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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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#103: Schlock and Awe

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Updated: Thursday, August 6, 2009
Is it really necessary to have an elaborate corporate qualifications dog and pony show when pitching an engagement to a client? I hear from clients about how impressed they were with how much multimedia and exciting graphics were in consultant X's presentation.

A few questions. First, are we talking about pitching to a client who doesn't know anything about you? Talking to a prospect who, before your meeting, knows nothing about you (or a prior client who has forgotten the details from your last engagement) places you on an even footing with every other consultant. It may even put you at a disadvantage to consultants who have been referred or have a more visible public image. You can fix this to some extent by making sure your reputation arrives before you do. Too often, a consultant diligently prepares to meet a prospect without making sure the prospect is prepared to meet the consultant (this is a tip for another day).

Second, if you are pitching to a client who is wowed by a fancy presentation more than substance, is this the client you really want to partner with? It is naive to think that we would dismiss a potential engagement just because of the impressionability of a client; after all, we do make sure any communications we make and work products we deliver are top quality. If it seems like style is more important than substance (and it really is to a few people) then decide whether your skills are better used elsewhere.

Tip: Don’t get me wrong. Having a polished presentation of your capabilities and how you propose to address a client's situation is important. It’s just that you can make it professional without going overboard. Over the years I have had many clients wonder aloud how much that razzle dazzle presentation must have cost to put together - and extrapolate how much waste they are going to have to pay for during the engagement. If it is too gaudy, a prospect will be impressed, but only by how much schlock they have to endure. Sometimes the most powerful impact is made with a only marker and an oversized sheet of paper, which lets you create the project right in front of the client in real time.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  meeting preparation  prospect  sales 

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#96: Let Major Events at Your Prospect's Organization Guide Your Marketing

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 20, 2009
Keeping my pipeline full requires a large amount of time devoted to watching my industries and disciplines and for those trends for which I can create new consulting services. Are there any tricks to make this go faster?

Let's back up a second and talk about your basic premise for marketing and selling consulting services. What you are describing is the longer term component of marketing, the one related to positioning your capabilities for evolution of the market. This is not the most effective, or efficient, way to secure new engagements in the near term. Organizations are looking for professional service providers to address their current problems and opportunities. Your approach will certainly help them think of you for an issue that comes up in the future but less so for today's crises. Consider focusing on the crisis just announced this morning, even better one that has yet to break in the news, as your entry point into an organization.

For example, the US Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that it is awarding $55 million in grants for construction of new scientific facilities at universities in Houston, Auburn, Wilmington and Miami. If you are a facilities management, design or project management consultant, here is an announcement that should trigger your search for active players in these decisions to whom you can offer your valued services. These points in a manager's life are highly emotional, either by fear or desire, in which your services are most likely to resonate. Using these events as your marketing focus is more effective than what may or may not come in the future.

Tip: Select your target industries or companies and subscribe to news notification services that suit your needs and price range. You may use Google Alerts, Factiva, and LEXIS-NEXIS, and dozens of other services. Once you have mastered how to use these high level sources, begin to use sources that go deeper into emerging news such as industry newsletters and business sources that conduct interviews with executive and business unit managers.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  market research  marketing  planning  proposals  sales 

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#93: Tools to See Your Client’s Network

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 15, 2009
How can I find out how key executives of various companies are connected to each other?

You would think that with so many databases of corporate information, it would be easy to find the connections in an executive network. However, most databases are designed to focus on the company itself and not the networks they are in. Fortunately, there are some software companies who focus on these networks and have developed applications to interconnect these databases.

There are probably many applications and companies who provide this kind of service (please leave suggestions in a comment on the IMC USA website in response to this tip) but one is NNDB. Based on entries of people, companies, and organizations (even bands, movies, and television shows), you can see who is connected (e.g., board members) and who is connected to either the institution or the people. You can prune or expand these visual displays of networks and quickly see where influence lies.

Tip: Use this tool in your networking activities. See what other potential clients are related to a board member or executive of a client. For example, if I am interested in Caterpillar, I can see the company profile and its 24 executives and directors. Selecting James Owens, the CEO, I can see what other relationships he has, and find out he is a Director at IBM and Alcoa. This is a quick way to browse for prospects, get a picture of the executive landscape of a client, or just gather competitive intelligence on your area of practice.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  data visualization  market research  marketing  networks 

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#90: What Metaphor Describes Your Consulting Practice?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 10, 2009
Updated: Friday, July 10, 2009
I've distinguished my consulting practice with a vary specific image based on a military model. I see myself as the adjutant and the client as the general. This works for me. Is this an approach other consultants use?

Adjutants occupy various roles in military hierarchies, such as chief administrative officer, director of operations, or chief planner, although the point is that you are serving as advisor and operational associate to your client. This is one role a management consultant can play but not the only one. How you relate to your client and any metaphor used to define that relationship depends on what works for both of you. A metaphor is a generally a simplified comparison between two dissimilar entities. Many businesses brand themselves in metaphorical terms.

As a consultant, you could use a metaphor that defines how your company operates, how you relate to your market or how you relate to your client. Examples include the military model, where you are “at war” with other companies and will “take no prisoners” (probably better for a litigation firm in an adversarial relationship or competitive manufacturer fighting hand to hand for market share than a management consulting firm). You might also consider casting your approach as raising a family, managing a sports team, studying an ecosystem, designing and tuning up a machine, serving as a teacher, or even cooking a meal. In each one, the metaphor serves to make a clear and familiar model to help communicate your consulting process and approach to others. It also can serve as a frame on which to organize your various services and practices.

Tip: Find a metaphor that fits your style and ability to explain, but don't force it. The worst thing you can do is to be inauthentic when it comes to casting yourself in one frame when you act by other principles. For example, saying you work like a sports team in your practice when you aren't a sports fan and have never coached or even played competitive sports will seem, and be, disingenuous. Finally, make sure your selected metaphor syncs with your client's self image and organizational brand. Imagine trying to sell your military model when advising a ministry.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client relations  communication  consultant role  marketing  reputation 

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#87: Always Have Your Script

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Although I am an experienced consultant, there are times I leave a client meeting or sales call and remember something else I should have said. Is it is appropriate to send a note later or call and make that missed point?

You can certainly do that but it is better to make your points all at once so you make them all, make them in the right sequence, supported them with your presence and nonverbal cues, and you can see the other person's reaction. I can understand that, as you get more experienced, the extent of your knowledge and examples of applied consulting grows. But there is nothing wrong with rigorous preparation for a sales call or client presentation. Sometimes we get overconfident that we are so experienced that we will have everything on the tip of our tongue. This wasn't true when we were new consultants and it isn't true for senior consultants.

Tip: Prepare scripts for important conversations. Whether you use them for advance practice, as last minute check aids, or for talking points in a session, these are essential to make all your points in as cogent and complete a manner as possible. For example, if you are making a preliminary sales call, lay out the key points of your personal story, the relevant issues with the prospect's firm, the scenario of your supporting them, and the imagined future after your engagement. Include side bar conversations about people you know in common, past engagements on similar issues, and recommendations for other consultants for related opportunities. All this can fit on a single sheet of paper, and if you make sure you have answered each of these issues, you will be prepared and deliver a complete pitch. And you won't have to worry about forgetting something next time.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  information management  learning  marketing  meeting preparation  presentations  sales  your consulting practice 

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