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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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#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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#238: Getting a Handle on Your Firm's Online Presence

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Other than the obvious Google search ranking, what are some ways to know whether my website or blog are really as visible as we hope?

Website or blog popularity is an elusive and ill-defined concept for many. The ultimate goal of our online presence is to be found by people who are engaged by our content and hopefully find enough value in that content to retain our consulting services. They reach us through a wide range of online routes and each of those search engines and tracking functions has its own algorithm to rank your site. Because these differ, your popularity ranking will differ, sometimes widely.

A number of ranking services exist on the web. Each one will evaluate your content and give you a sense of what aspects of your site or blog are attractive or not. Rather than assuming that "higher" is always better, look at what each ranking algorithm focuses on and, if appropriate, how your site is trending. A good compilation is 15 Tools for Monitoring a Website’s Popularity.

Tip: Consider both who you are trying to reach and who your competitors are. Use some of the above referenced popularity rankings and see how you compare with your competitors. Look at the recommendations for each of these ranking sites to improve your visibility. Ultimately, though, the quality of your content and its value to your clients and prospects means more than artificially inflating your rankings.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  market research  marketing  publicity  reputation 

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#218: What is Your Consulting Firm's "Secret Ingredient"?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I am new to consulting, having retired from executive management after almost 30 years. What are some of the ways I can differentiate myself from all the other retiring executives who are entering the consulting market?

First, "entering the consulting market" from business is not as easy as it appears. Having business experience and a robust contacts list is certainly a help, but no guarantee of effectiveness as a consultant or success as a business. There is a false logic to presume that business familiarity is all one needs to be a management advisor. This is like saying, "I have raised three kids, so I think I will go into pediatrics." Consulting, like medicine, is a profession, with specific skills, behaviors, body of knowledge. ethics and practices that need to be developed. The differentiation you seek comes not in your knowledge, but in how you apply it. Look at IMC USA's Management Consulting Competency Framework as a guide to build skills unique to consulting, many of which executives often lack because it was not required by their past job.

Second, look for your edge in area you are passionate about, and I don't necessarily mean subject matter. Start with a notable characteristic about you known to others in your industry. When you were an executive, what were the accomplishments of which you were most proud, on what projects did you contribute in a unique and productive way, and for what were you known in the industry? Were you the go-to person to facilitate tough negotiations, or the one who could find a skilled technician to solve a problem, or the one who saw new markets before anyone else? You most likely already have an edge - ask your coworkers, business partners and industry thoughtleaders.

Tip: Being exceptional in an area does not mean it will be highly valued over the next few years as you build your consulting practice. Balance what you are passionate about with the likely passion of the executives who will be using your services. Your past high value is only the starting point. Create a practice development strategy that builds new capabilities that retain value in an evolving market.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client relations  consultant role  customer understanding  learning  marketing  practice management  professional development  reputation  your consulting practice 

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#214: Pricing Consulting Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 7, 2010
Updated: Thursday, January 7, 2010
I am at a loss to know how to price consulting services these days. Some of our markets support healthy rates and in others we are experiencing heavy resistance. We have clients who are, for the first time, using rather sophisticated pricing models and challenging us on almost every value point. And we are using value billing, not daily rates, so this is a new one for us. What's going on?

Other than a generational disruption of the economy, an influx of new "consultants" from the ranks of business, the commoditization of professional services and a greater client emphasis on squeezing value from every expenditure, nothing comes to mind. It is a cliché to say that good consultants will command higher fees and lesser mortals may not be able to charge high enough rates to remain in business. However,, in either good markets or bad, whether your industry or specialty is ascendant or in decline, there are several fundamentals of pricing consulting services to which we should attend.

The very first piece of advice is to recognize that you are trading something valuable (skills, experience, connections) for something else valuable (cash or equity). Where you can make the case that your contribution can generate more than the value from which you are paid, the client is eager to make the transaction. A good client expects to pay fairly, if not well, for superior service. If you are in discussions with a client who wants something for nothing, it's time to consider another client. Second, if you tie your fees to the volume of effort you contribute, you have commoditized your skills into a relatively undifferentiated element of time, for which you will compete with the lowest bidder. If you cannot define the timeless value you are bringing to a client, then maybe all you are bringing is hours, which means you are not ready to have the fee discussion. Third, the manner and timing of fee discussions impacts tremendously your ability to be compensated for the value you bring. The general rule in fee negotiations is that the person who mentions money first, loses.

Tip: The process of estimating and negotiating price requires some serious skills and attention to detail. The better books on the subject emphasize understanding the client mindset and present a clear pricing model, while deemphasizing issues like calculating how many hours you need to cover costs. One of the best is Pricing Consulting Services: How to Set Fees For the Value You Deliver by Michael Shays. Shays is a veteran of consulting in a broad range of industries, countries, consulting firm types and economic environments. Learning the nuances of his pricing triangle of Client Perceived Value, Market Perceived Value and Consultant Perceived Value will provide the insight and courage you need to master the pricing of your work.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  fees  market research  marketing  proposals  sales  your consulting practice 

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#194: The Close is a Challenge for Both Consultant and Prospect

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 10, 2009
When the close for a consulting engagement takes a long time or never happens, I always wonder what I could have done differently. How can I get over this feeling that I didn't do enough?

In good times, clients call us out of the blue and referrals reach out to inquire about our services. The new normal is that businesses are more prudent about investing in outside advisors instead of fully using existing staff. Your need to make the case of your services as a wise investment hasn't changed, but the bar has been raised. The world changes even if you don't and your attitude going in to a pitch determines to a large extent how you feel after.

Consider your discussion with prospects as an proposed exchange of "value for value." You have something of value (expertise) and they have something of value (compensation). Assuming you have correctly characterized the opportunity or challenge they face, you may or may not reach agreement on fair compensation or the path forward. That evaluation by the client is only partly under your control and they may not see your value or be able to compensate you adequately for it. Remember, the close is as much a challenge for the prospect as it is for you. If you are even having the conversation, they see intrinsic value in your expertise. A "no" only means that your perceptions of the value differ, and is usually as much a disappointment to the prospect as much as it is to you.

Tip: As many books on closing will tell you, a "no" does not mean your services have no intrinsic value. It just means that they don't for this client at this time. Lest you think this lets you off the hook, a "no" is also an opportunity and a challenge to refine both your selection of prospects and sales pitch so that you can find the best chance to get to "yes" next time. Although it may be a disappointment at the time, consider a "no" as advice on how to increase the value of your services.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  communication  customer understanding  market research  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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