both the consultant and client's interest to arrive mutually at the best solutions possible.

Tip: "You Should..." are two words that are NOT music to the ears of your client. Without sounding unconfident, phrase your recommendations as "Our best research and analysis leads us to this finding and, based on this evidence, we recommend you consider ABC as your best option." Clients are at a (hopefully small) risk when taking your advice - don't compound it by sounding arrogant.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  goodwill  professionalism  trust 

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