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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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#266: Slowing Down

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 22, 2010
Updated: Monday, March 22, 2010
I'm working too hard. I'm too busy. And I want to slow down but just can't sem to. Any tips?

I am assuming (maybe right and maybe not) that you are overworked with paying client work. The tip is not what you might expect in this economy but here it is. Raise your fees. A lot. For both existing and new clients. Risky? Wouldn't this lose some business? Most likely ... but you did say you wanted to slow down.

Surprise ending: You may slow down ... but don't be surprised if you end up making more money than ever before ... and working fewer hours. There is a saying that no matter what you charge you will get back the same dollars but with more or less customers. In a time of commoditization of consulting (and many other professional) services, when more and more consultants are undifferentiated, a notably higher fee will certainly set you apart. Now all you have to do is to make sure you meet those expectations.

Tip: Want to hedge your bet? Try it with half your clients and prospects and evaluate how this works in trimming your client load.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  fees  marketing  reputation  work-life balance  your consulting practice 

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#264: The Power of a Blank Sheet of Paper

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, March 18, 2010
Updated: Thursday, March 18, 2010
I probably do what most consultants do when pitching their services - lead with some probing questions and then provide a slide deck (the appropriate one based on prior conversations) for discussion. It meets all the needs of a pitch but what could we do differently to give us an edge?

Consider that the client is looking for to solve problems or transform their organization. As executives or managers, their responsibility, and presumably skill set, is in making those changes happen. Think of how that manager feels when a consultant comes in with the "solution" already mapped out. Rarely found in this solution is the organization's culture or the manager's input. While we think the manager should be impressed with our expertise and insight, we need to remember that they expect to be part of the solution.

Try using a blank sheet (or more) of paper to sketch out the issues, influences, and solutions. Engage the client in laying out these components and encourage them to even pick up the pen and contribute to the drawing. It is amazing how much more connected a prospect of client is to the solution, and to you, when they shared in the solution. This approach takes nothing away from your expertise and even enhances your image because you appear to be come up with answers from your vast storehouse of knowledge.

Tip: There's no harm in practicing your "impromptu" sketches, and if you are not the artistic type, you might give the pen to one of your colleagues.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  communication  customer understanding  meeting preparation  presentations  proposals  sales 

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#258: Keeping Up With Your Industry

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Updated: Thursday, March 11, 2010
I have a small practice and try to read about my industry but don't have the money for research reports and special studies. Is there a less expensive source than these market research studies that cost thousands of dollars each (some of which are of questionable value)?

This shouldn't be a secret but it seems that few people know about it. Every public company, and many private ones, publishes an annual report. It contains financial information, news about the company history, major initiatives, people, partners, sometimes identifies suppliers and vendors, and often shows images of facilities. These are available for free, either online or in hard copy. You should never be having a conversation with a prospect, or a client, without having thoroughly digested at least the annual report.

To get an understanding of an industry, look up your target company in a marketing information service like at Hoovers where it lists the "top" companies in the industry (by revenue, product sales, number of employees, growth rate or other criteria). Request the annual report of each of the companies on that list and create our own "research report."

Tip: In almost every report is a section called the Management Letter, in which the company describes the key issues it faces, its investment and market philosophy and its perceived risks. These are a gold mine of insight into the company and, when compared across leading companies in the same market, give you your trends and research for which you didn't have to pay a cent.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  learning  marketing 

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#248: Cold Calling for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I have read in previous tips that you don't advocate cold sales calls. Why?

Because the alternatives are better. Cold calls work best to "find" a possible customer, e.g., insurance, telephone service, air conditioning services ... mostly commodity type services. But the rejection rate is extraordinarily high (though it can be time efficient for those commodities when using low cost screening techniques). We are professional consultants. Our audiences are higher level professionals with whom we want to make a rational, if not emotional, connection. Telemarketing consulting services do not send the right message.

Preferable is the "warm" call. Trade off your lack of an existing relationship with a prospect for a compelling reason for them to talk to you. Do your research, either on the company or the industry. Give the person an intriguing, no obligation opportunity to get something at no risk and no (except for their time) cost. Let them know of the work you have done and ask if they have considered applying that in a specific (this is the key) place in their current operations. Don't just say "I do XXX, and wonder if you could use something like that at ABC Inc." Tell them that you have been reading that they are having a hard time/or looking for an opportunity and you have some experience with this, and it occurred to you that if their XYZ division, which according to their annual report has declined in new product introductions for the past three years, could introduce PQR in first shift plants, you could show how to . . ."

Tip: Give something to the prospect that demonstrates that you are interested in their company and your capabilities/results are applicable. This is the first foray into building trust. Remember, there is a lot more "free" to compete with than ever before and you need to participate in that. The cold call comes off as "I want something from you,” which comes across a costing them a lot more than free.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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

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#244: Creating Value Even Without a Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 18, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2010
Our firm gets calls from people who simply can't afford our fees. What can I do with them?

Assuming you are right that your fees are out of their range, you can still offer to take a look at what their problem is and quote on it. Sit down with them and say, "I recognize that our fees, although competitive, may exceed your budget. However, we have looked over your situation and I have some comments and recommendations. Rather than charge you for a trip, a day (or more) of my time, I just figured this would be more valuable at no cost to you. And if you have any follow-up questions just send me an e-mail. My pleasure." Does this sound like a waste of time. Not really and here's why:
  1. You usually learn a lot from the experiences of seeing peoples’ data, problems, models. It would be more instructive than the case studies you look at during your professional development work over the year.
  2. You will earn their respect, maybe even make a friend, for very little time investment (perhaps less than quoting a large fee and not earning the business).
  3. When they grow ... they will remember you (especially if your observations and recommendations are on target).
Tip: These situations can create the most avid referrals you can ever find. They contacted you and you provided value with professionalism and for free. Think of how they would view you if you just turned them away without any discussion or consideration.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  client development  fees  goodwill  professionalism  prospect 

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