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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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#67: Connecting With Other Businesses

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 9, 2009
My consulting network is just fine but I'd like to build out some more relationships with other types of businesses. What are some good ways to locate and cultivate such businesses?

Sometimes we focus so much on close-in relationships with other consultants that we forget that a strong network is built on a base of different businesses unlike our own. This means more than just other professionals like accountants, lawyers and other presumably direct referral sources. Your network can also be of people who can use your services and support as well as providers of services you use, but not obvious network candidates.

Set a goal of developing a dozen new relationships over the next three months (an average of one a week). Look in two places. First, reconnect to people you respect and have worked with in the past who are not consultants. If you thought highly of them before, they are likely to still be in sync with you now. Second, think of people who would benefit from your services but whom you don’t think of as clients. These might include sports club proprietors, auto dealers, commercial real estate brokers, travel agents, and engineers. Each of these might well use your management consulting services but perhaps not in the core area of your practice. Closer relationships with these businesses will give you both insight onto a broader set of businesses as well as an opportunity to provide advice to help them in their businesses.

Tip: Plan an open house or event hosted by yourself or with one or two colleagues. It's OK to present this as a networking event but make it clear that it is not intended as a hard core business development event, just a get to know you event. To make the introductions "sticky," arrange with some other attendees to host the next event a month or two later. It does take some effort to facilitate several of these different networks at one time but you will jump start your network and get better known well outside your traditional networks.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  networks 

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#60: The Customer is Not Always Right

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 29, 2009
Updated: Friday, May 29, 2009
My clients range from wonderful to challenging. What are some tricks to trade the latter for the former?

What you consider wonderful and challenging depends on what you value in a client. Is it intellectual stimulation, socially productive work, or just a fast pay cycle? Regardless, the clients you have are a function of the clients you seek and cultivate. When you set your marketing and sales plan in motion, are you placing a high enough weight on those factors you value and excluding prospects (or evolving clients) who exemplify factors you don't like? Consultants are susceptible to the same blind spots when it comes to selecting clients as any other consumer - we sometimes ignore factors that would improve our decisions.

Perhaps one of the common blind spots is the assumptions on which we evaluate our current clients. for example, as advisors, we seek to serve the interests of our clients and assume their purposes, their approach and our role is all to the good. Unfortunately, the customer is not always right (for us). Are we pursuing a high fee client for one that causes us endless aggravation? Do we decide to enter into a relationship with an interesting engagement that results in our putting up with long hours? Have we stuck by a client whose speed of payment and intellectual challenge of the task long ago slowed to almost nothing? It might be time to reevaluate how we select (or at least pursue) our clients.

Tip: What may look like a dream customer to others may just not be right for you. Think about the 80/20 rule and identify that 20% of your business you would elect to get rid of if you had the chance. Be very clear about your evaluation protocol, including revenue, lifestyle, work environment, professional growth, etc. Now work hard to replace that bottom 20% and, when your task or engagements are at an end, find a colleague to refer those customers to. You can choose to replace the when that customer is not right for you.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  customer understanding  marketing  planning  prospect  sales  your consulting practice 

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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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#51: Have You Lost Touch With Your Clients?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 18, 2009
Delivering client service and keeping the pipeline full takes a lot of time, leaving little time to keep in touch with past clients. Any suggestions?

First of all, keeping in touch with past clients should be one of your top activities in keeping your pipeline full. As you know, it is easier to retain (or reactivate) an existing client than it is to generate a new one. Just because a project has concluded does not mean the person or organization is not your client anymore.

Keeping in touch means two things. First, it means keeping up with what is going on in their business. Just because your project is over doesn't mean their needs have been satisfied. Even if you solved a problem or captured an opportunity for all time with your brilliant advice, there remain other parts of the company that can benefit from your insights. Keep up with current events in your clients' operations, including setting up a clipping service with Google or other vendor. The second part of keeping in touch is to keep you top of mind to them. Their memories of your superlative service will soon fade away with the press of business. Your mission, therefore, is to find ways to be relevant and valuable to them, even when you are not serving them directly. Connecting in person is best, if you can do it professionally, but a phone call or email is the minimum every few months if you want those memories to last. Most important is to have a specific plan for staying in touch and working the plan. Don't let this task just "happen" for when something reminds you to get back in touch with a client.

Tip: As with most things, when you aren't sure how to proceed, ask. Approach your client with a proposal for keeping in touch. Don't just inform them that you will email them every few months to keep in touch. There is little in this approach for them. Instead, ask them if it would be OK with them if, based on your knowledge of their business needs, you forwarded relevant news items with your commentary and suggestions for how they might benefit. This gives you permission to contact them and an understanding of specific items you can be on the lookout for. Since managing this across all clients can be difficult, instead set up a list of business topics to monitor with client names and context associated with each. Before long, you'll be well informed on a specific set of current events and can start writing your own commentaries to send instead of commenting on items by others.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  client service  communication  customer understanding 

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#49: Conserve Your Sales Resources

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 14, 2009
Updated: Thursday, May 14, 2009
How can I stretch my marketing and sales activities and budget?

In most cases, referrals are more powerful routes to to clients than prospecting. A referral carries with it an implicit endorsement from the referrer and gives you an advantage over someone who reaches out to a client without a referral. Given, that, your best strategy is to focus on the mechanisms to cultivate and maintain referral sources. There are a few ways to do this.

First, understand who is likely to be a referral source. Small businesses are busy and may not have time to help you out. New businesses to a market won’t have built their referral networks. Conversely, trade associations or chambers of commerce have broad contact with their industry or profession. Vendors, if you are not competing with them, can be great referral sources.

Second, understand what you need to do to get referrals. We sometimes assume that a referral source is eager to help us based just on our reputation. Although this might be true in some cases, you are better off making sure there is something in a referral to both the referrer and the target. Making a referal requires trust that you are both good and ethical over the long run. This means cultivating referral sources with repeated and consistent good service. Do good work and make sure you let your referral sources know about it.

Tip: Set as a target to get 50-75% of your new clients from referrals. Start with a list of your target clients and work backward to find types of and specific referral sources. Make this a formal, written plan to identify those referral sources for whom you have already or can demonstrate that making a referral will not put them at risk. Finally, develop the tactics that will assure that the referrer benefits from making that referral.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  proposals  referrals 

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