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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 

#687: Recognize the Difference Between Experts and Professional Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011
As the economy worsens and people are laid off, won't that increase the number of people who call themselves "consultants"?

Yes, it is easy for someone who has been laid off to put up a shingle and call themselves a consultant. However, maintaining a consulting practice means continually delivering value over a long time. To become a professional consultant does require more than just the desire or happenstance of "doing a little consulting."

If you are worried about competition, then consider this a good thing. You probably work hard to develop your professional consulting skills and behaviors, including certification or achieving a national reputation in an industry or discipline. Tough economic times create opportunities as well as risks for consultants. Many consulting firms go out of business when times are tough, just as many new firms are formed.

Seek out new consultants to find out which ones will make valuable partners and which ones do not (yet) have the fully developed skills and behaviors of a professional consultant. At a minimum, look for opportunities to take on new partners and evaluating the continued value of current partners.

Tip: Rather than fear or resent new consultants, welcome new consultants into your network and professional associations to evaluate where their knowledge and skills might be useful to you and your clients. However, remember that consulting is a profession and select your colleagues from the professionals, not just those with some experience. If you know skilled individuals who you think might make excellent consultants and who are considering such a move into consulting, suggest that they join an organization like IMC to develop the consulting competencies, behaviors and ethics of a professional consultant, in effect turning an expert into a consultant.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting colleagues  marketing  professionalism  reputation 

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#686: Don't Pitch a Prospect Until You Know You Are Ready

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 31, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 31, 2011
My track record of getting appointments with prospects is pretty good but there are times the pitch just doesn't go over very well. I always do my research and have a lot of ideas ready to pitch but, more often than not, they just don't seem to connect.

Experienced consultants develop protocols for much of what they do. After many years of delivering similar services, they have honed efficient setup and processes for delivering most of their services. They have the AIDA down pat. They have a storyboard. They conenct emotionally with the prospect's pain, not just their aspirations. For some consultants, however, this need for well-defined processes seems not to apply for prospect meetings.

You say you do your research on the prospect ahead of time but you also say you arrive with lots of potential ideas. This may be where you run astray. Think of it from the client's perspective. They have lots of issues to deal with but probably only a very few they are prepared to talk to you about. To a prospect, your talking about a lot of things you could do for them sounds like you are selling yourself, not solving their problem. If you really have done enough research, you will know the top three issues the prospect needs to address. If you are the right person for the job, then you will have a very tightly scripted pitch to get right to the point of pain. Doing that will keep prospects focused on what you can do for them, not what they need to do for you.

Tip: If you can't identify 1-3 issues the prospect has a passion for, has a need to fix, and lacks the capability in house to solve, then you don't know enough. It may be that you could meet with the prospect to listen and gather more information, but it is better to understand the issue well enough to be able to craft your rather robust process to solve it. Finally, it is worth the effort to dry run your pitch. Don't consider practicing your pitch as something only a novice consultant does. The confidence you gain from a perfectly practiced pitch wears off onto the prospect.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  customer understanding  market research  marketing  meeting preparation  proposals  sales 

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#668: Offset the Economy's Decline at Confab 2011

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
This economy worries me. Usually an economic decline provides opportunity for consultants. This time, however, clients are pulling back on most fronts. How can I best use this time to strengthen my skills and business pipeline?

Consultants can always use more time, skills and clients. Our income grows as we use time well, specifically by more efficient marketing, service delivery and practice management. Business moves fast, so consultants who don't constantly learn new skills quickly fall behind in their ability to provide high value to clients. Finally, although we nurture long term relationships, we are always interested in finding new clients who could benefit from our expertise.

Anyone can sit at home and read a business magazine or book but the most effective way to strengthen our practices is to engage with other experienced consultants. We learn more from hearing about emerging markets, new technologies and new client service approaches. Conferences provide a perfect crucible for us to get out of our safe zones, ward off consulting obsolescence, build a national network, and fill our business pipeline. We can't do that from a book or talking to our long term colleagues.

The best conference by consultants and for consultants is Confab 2011, an intense 2 1/2-day conference (October 22-24, 2011) that builds your value and access to clients. Now in its 34th year, Confab is being held at the newly renovated Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, NV. This conference is well known for its unique sense of sharing, where your new colleagues make introductions, sessions bring new marketable skills and your practice expands.

Tip: We can stay home and hope the economy turns around in our favor or take charge and invest in a known business builder. For less than a single day's consulting fees, Confab is a profitable investment to launch, expand or refine your business. Hear what successful consultants who attend year after year say about its value.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  conference  consulting colleagues  consulting skills  consulting tools  innovation  marketing  networks  practice management  professional development  referrals  teaming  trends  your consulting practice 

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#663: Sell More Services by Making Your Client the Hero, Not You

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Selling consulting services seems to get harder over time as clients have more to choose from, consulting services become commoditized and price pressure persists. Selling intangible services has always required some good technique but will it continue to get harder to sell consulting services?

Selling professional services is the subject of many books, seminars, articles and sales consultants. There is no shortage of techniques, nor is there a shortage of theories on why selling consulting services may be getting harder. One we hear most often is that once organizations see how it is possible to weather tough times with fewer staff, they recognize that they may not need as many consultants either. With fewer staff, an organization may use consultants as bodies but some are less willing to pay as they have in the past to acquire expertise.

Regardless of demand for consulting services, how we sell our consulting services makes a huge difference in how successful we are in engaging with a client. Starting with our assumption that our intellectual and technical capabilities are top notch, we have a tendency to show how our research, skills, data, access or technology can save the day for a client. This story reflects our brand but is of less interest to the prospect. They don't care about how well we can save the day; they want to know how we can help them save the day. It is not about us, our firm, our reputation or our capabilities. If we try to convince a prospect to believe our marketing collateral, we are less likely to turn them into a client.

This is all about using the approach writers have refined over decades - the story of the hero. If we mirror the prospect's world and their challenges and relate how the world is changing (or has changed), then we can show how, with our support, the prospect can go from powerless to conquering hero. Again, neither we nor our brand are the point of the story.

Tip: See a solid slide show that relates many of these points in How to Tell a Story that Sells. Watch this a few times (really) and develop a process and content set that works for you. Odds are that your next pitch to a prospect is far more engaging and you will better understand why they need to be the hero, not you.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  communication  customer understanding  marketing  presentations  proposals  prospect 

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#659: Time to Reassess Your Pipeline

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 22, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 22, 2011
I am worried about my client pipeline now that the economic conditions are changing. What's a good way to evaluate where prospects stand?

Now is a good time to reevaluate your pipeline, although maybe with slightly different criteria than historically. On a sheet of paper or spreadsheet, list your prospects and grade them along criteria of attractiveness for the coming year (add or modify this list as you see fit):
  • consistency of likely engagement with your practice strategy
  • engagement revenue volume (big or small job)
  • profitability (considering possibly greater cost of service for travel, staffing, materials)
  • risks (overweight of project as % of total practice and impact of termination)
  • industry profitability over the next year or two
  • likelihood of follow on business
  • referrals possibly generated
Now, rate your clients/prospects from A to F:
  • A clients - low risk, high referral, long term, likely to add services
  • B clients - modest in all categories but not likely to grow much
  • C clients - difficult to adopt new services, slow to pay, high risk
  • D clients - you have concerns and will probably not renew
  • F clients - these are low margin, problem clients, may be ethically challenged, and you'll seek to terminate when your obligations are fulfilled
Take a hard look at your clients in the context of changed economic conditions. Which clients are in need of more or less of your services? Which are going to be pressed to pay on time? In which client personally do you have better chemistry? You may be surprised how some clients move up and others down in the rankings. Focus on the A clients or prospects, try to upgrade the B and C clients and plan on dropping the D and F clients.

Tip: Discuss your ranking criteria with your colleagues. Do you agree on which industries are good prospects, on the attractiveness of your specific services, on the likelihood of selling additional services to named clients? You may gain insights from discussing these criteria, or you may find common ground for collaboration.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  prospect  sales 

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