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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 

#351: Be First in Something to Stand Out as a Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 19, 2010
Updated: Monday, July 19, 2010
I'd like to increase my visibility as a consultant. I do great work. I just don't seem to get as many leads as I would like, and don't convert many of them to clients. What would you advise?

Although strongly endorsed and disputed as a good strategy for diversified corporations, Jack Welch's desire to "be number one or two or get out of the business" has an element of merit for consultants. While you don't actually have to be first or second among consultants globally, you can corner the perceived top rank in some intersection of discipline, industry, geography and mode of presence (i.e., how you interact with the public or prospects).

What would you do if you wanted to be the "Number One" consultant in your field in both perception and reality? What would you do? What do other "top of the heap" consultants do? Make a list then pick those areas you could pull off. Here's a starter:
  1. Speak at more events.
  2. Write more articles.
  3. Plug the holes in your own repertoire of skills and experience by building up one or two to be your premier offerings.
  4. Network more intensively but selectively at industry events and wherever your prospects are likely to be.
  5. Communicate through P.R., letters, e-mails, your Web site, personal notes, phone calls but make them notable and valuable to the recipient, not just a throw-away greeting or thank you.
  6. Volunteer to serve on one or tow committees where your prospects are likely to be and where you can build both skills and reputation.
  7. Write a book, special report, study or anything that is valuable to your audience and will get the attention you need (and offer it for free as a contribution to the profession or industry).
  8. Think "making deposits before taking withdrawals." It isn't automatic for most of us to give altruistically. Make a list of all the ways you can contribute.
  9. Get listed, do interviews, get your name out there.
  10. Be unique. Specialize. Have a "hook" by which you are uniquely identified. One highly regarded collection of approaches to make your offerings really stand out is POP!: Stand Out in Any Crowd
Tip: This is a starter list but add to it depending on your industry, discipline or command of media. Of course it is hard, but the point is for you to stand out from the crowd and that means focusing on one area and putting in a lot of effort.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client development  market research  marketing  product development  proposals  reputation  sales 

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#350: Ethics of Critiquing Competitors

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 16, 2010
I recently spoke to a former client and she informed me that her firm had just contracted with another consultant for a engagement. I know the consultant that she hired personally and have some doubts about his abilities as a consultant. I also know I could do a better job for her if given the chance. Should I disclose my feelings regarding this consultant to the client and attempt to get a shot at this work?

Principle 13.0 (Representing the Profession) of the IMCUSA Code of Ethics reads: I will represent the profession with integrity and professionalism in my relations with my clients, colleagues, and the general public.

As a member of the consulting profession, in general, and as an IMC member, in particular, you should avoid criticizing the work of other consultants, either directly or indirectly, in your attempt to secure business or in any other aspect of your professional work. How would you feel if the roles were reversed?

Tip: It is certainly permissible to draw distinctions between the approach you use and those utilized by other consultants. Put your best foot forward - stress what skills and expertise make you the best candidate for the client versus pointing out what makes a fellow consultant a poor choice. Remember, you and your competing consultants share the responsibility for representing the consulting profession and presenting it in the best light possible.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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#349: Thinking Beyond Your Normal Boundaries

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, July 15, 2010
Updated: Thursday, July 15, 2010
After more than a decade in consulting, I have developed a solid set of stories, examples, and templates that I use in my engagements and I think they work really well. Should I update these standards or am I OK with what I have?

A consultant is well served by a ready set of stories, examples, and metaphors to assist in communicating techniques and approaches to make organizations more effective. However, there is always room to improve the way we think about organizations, management and consulting. One of the best ways to do this is to read constantly about innovative ways businesses operate and how to use this information to refresh your toolkit.

Think beyond your normal boundaries. For example, if you are involved in process improvement, find examples of clever ways companies are benchmarking. Hospitals trying to improve operating room effectiveness have benchmarked against racing pit crews to address tool placement, equipment hand offs, communication, and process speed and predictability. Maybe not what you would normally consider, but something that stimulates you to think more broadly.

Another example is where Southwest Airlines looks for employees. Instead of traditional places, Southwest looks for flight attendant candidates among school teachers, who are very service oriented and social. Police officers and fire fighters are known to make great baggage handlers because they are used to physical activity, work extremely well in teams and are goal oriented. Seeing through the eyes of Southwest can stimulate you to think more broadly about new ways to help your clients do the same.

Tip: Even if you have developed a good set of consulting resources over the years, give them a good scrubbing and update. After a while, the stories become tired (even the examples above are well known to many consultants) and really require a review to see if there are more robust concepts needed, more recent examples available, and new ways to tell the "story" for each of them.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  change  communication  innovation 

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#348: Creative Email Proofreading

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Occasionally I go reread an email or letter I sent and cringe. It sounded good at the time, I spell checked and proofed it (admittedly quickly) before sending, but it didn't quite give the message I intended. Any tips (other than "be more careful next time") on how to improve the quality of my communication.

Sounds like an easy problem to solve but, as good writing coaches will confirm, the solution to improving communication in a fast paced business environment is not obvious. Good communication takes both time and care, which we seem to not want to provide in our haste to "knock out a few emails," measuring our effectiveness by how many rather than by how effective they are. Pascal said (although attributed to many others since), "I made this [letter] very long, because I did not have the leisure to make it shorter."

However, here are three ideas that might marginally improve your emails:
  1. Reread your work from bottom to top instead of from top to bottom. Your mind can sometimes trick you by efficiently "filling in" a missing word when you are reading from top to bottom.
  2. Print a copy of your correspondence and read it out loud and see how it sounds or use the applications some word processors have for text-to-speech.
  3. If possible and appropriate, save it as a draft and leave it alone for a while, at least for an hour and even overnight. Reread it the next morning when your mind is a little fresher and you have been away from it for a while (particularly useful when you are crafting a note in haste or anger!).
Tip: These might help a bit but there are few "tricks" to improve communication if you are not willing to give it the time and respect the recipient deserves.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  quality 

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#347: You Are Not Too Busy to Plan Your Business

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I suspect I should follow the advice I give to clients when I tell them they need to rigorously plan their future. However, I think consulting is different, in that I am always attuned to changes in the market and client needs. If I have the advantage of always being on top of evolving needs and am agile enough to respond, why should I prepare a complex, formal plan? Besides, that is just time I could be billing or relaxing.

The notion of "planning" warrants some explanation. Dwight Eisenhower said, ""In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." It is not necessary to (a) create a complex, formal plan as you say, (b) spend a tremendous amount of time planning, or (c) consider a plan an immutable commitment of action for a long period of time. Planning is about making yourself aware of your capabilities (both strengths and opportunities for improvement), alternative scenarios in the market, and risks - al in the context of some explicit objectives and principles. It is a longer view than your perceive and adapt approach you imply. It is the habit of thinking in a structured way about your possible futures, but doing so with an eye to a desired future state. Your past success in adapting to a changing market is not necessarily a confirmation that you are making progress toward your goals.

Tip: Pick a planning framework and commit to quarterly planning sessions, preferably with a colleague or two, if not your advisory board. Annually this could be a half or full day, and quarterly a hour or two to review and defend your choices. It is about habit and progress toward a goal, not just staying alive in business for yet another quarter that is the mark of success.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  planning  practice management  your consulting practice 

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