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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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#418: Leverage Your Professional Association Capabilities

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, October 20, 2010
How do I find out more about these marketing organizations that promise to find projects for independent consultants?

Without mentioning names, there are a dozen or more high profile companies (some are organized as nonprofits) that, for a fee, will provide consultants with a list of "qualified" prospective clients. They market the availability of consulting services, often made up of a list of those consultants who have paid for an annual or other type of subscription. These companies vigorously market their access to consulting expertise to clients and serve as project brokers to subscribing consultants.

There are two issues with these companies. First, how does it make sense for someone unfamiliar with either the client or consultant to serve as a broker? Doesn't it make more sense for consultants and clients to deal directly with each other? Second, there are a lot of ethical issues with these brokerage companies. Claims to clients and consultants by many of these companies often go unfulfilled, as some IMC members who had thought it might be a good idea to try these services. One of our members recently brought to our attention one such company that had even selectively plagiarized the IMC USA Code of Ethics and passed it off as its own. Wow!

Tip: Be aware of the danger in these kind of companies. Take advantage of your professional association to check if the organization is legitimate and follows ethical practices. Ask your colleagues and in IMC chapters to see what your consulting friends experience has been.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  ethics  networks  proposals  sales  your consulting practice 

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#407: Look at The Consulting Services Procurement Process as an Opportunity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Our firm has been successful in developing relationships with senior managers of client organizations, which has made securing consulting work fairly easy. However, as the average tenure of CEOs continues to decrease rapidly, is this strategy at risk?

The average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is down to 3.5 years, with high turnover rates extending down through the management ranks. You should be concerned about over-reliance on senior relationships for steady consulting business.

But there maybe a larger issue in play here - the way we consultants view the procurement process. Whether we are approached directly, are tipped off to a need by an insider, find opportunities through research, respond to an RFP, or turn up possible work through cold (or warm) calling, we really need to pay increasing attention to changes in procurement of consulting services. We have mentioned before in these Daily Tips about decreasing size and increasing specialization of client requests for consulting engagements. They are less interested in brand or size than they are in the specific skills of the few people most suited for the job.

The key is to recognize that clients see consultants a bit differently than they have in the past. Telling clients that you are different because of personalized service, deep experience in the market, or "recognized" expertise largely falls on deaf ears. They want to see a commitment to understand their "here and now" need, not tell them that you have solved their problem many times before. This means spending a lot more time to understand the precise issue they face and not presume you have the perfect consulting process, much less the likely answer, at hand.

Tip: A good coverage of this way of looking at the procurement process is in the Consulting Times, titled "A Match Made in Consulting Heaven?" (pp 12-13) that addresses specifically how consultants need to better embrace the procurement process.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  learning  market research  marketing  proposals  referrals  sales 

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#388: Take A Cue From the Board

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I'm looking for competitive intelligence on a prospect. I have looked at the Leadership Library and recent annual reports, asked competitors about their differentiators, figured out where the executives spend their community time, set up a press clipping and Topix analysis, and asked around. I really want this client. Anything else I can do to get an inside perspective?

Sounds like you are well along in scoping out your prospect. You have covered the factual, news and opinion angles. Good for you. Not enough people do this kind of research on a prospective client before trying to engage them.

Here's one area you may not have thought of: the Board of Directors (or a CEO advisory body). Directors are presumably selected because they bring financial, market, technological, management or other resources to the company. Collectively, they provide the governance to drive a company efficiently and effectively forward.

If we assume this is true for a moment, take a look at Directors individually and as a group. What does each one bring? What areas of expertise and perspective do they have? Have there been any recent shakeups on the Board or any Directors brought in for a specific reason? Finally, do you know any of them well enough to talk with them about what the company needs? There are worse references to have than a company Director.

Conversely, it may be the case that the Board itself is one of several problems the company faces. In this case, your analysis of how well the Board is constituted might provide an additional topic of discussion with the executive to who you are offering your services.

Tip: Use caution when approaching individual Directors and/or discussing your conclusions about the role and performance of the Board with your future client. Recognize that you are not on the inside and are going to be missing a lot of information. However, properly qualified, the executive is likely to be impressed with your thoroughness in looking beyond traditional competitive intelligence sources.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  boards  client development  customer understanding  market research  marketing  prospect 

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#383: Speaking Won't Give Away Your Company Secrets

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The few times I have done some public speaking, I can't help but feel as though I am giving away too many "company secrets." Is there a way I can keep from doing this?

Probably like many consultants, we worry that our speaking presentations will "give away the store." We think that to give a compelling speech, we will tell my audience too much and will cannibalize our opportunities to attract new business.

One reaction is to turn our presentations into blatant advertisements for our services, beating people over the head with the idea that they should buy our products or services. Conversely, we may hide so much content, it seems as though we do know a lot but aren't willing to share it.

Instead of seeing this as "giving away everything," the opposite is actually true. Only by generating trust and eliminating high-pressure sales tactics will we succeed in coaxing new customers out of an audience. So lighten up and be willing to share your knowledge and expertise liberally. The trust you generate in return will more than make up for any imagined "stealing" of your hard-won secrets.

Tip: If you think someone will "steal" your ideas from a single speech, then prepare a combination of speeches, white papers and workshops to roll out your new research or ideas. This way, it is clear that they are yours alone and that they have value.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  presentations  publicity  reputation  speaking 

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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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