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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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Top tags: client relations  communication  customer understanding  your consulting practice  marketing  consultant role  learning  client service  reputation  goodwill  consulting process  market research  practice management  sales  ethics  planning  client development  engagement management  innovation  proposals  professional development  professionalism  knowledge assets  prospect  trends  presentations  recommendations  consulting colleagues  intellectual property  product development 

#327: Multisourcing Consulting Engagements

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I have noticed that several of my long term clients have been bringing in other consultants to handle some services that I used to provide for them. They say they are happy with my services but this is troubling - should I be worried?

This is called multisourcing or unbundling, and has been a growing trend since the recession about six years ago. A decade ago, a proven consultant could work on retainer basis on a range of projects. This was convenient for both the client and consultant. However, clients have changed their approach to purchasing consulting services.

Kennedy Information reported a few years ago a trend that clients were becoming more price sensitive and, with the exception of large systems integration contracts, were looking for the best talent and lower overhead often found in smaller, boutique or specialized consultancies. Increasing senior partners were departing larger firms to start their own practices. Also, more consultants were joining firms and advising executives on hiring and management of consultants. In sum, clients are more sophisticated about locating the best talent at the best terms.

Tip: What to do about this? Be proactive and talk to your clients. Discuss, for each consulting service you provide or could provide, what value they expect from you and how your services meet those expectations. Where they are not enthusiastic about a particular service you provide, find out what changes in services they want, or are likely to want soon. Clarify in your own mind what specific benefits (e.g., innovation, price, ease of access, experience, market expertise, research data, responsiveness) you bring and then talk it over with your client. This is no time to wait and see if your client starts shopping around for other consultants.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales  trends 

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#318: Getting the Attention of Prospects

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I am doing what I believe is a competent job of marketing and making myself visible to prospects but competition is pretty fierce. How can I make my offering stand out more?

Getting the attention of a potential client or prospect can sometimes be challenging. This can often be achieved by making the extra effort and doing research to identify their concerns or needs and addressing them directly within the title of a presentation or agenda for a discussion.

When visiting an existing client or new prospect, the goals for a practitioner are to a) have the client pay attention and take him or her seriously, b) have the most relevant people attend the discussion or presentation, and c) have a receptive audience that is very interested to hear what the consultant has to say. If you specifically address the most pressing issue(s) or concern(s) in either the title of a presentation or in the agenda for a discussion, you might be surprised at how successful you are at achieving these goals. Here are some examples:
  • "Potential Solutions for Increasing Marketing ROI Within the Next 6 Months Using _______ (prospect's competitive advantage)"
  • "Focusing on the Customer: Re-evaluating Your Customers Key Expectations and Requirements in the _____ Market"
  • "What _______ (prospect's) Competitors are Doing to Capture Your Market Share"
Tip: Try putting yourself in the shoes of the client or prospect and attempt to determine in advance what their top concerns are. By linking your agenda or presentation directly to these concerns, you have a much better chance of key personnel attending and listening to what you have to say. "I would like to come by to talk about my consulting services" or "I would like to come by to talk about how you might re-energize your recent ad campaign." Which would get your attention?

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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

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#312: How Good Is Your Social Media Strategy?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, May 25, 2010
A client asked me for some quick and informal advice on social media but doesn't want to bring in an expert in this area. What are the key areas I should focus on?

First, don't make the common mistake thinking this is about technology. There are lots of online applications to which you can devote a lot of time and effort, with varying degrees of success. Technology is the conclusion in a social media strategy, not the opening act. Start with the basics of marketing and define what it is that you are trying to accomplish online that you can't offline, or as a way to leverage offline marketing.

Second, given the potential complexity of social media and the fluidity of its evolution, you really need a robust strategy to be effective. A profile here, a blog there, and a discussion group over there is not a strategy. Third (and finally for this tip but far from last for your purposes), take a deliberate track into social media, tackling one or two pieces at a time and get them right before moving on to the next tactic. Know what is working for your client (or you) and check back often to assure that it still works.

Tip: A great list of evaluation criteria is from Lori Dicker's article 10 signs it's time for a social media makeover. Included are discussions of how length of scope, relation of social media to business planning, the size of your financial commitment, your perceived need for a social media policy and how much of your social media is driven through your website. All important items that can serve as a quick (but quite insightful) checklist to evaluate social media atrategy.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  client service  communication  marketing  social media 

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#309: The Small Close

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 20, 2010
Closing consulting engagements sometimes takes longer than expected, even when we've had long discussions with the client and everything seems to have been negotiated. Why do some consultants seem to have more success with the close?

We'd all like to have an easy close to the engagement for which we have been talking with a prospect. This would seem to be good for bothparties. However, even when the client has come to us with a request and we think we are ready to start the engagement, the close doesn't come so easily. Why is that? Is the client getting cold feet or have we confused or complicated the issue? Did we expand the client's understanding of the scope of the issue (a good thing), or did we propose an unnecessarily elaborate approach to satisfying the client's need (shame on us)?

Closing is rarely a straight and sure path. Buying is an emotional process and if you force the buyer into a yes or no decision before they are ready, the answer will likely be "no." You know how you react when salespeople push you, so consider how a manager who is being asked to cede executive power to a consultant feels when pressed. The alternative to the yes or no decision is what is called the "Small Question."

The Small Question is part of what is called an assumptive, or small, close, where you assume the buyer has already agreed to purchase your services. Instead of asking for the sale, ask for something that would be a part of the sale. For example, you could ask if the prospect would find it more useful for you to brief the board or coach him or her to do the final briefing at the end of the engagement. Or, ask if the sales training should include developing a series of online training sessions. Finally, you might ask if it makes sense to conduct a pilot before going company-wide.

Tip: A yes answer to one of these questions is likely a yes answer to the engagement, but is much easier to make for the prospect. Once they have said yes to a critical part of the entire project (usually a high value part), they are on the path to saying yes to the whole engagement. Gauge the client's comfort with your small question and explore successively larger ones.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#288: Getting Some Quick Consulting Work

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I just got started in consulting and am looking to jump-start my practice. I am willing to do all the things you've been suggesting, but I need some immediate cash flow or I won't make it. Any ideas?

Here are three suggestions that might help:
  1. Go to your largest prospect(s) (or industry association) and offer to do a study/analysis for them, one that they would find valuable and offer to do it at whatever they would be willing to pay. Don't negotiate. Get them to agree the study/analysis might be valuable and show them why you are uniquely qualified to do this and that the fee can't be a problem since they will set it.
  2. Offer to put together a unique seminar for your field and ask for a one-time development fee, and reasonable fees for presenting it, granting the sponsor co-ownership of the IP (intellectual property).
  3. Send a letter to your top ten prospects and make them an offer they can't refuse, i.e., delivering results or your fee is zero.
The focus here is results that these prospects feel are credible based on the way presented and your background. Don’t forget: these are very short-term strategies and you should let the recipients of your communications understand the rationale, i.e., you are just getting started and willing to do this now. Later they will be standing in line (if you do all the smart things we suggest, and you come up with and deliver results for clients).

Tip: This is a great test of your consulting services' market value. However, make sure you circle back to confirm whether your clients felt that they got their money's worth. Many will pay you want you and they negotiated but you might be pleasantly surprised to hear that you were worth more than they paid. Who knows, they might even be willing to change the payment to something closer to the value received.

P.S. This may also work well in slow times for etablished consultants.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  proposals  prospect 

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