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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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#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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#292: Using Movies to Improve Management

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I have been training management teams in leadership, communication and negotiation for a long time. I have used just about every facilitation and leadership approach in the book. Do you have anything new?

What about taking everyone to the movies?

No, we don't mean packing everyone off to the local cineplex. How about using some classic movies as the basis of discussion? Some movies have rich characters, plot and storylines that would make for fertile discussion among members of a management team. Here are a few:
  • Twelve Angry Men (1957) is a story of a jury deciding an apparent open and shut murder case. The character development and evolving story line reflects common interactions in management team negotiations.
  • The Caine Mutiny (1954) addresses weakness of command, ethical dilemmas, communication between ranks, and executive decisionmaking. And you though running a company was easy?
  • The Godfather (1972) is all about what is business and what is personal, transfer of control, and about the impact of traditions on operation of an enterprise.
  • 12 O'Clock High (1949) is a look into leadership, betrayal, morale, discipline, and perseverance under duress. Strip away the war setting and you will find many elements of how teams behave under stressful settings and how they cope.
  • The Office - Not a movie but a weekly TV show with fertile representation of all too familiar personalities in many business settings. A smorgasbord of how not to manage.
Have managers watch these movies for discussion and comparison to their current individual and group behavior. Better yet, have the team watch them together on your next management retreat and discuss merits of the characters and team behavior.

Tip: OK, maybe getting your clients to watch movies is impractical. However, it doesn't mean you can't watch themselves and take the message back to them. Watch them with an eye to how you would advise those in leadership or decision making positions in these movies.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  communication  decision making  leadership  learning 

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#112: Performance Bonding for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I just had a prospect ask me for a performance bond. I know this is requested for construction projects but no one has ever asked me for one for consulting. Is this common, or becoming more common, for consultants?

A performance bond is a partial guarantee issued by an independent bank or insurance company to assure some compensation to your client if you do not provide the contracted services. You would normally either set aside or deposit funds in an escrow account in amounts equivalent to a minor portion of the account value (10% is common but the amount reflects the perceived risk of loss). The bond term is usually for part of the term of the project, usually up to the point of a major milestone, after which the bond is released.

A performance bond is rare for consulting engagements because most management consulting engagements are based on personal referrals and trust between the client and consultants. Also, the amounts at risk and difficulty of replacement are higher for construction projects than consulting. Ultimately, the nature of consulting, with few advanced purchases of materials and physical or facility-related activities, means that there is just not that much at risk for a consulting client.

Tip: If a prospect requests a performance bond, ask about their underlying assumptions. Are they new to using management consultants and thinking in terms of a construction contract? What, exactly, are their assumed risks? Can you provide convincing referrals from other clients whom you have successfully served without a bond? If there is so little trust that a performance bond is required, consider the implications of this level of trust on other aspects of the engagement.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  client relations  engagement management  goodwill  prospect  reputation  sales 

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#86: The Point to Management Stories

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 6, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I try to have a lot of examples, either from my own experience or management journals, to make points to my clients. However, some of these cases or examples from the literature these seem awfully dry. Should I just leave them like they are or creatively edit them to make my point?

I infer you are asking about the ethics of taking a case study or description of a real situation and altering it for your purposes. Let's also assume that these cases do not involve disclosure of proprietary information or trade secrets. Finally, assume that these are not original works of an author presented in, say, a book on management. Given these conditions, if a story is widely known, say reported in various trade journals, it is presumed to be public knowledge. If you want to change the story, I suggest you are obliged to relate that you are changing the "facts" and present the case as a hypothetical. For example, you might tell your client about what could have gone differently if Coca Cola had named their product "Vintage Coke" instead of "New Coke."

The caveat is to not tell a story about a real company or individuals that involves facts, motivations or actions that you have made up. Whether or not you intend to disparage someone, this might be interpreted be the person reading or hearing it as libel or slander, either stick to the facts or create, and disclose as such, a hypothetical example to make your point. In other words, only relate a story that is factual and complete; otherwise use your own story or present a hypothetical.

Tip: Better yet, use short examples for which there is a clear point. Use the work of business authors like Russ Ackoff, who is both a splendid observer of managers and their enterprises, but also of consultants. One good source is Ackoff's Best: His Classic Writings on Management, where Russ talks about a range of business situations form a systems, planning and applications viewpoint. Sometimes contrarian, sometimes iconoclastic, often funny, his observations are sure to expand your insights into your clients situation and your possible contribution to a solution.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  client relations  communication  ethics  marketing  sales 

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#59: Getting to Yes in Securing New Clients

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 28, 2009
Updated: Thursday, May 28, 2009
No surprise that it takes a longer to get new clients than retain past ones. However, it is distressing how long it takes to get in sync with a prospect when you are both mature professionals. Are there any shortcuts?

There are not, nor should there be any "shortcuts." The process to build trust takes as long as it does because both parties need to get to a place where they are as comfortable as they need to be to do business. In the book Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time, Greg Mortenson tells about the slow steady process in Baltistan (northern Pakistan) required to build trust. He relates a Baltistani proverb that says, "The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time, you are an honored guest. The third time you become family." Maybe it takes more or less times than three times, but you still need to go from introduction to trusted advisor.

Tip: Getting to yes means making haste slowly. Be deliberate in the relationship development process, taking each step with specific outcomes in mind. How long do you think it will take for your prospect to think of you as family?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  client development  client relations  communication  customer understanding  goodwill  marketing  sales 

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