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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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#192: When Your Win/Loss Ratio Seems Low

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I have been losing a lot of prospective engagements lately. Even when the clients specifically call me to see what I can do for them, the ratio of wins to losses is way down.

There is certainly a lot of competition in the market today and, as the economy starts to recover, the consulting market has not yet hit bottom. Although various consulting markets are on their own schedules relative to the economy, generally consulting lags the business cycle by one or two quarters. When the economy started down, the consulting market was still relatively good. Now that the economy is picking up, clients are still cautious about engaging consultants. This is especially true in markets where management salaries are being cut and staff laid off. It is hard to justify to staff why a company is paying consultants when staff is being cut back (even if this is a logical investment from a business standpoint).

At a minimum, don't get upset by your win/loss ratio. Remember that George Washington only won three of the nine major US Revolutionary War battles he commanded. He knew that some losses were acceptable against unfavorable conditions. He was positioning himself for battles he knew he could win, even though he knew he needed to at least partially engage in battles he would probably lose.

Tip: Focus on the types of engagements that play to your strength but more so to the emerging needs of clients. Instead of thinking about what consulting services you prefer to provide, consider what services your clients need most to emerge from the recession in a stronger position. Pay attention to their reasons for why they can't use your traditional services right now. Turn a rejection of your services into a learning opportunity.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  learning  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#191: Making a Powerful Impression with Stand Alone Presentations

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 7, 2009
Updated: Monday, December 7, 2009
I would like to find some way to differentiate my consulting company. We have nice collateral, both design and content, but it seems many others do as well. How do I separate myself from the consulting marketing noise?

In any competition for mind share, the key word is memorable. To stand out from the clutter, your few seconds in front of a client must be high quality, relevant to the prospect's needs, and have an element of intrigue. There are legendary stories of product sales pitches for which a demonstration was vivid and relevant and became the new standard for that industry (usually until the creator of that novel pitch came up with something even more memorable).

It is important is to weave your service value into a story. An archetypal story with a setting (in this case, the business environment), protagonists (your prospects and their competitors), conflict (the "unsolvable" problem or opportunity they face) and resolution (that would be your services) is a powerful weapon to get them to consider your firm. This is more than a case study, which appeals to the intellect. Create a narrative that appeals to their emotion - it is likely to be the only one they hear.

Tip: Also consider format. Most consultants know the "Shift Happens" or "Did You Know" videos. Consider the impact (as evidenced by the number of viewings on YouTube) these messages have. Rather than putting your "corporate capabilities" into a folder of slick sheets, what if you created a 3-4 minute presentation that got right to the point about the pain your solutions could reduce? Because it is about the client and not the consultant it is more emotionally engaging. The unique and fast pace of the format makes it more intriguing and easy to absorb. The fact that the structure leads directly from their problem to your solution makes it effective. Finally, if you host it on your site, if allows people to look around for other services they might need. If it is really good like the Did You Know videos, it might just go viral!

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  presentations  proposals  sales 

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#183: Help Others Find You

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, November 25, 2009
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?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  presentations 

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#181: "What Was Your Greatest Consulting Success?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 23, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 23, 2009
Occasionally a prospect asks about my best and worst consulting engagements. I have a great one and, regrettably, one that didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. Is there any way to polish up the bad one?

Not every prospect asks the question but we do owe them an answer to the real question they are asking. That question is "if we use your services for the project we have talked about, where are the risks and (of less interest but asked for balance) how might you surprise us in a good way?" They are really not as interested in the specifics of your past work unless it affects them (which is logical).

Consequently, avoid the temptation to select the same "best" and "worst" engagement to relate to all who ask. Offer the prospect a choice of one or two of each to discuss. You will have a good idea of what the prospect is thinking but lay out the choices with an explanation. For example, say, "In this case, the client was bought out in mid-project and we were never able to complete the engagement as designed' or "In this case, we ran into a tough relationship with one of the client's managers who kept changing the contract scope." This is an opportunity to show the breadth of your ability to adapt to a difficult situation. The alternative is to pick a story that doesn't help the client understand your abilities.

Tip: You would be better prepared by creating an assessment of each of your projects. For each project, summarize the problem, solution and result as well as a description of "what went well" and "what went poorly." This is great education for your professional development. It would also be interesting to add to the "what went wrong" a prescription of what you would do now to resolve the problem. How does this differ, now that you are older and wiser, than how you reacted originally?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  learning  marketing  proposals 

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#171: Growing Your Clients Base: Cultivating vs. Acquiring Leads

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 9, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Which do you think is more important in growing a client base - filling a pipeline at the front end or transforming cold leads to warm ones?

This is an easy question to answer, based on how well most consultants perform at each process. Many consultants do not like to sell or cultivate clients, so this is where they spend less time. We get a stack of business cards, an email from a colleague telling us we "should meet this person," or an inquiry from a person who is not quite looking for consulting services. We often have no formal mechanism to either evaluate or process these leads, so they are often dropped. In this case, these are people already in our prospect bank that we don't even recognize as being there. Also, individuals in our bank that we do recognize are just not worked according to a plan as well as they need to. So, it is not identifying people to put into the bank that is the rate limiting step, but moving them from stage to stage, eventually turning them into clients.

Tip: It may be the use of terminology we use that affects how we decide to process leads. The concept of a "pipeline" involves inserting an object and pushing it, unchanged, through the length of pipe to exit the other end. This is not how prospects become qualified leads and eventually become clients. If we think in terms of farming, where we prepare the ground, plant seeds (many more than we expect to grow into full-size plants), cultivate and water, fertilize and thin, support and watch over, we are better served with a metaphor that more closely represents the actions needed to create healthy clients.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  prospect  your consulting practice 

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