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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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#166: Connecting Your Services with Your Client's Self Identity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 2, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 2, 2009
What is it about some consultant's services that get them an engagement and others, with almost identical services, never get called back?

Conventional wisdom says that sales efforts work better when they like the offered service, they like and trust you, and the price is right. All well and good, but what do they like about what you are offering? What is it about the specific service or about you that makes them comfortable enough to approve the purchase? Conventional wisdom stops short of a real explanation.

It appears, however, that science is starting to fill in the gaps. Recent research in the field of neuromarketing is giving clues to the specific brain mechanism that causes a person to buy one good over another. Research at Emory University showed that the brain's medial prefrontal cortex is largely involved in making choices. Scanning MRI images of this area of the brain, which also is highly involved in self-identification and our personality, showed high activity when people were offered a choice that aligned with their self-concept. See How the Brain Reveals Why We Buy.

At a high level, this is logical but contains an important nuance. Success in sales is more than being personally likable or having a product that makes intellectual sense. Your prospect needs to believe that your services, or at least the benefits that accrue from using them, fit with their self-image. Give them a scenario that shows them integrating your services into their organization in a way consistent with their values, managerial style and ability to communicate value to their organization. Trying to sell an "innovative" service won't work if it’s use is at odds with the way they see themselves.

Tip: The Scientific American article referred to above shows that even when an "obviously" better product is matched up against a product to which the customer can better identify, the latter product wins. This means you need to really know your prospect's personality, style and preferences before pitching your services. Think sync before sizzle.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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

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#161: Give Your Clients a Choice of Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 26, 2009
To reduce operating costs, we have trimmed our consulting offerings to just one high margin service. Should we keep just this one, which seems to be in demand, or build more?

Risk and opportunity are the first things that come to mind. Specifically, the risk of a single product and the lost opportunity of such a limited set of offerings. Let's discuss risk first. Your one offering may be in demand now but the market may change and reduce demand, another competitor might offer the same or a substitute product, or you might lose the people or control of an technologies for information components of your service. Without a robust service offering, you put your company at risk.

A one product company loses opportunity. First of all, you become known for that product rather than your suite of possible services. Eventually, prospects don't think of you offering anything else. Second, by not having a route for people to buy lower cost or more commoditized products, few people will place the trust in you to even try your product. You may like all clients to arrive at the high margin, high value service but, by reducing a choice of what types of your services to use, you are making it hard for them to buy.

Tip: Consider the value of a portfolio of services. First, provide a few low cost or free white papers, tips (like these), or blog of relevant topics. Next offer some modest cost, commodity-based, easy to use, short term services, such as workshops, seminars, assessments or one-day consultations. Then offer a suite of medium-term services, perhaps through partnering with subject matter experts, to broaden the appeal and value of services across a client's enterprise. Finally, offer some high value, high margin, and high touch services at the executive level. This portfolio approach allows a user of consulting services to enter your desired path to high value services at any point, and move up the pipeline to the point where they find value/cost equilibrium. This will lower your risk, increase opportunities and provide valuable market data on what service offerings you need to expand.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client development  customer understanding  market research  marketing  planning  practice management  product development  reputation  sales  sustainability 

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#157: Using National Trends to Identify Consulting Opportunities

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, October 20, 2009
As the economy rebounds, where can I find broad targets for my consulting services?

Race car drivers accelerate coming out of a turn instead of waiting for the straightaway. This is also a good model for consultants. What areas of the economy and your market are going to be slow to recover or never recover? Which of your clients will you stand by if it takes longer to get back to their former strength? What trends were you counting on that are picking up strength or were shut off by a changing economy? Now is a great time to be looking at national trends to see where you can begin to cultivate opportunities.

Many major trade organizations publish occasional "state of the industry" summaries. Recognizing that these are promotional to some extent, they still contain good information on current structure, capacity, demand for products, and changes in production practices or consumption of its products. Look at the State of the Carwash Industry as an example. Here is an industry that many management consultants might consider "under the radar" as a prospect but the industry faces some challenges for which you might be able to provide value. Go to the trade associations to which your clients belong and see what they have. Also consider government reports that address more macro trends or longer term trends. These reports, even if they are not in your industry, can provide some deep insights into how the economy is changing and where your opportunities may lie. For example, a report on measurement of productivity in the construction industry highlights a lot of opportunities for consulting work related to assessment, performance measurement, and project evaluation (if that's your area of interest and expertise).

Tip: If the trade association for your industry has no such "State of the Industry" research, and you feel reasonably sure you know a lot about the industry, suggest teaming up with the association's research staff in developing such a report. This is something their members would value and what better way to get known as the "industry expert" than to have the implicit endorsement of a trade association.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  planning  trends 

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#156: Pump Up Your Website Visibility

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 19, 2009
I don't rely on my website for most of my business but I'd like to know that I am as visible as possible, especially with my speaking business starting. How can I get more visibility at a reasonable cost?

Search engine optimization is a real skill and needs to address factors such as site design, frequency of updated content, appropriate keyword meta tags (although their power is much less than it once was), site and page titles, anchor text, keywords, links and reciprocal links, site structure, image tags, etc. Each search engine has its own protocol for indexing and ranking sites. The point is that getting your website to do for your business what you want it to does require some effort.

Think twice about your perspective as a management consultant (i.e., that you are resourceful and a quick learner) and any inclination to "do it yourself" in website optimization. Find a competent site optimization expert and work with them to come up with a strategy to target your desired markets (e.g., speaking in your case).

Tip: At a minimum, you do not have to pay a company to submit your website URL to "thousands" of search engines. Most traffic goes through the "big three" search engines so, if your site is indexed by these, you are in pretty good shape. Use these links to submit your site: Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  innovation  marketing  website 

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#154: Training our Referrals to Sell You Effectively

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 15, 2009
I am not getting any referrals from my network. I am constantly recommending them but get nothing in return.

There are a couple of issues here. Let's assume that you are technically competent, professional and provide services in demand for businesses in your area. Let's also assume that the individuals in your network are reasonable, honorable people (they are in your network, after all!). This leaves a possibility that they just don't know exactly how to refer your services. This is a common mistake most of us make with some in our networks.

Remember, referrals are mostly looking out to sell their own services (if they are other management consultants), run their own businesses, or just go about their lives. We are not their primary objective on a day to day basis. We may not even be the only person they could refer. It is our job to make it as easy as possible for them to refer us. This means "training" them in our capabilities, experience, and interests and providing them with whatever collateral they find most useful. Finally, it is most useful to guide them to your most desired clients. Helping your referrals know where to go, what to sell and what steps to take after the conversation with a prospect will significantly increase your referral activity.

Tip: Some consultants prepare what is called a "sell sheet" that describes, often on a single page, the consultant's experience, attributes, unique value, consulting approaches and services, and a "how to engage" summary. Draft such a sheet and run it by a colleague who knows you well to see if it resonates with them. Offer to review their sheet and compare format and content to share ideas with each other. Once you can provide your referrers with clear talking points, watch your referral traffic soar.

P.S. How good of a referrer are you being to others in your network? If you had to create a sell sheet for your colleagues from a blank sheet of paper, how good would it be? Work with them to make sure you can effectively refer them.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  marketing  networks  proposals  referrals  sales  sustainability 

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