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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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#714: Balance Your Intuition and Thoughtfulness

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 8, 2011
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2011
When I began my consulting career, I was amazed by the ability of my mentor to just "know" the scope of a problem and come up with solutions. It was more than just having seen the problem before; it was intuitive creation that didn't require long analysis and contemplation. Is this something that can be taught (or learned)? It would be a really useful skill for a consultant to have.

Much of what we see in people who can seemingly instantly come up with a problem solution is pattern recognition. They have seen either the problem before or enough components to assemble them into an understanding of the problem. In many cases, this ability to recognize patterns is combined with a pattern creation capability in which they can then devise a solution. Oh, that we could all have this capability.

Yet there is a difference between what we consider intuition and what most successful problems require for their solution: thoughtfulness. As fascinated as we are by quick thinking, it carries with it a range of flaws and dangers, including recency and other biases. Thoughtfulness, on the other hand, is less revered and people who insist on deliberate, logical thought are often considered pedantic. Yet, deliberative thinking also carries risks, including bias, information overload, and overconfidence.

Each style has its proponents but it has become apparent that neither is very effective by itself. If we want to be a productive and effective consultant who recognizes patterns and creates robust solutions, we need to learn how to use both capabilities together. We spend so much time learning consulting processes, analytical techniques and interpersonal skills that we neglect learning how best to effectively use our thinking engines.

Tip: A terrific journey through this issue is Dan Kahneman's book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Like much of Kahneman's work on judgment, intuition and decision making under uncertainty. it should be considered a user's guide to the consulting mindset. This is one of the best books on the subject and one that bears reading twice.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  consulting skills  contact information  creativity  decision making  knowledge assets  knowledge management  learning  process 

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#507: Make it Easy for Clients to Find You

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I am always amazed by consultants who deliver a memorable talk but sometime later, when I want to ask a follow up question or refer them to a client, I can't find their contact information. It got me to wondering how visible I am to audiences I speak to.

A cardinal rule of sales is to make it easy to buy. This means, at a minimum, making sure every prospect has your contact information. It is amazing how many presentations have no contact info on individual slides or on a page at the beginning or end. Your name, company name, email and phone number should be on every piece of literature, presentation, card, report, disk, and brochure you produce. If possible, add a very brief description of what you provide to a prospect, to trigger their memory of who you are. I regularly come across business presentations years later with no contact information or a business card with no indication of the person's expertise.

This does not mean your documents should look like a NASCAR vehicle, but it does mean anyone can find you to discuss any piece of data, speech, research or advice you produce. Make a plan to assure that each marketing piece and work product has your contact information. For example, develop a template for your presentations that has your website in the footer, and a closing page with contact and brief biographical info.

Tip: Make a list of ten ways you can get something of value into the hands of prospects (e.g., speech, white paper, article, referral, research report, business suggestion) and make sure you have a way to include your contact info on each one. Some are harder than others. For example, when you send a copy of that interesting newspaper article to a client, did you remember to (subtly) include your name on the article?

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  contact information  marketing  publicity 

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#111: Are Your Networks Social Enough?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 17, 2009
With the incredible array of online information sources about people and organizations, it doesn't seem that useful to spend a lot of time and money at in-person networking events. Are networking meetings dying?

You are describing two different activities, both of which are useful in developing your business. The first is information discovery, the collection of information about the environment, markets, players, and activities. This is a function that your online searches, clipping services, alerts and subscriptions can go a long way to fulfilling. Although the Internet seems like an endless source of this information, there are some specific skills needed to capture relevant, timely and accurate information (i.e., don't believe everything you read on the Internet and what you read may be accurate but out of date).

The second is information integration, the vetting, processing, and correlation of collected information. This is a function that you can best accomplish by spending time meeting with others and discussing the information you (all) have collected. Is the information you collected valid and current? Is it relevant to the issues to which you want to apply it? What other information is available that your sources might not have? Can the information you do have be used in other ways that might benefit others?

The most creative organizations actively switch between discovery and integration. A recent MIT study showed that about 40% of the variation in creativity can be attributed to this interaction between information processing modes. Furthermore, although the organizations and individuals with highly effective discovery processes are more productive than average, those with highly effective integration processes are significantly more productive. The conclusion is that online searches may be useful, but the person-to-person integration activities is the source of the highest productivity.

Tip: Robust information discovery processes are important but don't consider them a replacement for networking. What you may want to do, however, is to make sure your personal interactions are useful by focusing on the integration and information validation and exchange rather than the typical "exchanging business cards and shallow chit chat" focus of many networking encounters. Make your face to face time all about information integration.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting colleagues  contact information  knowledge assets  knowledge management  market research  networks 

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#50: How Consultants Can Use Twitter

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 15, 2009
This makes no sense to me but I hear people talking about using Twitter for business. Is there anything useful to adding yet another communication I need to keep track of?

Twitter
is a "microblogging" service that lets you send 140 character messages to individuals who are connected to you and to all people who are "following" you. Originally conceived as a way to keep tabs on social activities, it is evolving into an interesting business tool. Twitter users vary considerably in who they are, what they write ("tweet") about and how active they are.

Like many social networking tools being turned into business use, Twitter has a growing following of business users. Who ever thought Facebook or MySpace, the province of students, would ever give rise to into LinkedIn, with more than 600,000 management consultants and 40 million total members? As useful as LinkedIn is (if you are using it effectively and not just assuming your being listed is enough), you are to be forgiven for thinking that Twitter can have little business value.

The trick is to carefully select who you follow. Some of the people I follow are Tony Restell (tonyrestell), the editor of Top-Consultant) who tweets several times a day about new issues in the consulting profession, the Wall Street Journal (wsj) and Fast Company (fastcompany), which let me know about emerging business issues, and an evolving set of people who tweet about R&D and innovation (I will need some time to settle on who I really want to follow).

The other side of the issue is who is following you and how to get more people to follow you. This is not narcissism; it is a solid business strategy to induce people who are interested in your business to hear what you have to say about your research, activities and commentary on current events. One good way to get someone to follow you is to follow them. With a minimum commitment of time, you can communicate with new information sources and current or prospective clients.

Tip: The bottom line is that Twitter is still evolving in how businesses can use it and management consultants should be at the forefront of this trend - if not for themselves, then at least for their clients. Spend a little time looking into how Twitter may be a powerful addition to your business for communication, market research, branding or prospecting. Look at the growing list of articles about business use of Twitter.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  contact information  marketing  technology  trends 

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#942: The Follow Up Call

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 15, 2008
Updated: Monday, December 15, 2008
I am building a prospect pipeline with a contact application and have prepared for a series of networking events to attend to kick off my initial contacts. Other than capturing the names and relevant information from people I met and consider potential leads, what else do I need?

You are off to a good start. Capturing leads in a formal way, whether it is on a ruled sheet of paper or in a software contact manager, is essential to managing a prospect pipeline. A box of scraps of paper and business cards as a strategy for getting clients is looking for trouble. Let's not get into how the contacts make it into your list, but the critical next step after first contact: the follow up call.

Following up means doing it before the memory fades (yours and theirs) and doing it in a way that leads to a higher probability of a good business relationship. Once you have identified a person who is marginally qualified, you should follow up to set a time to discuss a mutual business relationship. This is your chance to decide whether and how you commit valuable time to pursue the relationship or you will drop them in the "cool" (as in not worth pursuing right now) contact list.

Tip: The follow up call should be done within 3-5 days, preferably the next business day. You should have a follow up call script that includes a reiteration of the circumstances that brought you together, the premise of why your two businesses might productively work together, your interpretation of pressing needs of the other person (and questions you could ask to verify), an example of work you have done that relates to this need, an offer of a contact or piece of information of value to the other person (goodwill), a possible working relationship you could mutually benefit from, and suggested next steps to move toward a working relationship. Preparation and some forethought, along with not letting the prospect get cold, are the keys to turning a business card stuffed onto your pocket into a live prospect.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  contact information  goodwill  marketing  process  prospect 

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