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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 

#39: Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 30, 2009
For my marketing materials, I know that it is always best to describe the significant performance improvements my clients have achieved due to my counsel. However, I don't know exactly how much to attribute to my work and how much to attribute to what the client would have achieved anyway.

This is a great question and one that clients looking at your marketing materials are likely asking themselves. If you review consultant collateral, some may contain statements like "Our technology solutions have created $250 million in cost savings for our clients." I have heard clients make fun of these statements by consultants, pointing out that the consultant, even under the best of circumstances, could not be responsible for anything close to that impact. Their point is that it is the person who has P/L responsibility who is responsible for this savings and the cost savings can be attributed to many sources other than the consultant.

The Latin phrase "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc" is applicable to describe this fallacious thinking. It literally means "after this, therefore because of this," and implies that an event is attributable to an act that preceded it. My client increased sales by 20% in the year after I consulted to them, therefore I can say I added $XX in value to my client. Or, the sun rises each morning because my alarm clock goes off. Not so fast.

Tip: Be extremely careful about making claims like these. Clients, especially those who are really responsible for P/L numbers like those you would like to claim, will discount such statements. At best, assert your value in terms of what you actually did. For example, you can say that the accounting system you planned and installed reduced collection times by 45% or that the sales close rate increased by 20% in part because of you helped develop a new process to track prospects. Don't let your desire to impress people with your value become a negative.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  attribution  consultant role  ethics  marketing  sales 

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#23: KISS Your Proposal Worries Goodbye

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2009
Although I try to avoid writing proposals, sometimes a prospect insists. In addition to taking a lot of time, I am often unsure whether or not I am getting off track and endangering my chances of winning the bid. Any advice?

First, no consultant likes writing a proposal. If a client requires one, and they have every logical right to do so, they should be conclusive rather than exploratory. If you are introducing yourself ("please describe your company history") or general approach to consulting ("describe how you approach consulting projects") then this is a warning sign that the client really does not know what they want or does not know how to work with consultants. It is also a sign that there may be other surprises down the road.

Second, other than a long windup about your philosophy and background, the more detail you are asked to provide, the less flexibility both you and the client will have when the project starts. Any surgeon can specify how an operation generally goes, but none are under the illusion that your case will be exactly as specified, and you sign a permission to deviate from the standard procedures per the surgeon's judgment.

Third, they really don't want to read a long proposal any more than you want to write one. Talk to your prospect about this and talk about the project until you are both very clear about the scope, sequence and content of engagement tasks. Then write a high level proposal, almost at a contract statement of work level, that should be only a few pages.

Tip: Many clients ask for a proposal without thinking it through that they are imposing work, creating unnecessary restrictions on a professional consultant's flexibility, and not using the pre-proposal time to clarify the project scope and outcomes. Show your professionalism by advising your prospect on how best to promote their interest by laying out a more focused sales and evaluation process. Even if this is a competitive proposal process, you will likely win some points by adding value even before the proposals are submitted.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  proposals  prospect 

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#21: Hiring a Development Person to Help You Sell Your Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, April 6, 2009
I have heard that some consultants hire a "marketing" or "business development" person to help them sell their services. Does this really work?

First, what do you mean by "work?" Do you mean can a person you hire to make calls to prospects get you appointments? If so, then the answer is definitely yes. Giving someone a script with a compelling case of why your consulting services are needed and having them pitch your services for you can save you some time. Business development services can range from just making appointments to helping you with your pitch and using their contacts to identify prospects. Such a person can be especially helpful if you are a poor salesperson or have limited contacts. Financial arrangements range from flat fee, to an hourly rate to a finder’s fee. You are buying, at a minimum, sales time and, at best, access to prospects you otherwise would not have.

However, the success of this approach can be compromised by two factors. First, given that consulting is a relationship business, you will still have to make the final sale. If you cannot articulate a clear value of your services or close the sale with a prospect, then appointments are unlikely to translate into engagements. Second, relatively few management consultants provide such standardized services that can easily be sold by someone else. Exploring the nature of the prospect's business and circumstances is much easier to do yourself and this is where the relationship building starts. Although not a representative sample, I have heard clients say that having another person sell your work strikes them as unprofessional.

Tip: There are aspects of business development you can certainly outsource. You can have someone advise you on prospects, help you with your marketing research or sales materials, even coach you on closing the sale. However, as a professional, you need to develop the relationship with the prospect from the beginning.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  market research  marketing  proposals 

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#20: Consulting Opportunities in the Stimulus Bill

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 3, 2009
The economic stimulus legislation is going to spend a lot in 2009 and later years. What opportunities exist for management consultants?

Change means opportunity for management consultants. New business priorities, technologies, social trends, legislation, and demographic shifts create a need to manage that change. Whether your consulting practice is focused on training, finance, process, leadership, marketing, or information management, the kind of changes implicit in the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) mean new opportunity. How do you find your opportunities?

First, see www.recovery.gov for a quick overview of the legislation, or see Wikipedia for a good summary. Second, familiarize yourself with the particulars of the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Third, most trade associations have summarized the impact of ARRA on their member companies and describe the challenges of implementing these new spending priorities. I found such summaries for realty, engineering, research, construction, education, health care, and banking. The federal emphasis on these market segments will induce additional investment in education, healthcare and green technologies, areas that will need your expertise if you are there when the need arises.

Tip: Talk with your current clients about how they plan to take advantage of this change in spending, either directly or because of actions of their customers. Given your new familiarity with the legislation itself and how others in the their industry are reacting to these new priorities, you can suggest how they could position themselves to emerge from the economic slowdown ahead of their peers.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  sales  trends  your consulting practice 

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#19: Is Now The Time To Rebrand Your Consulting Services?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 2, 2009
Our consulting group has always been successful at providing needed services to clients and our experience is that those clients have in turn succeeded because of them. However, we are not getting the same kind of interest as we used to because the economy has changed. Are there typical ways to extending services into new lines of business?

There are two ways to look at your situation. One is that your services are no longer in demand because clients are looking for different services. The other is that their needs have changed and they don't recognize the value of your services in the terms you use to describe them. The response to the first requires a change in your consulting focus and business strategy. You will need to be confident that this is happening for all your clients (and potential clients) before you assume this perspective. Also, before you abandon your consulting practice, consider whether your services will be in demand again when the economy turns around.

The second outcome, clients just not seeing the value in your services, is something you can react to. Similar to the point in Tip #12 about how people react to messages, clients see different needs in their organizations when the economy or their markets shift. It may be a simple matter of recasting your services in terms of what the client's point of pain. For example, if you r expertise was in process efficiency or supply chain management, you may need to reframe your described value in terms of cost control or even finding new "revenue" from your operations. If your service is training, instead of letting someone characterize it as a discretionary expsense, make sure you can present training as a way to get 15% more productivity out of every employee without increasing headcount.

Tip: Your brand is about the promise you make to the client. When the needs of the client shift, your promise may have to shift to match. I am not saying to offer less service or reduce your integrity. Just look at the way you describe your services. This may be uncomfortable and unfamiliar but it is necessary to make sure you are highly values (and compensated) for providing what the client sees as "critical services" in the new economy.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  marketing  planning 

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