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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 

#1: Break Your Services Into Parts For Faster Sales

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Sunday, March 8, 2009
With consultant hiring slowed at large consulting firms and even boutique firms seeing delayed starts of projects, where are the best places to look for new client engagements?

In any market, your best opportunities come by identifying a prospect's points of pain and bringing expertise to solve them. In a disruptive market like 2009, even clients with solid businesses have different concerns than in normal times. Now the concerns of employees, creditors, suppliers as well as those of management are of concern. Your ability to bring these issues into sharp relief is your ticket to a motivated buyer of consulting services.

Read the concerns of managers in the business press. Their first thoughts turn to managing risk: preserving budget, using credit sparingly, doing more with less, hiring smart, and generally hunkering down. Risk management, however, also means not taking a chance on a consultant who says they can help with those issues. You will need to do more than just promise results; you'll need to work out a clear, highly focused, short time frame approach with tangible results. No more long windup, diagnostic-focused, training-rich, casual-pace engagement plans.

Tip: Instead of shopping your traditional services in search of a need, think about breaking them up into their parts. Each service should have a clear line of sight between a specific point of pain, applying your expertise and producing a tangible result and ROI. Propose each part as a standalone service, each with specific benefits and show how these results resolve a specific pain.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  proposals  prospect 

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#994: Design/Build Consulting

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Prospects are sometimes reluctant to start an engagement until they see the full scope of the process but can't see the scope until they start and complete some diagnostics. How can I get past this constraint?

This is always in a manager's mind but probably more so in these risk-averse times. From the manager's perspective, he or she wants to assure that money and staff time are well spent and wants to know the scope, sequence and content of consulting tasks. From the consultant's perspective, we want to conduct some diagnostics first before laying out the full scope of the engagement, even though we have a pretty good idea of how we would proceed. In management, as in medicine, prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.

The building industry figured this out years ago when building slowed down. They developed the design/build concept, where a single firm would do the architectural design work prior to building. Once the project was clear, the buyer could go out and find the best builder. However, the buyer had already established a trust in the design phase and was familiar with the design itself. More often than not, the buyer would select the firm it knew. By offering both services, the project was both more efficient and better for the builder.

Tip: Offer to provide both design and build services for consulting work. Approach a prospect in need and offer to scope out the work using fast track diagnostics and limited interviews. For a low price and risk, you can provide the prospect an objective and independent view of what might be needed in an improvement project. They are under no obligation to use your services but you reserve the right to bid on any request for services they issue. The client receives valuable perspectives from you, gets a chance to know you without any obligation, and you get insight into how best to serve. Sounds like a good plan all around.
© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  sales 

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#989: About Your "Revolutionary" Consulting Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Several consultants I know seem to be in constant demand by providing services developed by a famous author or management professor. Is this something I should add to my consulting portfolio?

Let's break this down. First, there will always be organizations that are willing to try something new when traditional approaches do not work. Business books are among the most popular simply because effective management of businesses is hard work. That doesn't mean, however, that the latest fad or book is any better than foundational business principles that get less press. You know what works; you have been honing your consulting skills and behaviors for many years.

Second, ethical consultants are obligated to provide independent and objective advice to clients. If you go and get "certified" in some author's new method, is this really in the best interest of your clients, whose needs you don't even know yet? When you are oriented around a solution rather than the problem, you risk becoming the child with a hammer for whom the whole world is a nail. Your "certification" can easily cloud your independence and objectivity.

Finally, who is to say that the latest book or research is even new? Bob Sutton, coauthor of the Knowing-Doing Gap, shows why there is precious little new in management, despite the steady stream of "breakthrough ideas" coming out of business schools and large consulting firms. In Management Advice: Which 90% is Crap? Sutton, who admits to being cited for introducing revolutionary ideas that were just repackaged old ideas, advises caution to both purveyors and consumers of the kind of advice consultants tend to give.

Tip: Before you try to convince your client (or yourself) that you are delivering "never before seen" management advice, do a little research to see where your ideas came from. Odds are really good that they have been tried before, and may or may not have been effective. Only when the methods proven to be effective (even if they require hard work) begin to no longer apply to your clients should you begin to search for alternatives.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  ethics  innovation  intellectual property  marketing  professionalism  your consulting practice 

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#977: Consulting Opportunities Follow National Priorities

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, February 2, 2009
Consulting opportunities are getting tougherwith companies putting spending on hold. Are there any bright spots?

Every new industry or expansion of an existing industry benefits from management consulting services. Successful consultants watch trends in those industries in which they have familiarity or expertise that can be adapted. Certainly the business press, futurists and years of experience can keep you abreast of emerging opportunities. However, there is one driver of consulting opportunities you should always track.

This driver is major policy initiatives of the federal government. Government spending often targets struggling industries or leads the development of new industries. In the current business environment, several tremendous consulting opportunities are being created. Beyond financial relief for individuals, the proposed stimulus bill targets road and airport infrastructure, health care technology, school building and renovation, mass transit, water infrastructure, power grid development, and distance education. Many of these projects involve complex management and operational skills (including leadership and human resources expertise), that consultants may be uniquely qualified to provide.

Tip: Look at a summary of the major policy legislation to see what opportunities exist for you. Note that the opportunities may be with the federal agencies who will manage these programs, but possibly more so with the many local companies who will implement them. For example, look at a summary of initial proposals for the stimulus package.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  trends  your consulting practice 

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#971: Why Be a Change Agent When Your Client Really Needs a Transition Agent?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, January 23, 2009

My role as a consultant is to help clients get from their current operations to become best in class (or at least better). The problem, however, seems to be that improvements don't stick. After a period of improved performance, improvements seem to slip away as staff turn over and markets change. How can I help my clients extend the period of performance improvement?

Several years ago William Bridges made the distinction between change and transition. He said that too many companies are focused on change, which is an activity-based concept, and too few are focused on transition, which is a more continuous concept. The latter includes the transformation of culture required to sustain improved performance. As a consultant, part of your job is to determine to what extent your client needs support in each of these areas, given that both are needed.

Be clear with your client about the scope of their intended improvement effort and to what extent you can help them. Change activities such as new hires or training, improved technology, financial restructuring, or a new marketing plan are straightforward, although not necessarily easy. These are typical areas for which companies ask consultants for help. What is harder is the transition of the culture, the concept of operations, and embedding strategy into the organization. These latter outcomes are seen as softer and indirect foci of consulting and for which too few clients appreciate the need. However, without them, the "change" is temporary and performance improvement dissipates. The ability to carry a client through transition can be at least as important as traditional change activities.

Tip: Explain to your client the difference between change and transition and the role o each in where they want to take the organization. Perhaps both of you might read Bridges' book Managing Transitions and discuss how you can help with each aspect. This is a good opportunity to use your network to assemble a complete consulting team to provide skills in whichever area (change or transition) in which you lack skills.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  consultant role  marketing 

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