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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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#154: Training our Referrals to Sell You Effectively

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 15, 2009
I am not getting any referrals from my network. I am constantly recommending them but get nothing in return.

There are a couple of issues here. Let's assume that you are technically competent, professional and provide services in demand for businesses in your area. Let's also assume that the individuals in your network are reasonable, honorable people (they are in your network, after all!). This leaves a possibility that they just don't know exactly how to refer your services. This is a common mistake most of us make with some in our networks.

Remember, referrals are mostly looking out to sell their own services (if they are other management consultants), run their own businesses, or just go about their lives. We are not their primary objective on a day to day basis. We may not even be the only person they could refer. It is our job to make it as easy as possible for them to refer us. This means "training" them in our capabilities, experience, and interests and providing them with whatever collateral they find most useful. Finally, it is most useful to guide them to your most desired clients. Helping your referrals know where to go, what to sell and what steps to take after the conversation with a prospect will significantly increase your referral activity.

Tip: Some consultants prepare what is called a "sell sheet" that describes, often on a single page, the consultant's experience, attributes, unique value, consulting approaches and services, and a "how to engage" summary. Draft such a sheet and run it by a colleague who knows you well to see if it resonates with them. Offer to review their sheet and compare format and content to share ideas with each other. Once you can provide your referrers with clear talking points, watch your referral traffic soar.

P.S. How good of a referrer are you being to others in your network? If you had to create a sell sheet for your colleagues from a blank sheet of paper, how good would it be? Work with them to make sure you can effectively refer them.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  marketing  networks  proposals  referrals  sales  sustainability 

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#153: Work Your Network Like a Project

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2009
Over the past few years, a number of my colleagues have retired, leaving my network a little sparse. How can I refresh it without weakening it?

Treat networks like any asset on which you depend to generate income. Many assets occasionally weaken if they are not deliberately provided new investment. The problem comes when we look at our network as one big group of people. We don’t detect it is declining until it is significantly weakened. Breaking it down into parts and treating its care and feeding as a project makes for a more effective and sustainable referral source.

First, consider the individuals in your network in terms of categories and work each category separately. Categories might include geographic location, economic sector, how long you have known them, whether you have worked directly with them or not, likelihood of a referral, whether the referral is from you, to you or mutual, whether the person has colleagues who could serve as adjunct network resources, and whether or not the person is in an area of business in which you are interested in growing your business. These are just a few but you can come up with many more. Determine where the strength of your network comes from and monitor whether this category is growing or waning. If the age category is starting to grow older, indicating potential weakening through retirements, then start looking specifically to supplement your network in those areas.

Tip: Retirement of a network source does not mean they cannot still be useful to you or vice versa. In some cases, these individuals may be able to help you actually strengthen your network by making introductions to people they might not have felt comfortable doing so before. Also, they may be better able to work directly with you, now that they have left their employer and are less likely to have potential conflicts of interest.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  networks  practice management  prospect  referrals  sustainability 

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#146: Positioning Your Services on Price

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Sunday, October 4, 2009
Although there is considerable pricing pressure on consulting services, our firm still has a modest amount of business for our standard services at our regular rates. Should we be developing a low cost version of our services?

In a word, yes. If we as consultants truly believe that we exist to provide services that meet a client's needs, then alternative versions of your services fit this criterion. Providing only a single version, and this applies to more as well as less, comprehensive versions, can limit your market attractiveness. A single offering can only be compared to services of other consultants, which puts the comparison out of your control.

According to both market research and common sense, your bread and butter service offering may well be enhanced by offering a higher and lower priced version. Think of different versions of a software product. Many show charts of features with checkmarks next to those features that come with the "basic," standard," and "premium" packages. Each has a price with it that allows a prospect to evaluate, within your set of offerings, which version best meets their current needs. This way of arraying offers allows you to frame the decision around your own strengths.

Tip: For each of your typical services, configure a limited service or duration version, as well as an enhanced version. Run these by past clients and maybe colleagues to see how well these alternatives resonate, and revise as appropriate. This creates two opportunities. First, you might be surprised that there is some demand for your basic and enhanced packages. If so, you may have limited your services because clients have selected other consultants whose services were more to their price/value liking. Second, considering the design of basic/enhanced versions, especially when such versions just don't work for your services, may give you insights into entirely new types of services to offer, including teaming with other consultants.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  fees  marketing  product development  proposals  sales 

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#144: Would You Know a Perfect Client If One Fell Into Your Lap?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 1, 2009
I know I am supposed to define my "perfect client" and then they will magically appear asking for my help. I just don't buy that the universe unfolds according to my whims. Is this really worth the effort?

It depends on to what extent you think the universe is responsive to you at all. So you don't believe wishing brings good things. However, you would be hard pressed to refute the truth in the adage that luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. In such a case, your perfect clients may be all around you but you just don't recognize them. Without the exercise to say what makes them more or less attractive, they all look the same.

What makes a difference to you? The complexity of their problems? The size of the organization? The size of your fees? The level in the company of your client sponsor? The client's geographic proximity to your office? The length of the engagement? The opportunity for follow on work? The people, of either the client or your own team, that you work with? The opportunity to learn something new? These are all candidates for defining a perfect client.

Tip: If you have never done this before, it can be a little daunting. Start with your past clients, arraying them against a list of criteria like those above. Score them from 1 to 5 on each attribute. Weight the attributes (e.g., learning is twice as important as fees) if you like. Score your clients and see if the ranking feels right to you or not. Were the highest ranked clients your “favorites?” Revise the model as needed. Once you feel comfortable, evaluate prospects by this protocol and start looking for clients with attributes that naturally have the greatest weights.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  market research  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#143: Premature Elaboration

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 1, 2009
What is the best (or even a good) way to demonstrate the most value for your services during initial discussions with prospect.

We are often so eager to show how much we know that we don't wait until the client has fully explained where his or her organization is, how it got there and completely understands the issues they face. As soon as some consultants hear a problem they have solved before or recognize, they are quick to show how much they know. Even when you have solved the presumed problem before, you owe the client the opportunity to describe why it an issue for the organization and the nature of the solution for which they are willing to engage you. Hold your conclusions until you have explored the issues together. Remember, it is about addressing the client’s problem, not showing how smart you are.

Tip: The title of this tip says it all. Not that every analogy is appropriate but initial consultant-client conversations can be considered like dating: show exceptional respect, listen more than talk, and think longer term.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  communication  marketing  proposals 

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