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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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#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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#553: How to Tell if a Client's Operation is Under Control

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2011
We are often brought into a client's organization to address a "crisis" that may or may not be hiding a set of other problems. To limit being tagged with being "unable to fix" a problem we didn't see was tied to the one we promised to solve, how can a consultant know - before being let in to conduct a diagnosis - whether the problem set is more serious than presented by the client?

Interesting question and one of which consultant should take note. Most of the time, clients specify their needs, the consultant lays out an approach, and the terms of an engagement are agreed to and activity started. Missing from this process is the due diligence to determine the scope of the problem, whether it hides other problems and whether the entire system is really under control or not. Presuming that general organizational health is unknowable without a (fee paid) diagnostic task is wrong.

Peter Drucker said that you can tell how well an organization is managed by simply looking at its daily flow of operations. A well-managed organization flows quietly, smoothly and predictably. An organization out of control is characterized by recurring crises, stop and start flows, and inconclusive decisions. A sharp eye on a walk though of the office or factory with your prospective client should tell you a lot about the symptoms of effective systems and processes. Most of us are not even looking for these symptoms on our walk through - or don't even ask for a full tour before we start to negotiate what wonderful things we can do.

Tip: Put on your detective hat before you go for that first or second visit. Make sure you get the full tour so you have all the information you need to make a cogent evaluation and recommendation of your engagement process and expected outcomes. Finally, start building a "pre-negotiation investigation" process based on a comprehensive model of organizations (e.g., the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence is a good place to start).

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  assessment  consulting process  customer understanding  meeting preparation  performance improvement  prospect 

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#523: It's Hard to Overprepare For a Presentation

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I have a big presentation and I want to make sure I am prepared. Do you have any suggestions for me?

It seems that regardless of how experienced we are as presenters, we seem to forget the basics as our confidence grows, sometimes with bad outcomes. When preparing for a presentation, remember to take the following steps:
  1. Make sure to do a complete "dry run" of your presentation. Give a simulated performance including standing up, advancing the slides, speaking out loud to your imaginary audience, and so on. Better to find out now about miscalculations in timing, botched slides, questions that come up in your own mind about coherence of your thoughts.
  2. Think about the questions that might be asked by your audience and rehearse your answers in advance. Do you need another slide or data in your hip pocket to address these fully?
  3. Check your equipment and supplies (including your overhead projector, computer, remote, other A/V, flip charts, etc.) Try to have a back up readily available in case any of your equipment malfunctions. Some presentations can go on without technology, others can't.
  4. arrive early (or check out the venue the day before) so you can set up the room and arrange seating, ensure there are no new equipment issues, and once again run through any of the more challenging aspects of your presentation.
  5. Create a checklist containing all of your planned preparation steps so that you don't miss something critical. As an experienced speaker, you should have been developing one of these over the years, refining it with each presentation (including presentations by other speakers).
Tip: Practice makes perfect. Be prepared. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Chance favors the prepared mind. These and many more sayings about advance work are memorable for a reason. listen to them.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  meeting preparation  presentations  speaking 

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#486: Make a Good First Impression In What You Say

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, January 24, 2011
Updated: Monday, January 24, 2011
Whenever I am presenting an idea or making a recommendation, I'm often uncertain of how it is going to be received. I'm fairly certain that my recommendations are solid. Do you have any suggestions?

Here's something to keep in mind: when you introduce any idea, recommendation, or proposal - the "opening line" can help set the mood for you audience and thus impact the likelihood of acceptance, rejection, "piggy-backing", or the request for further investigation or testing.

For example, here are a few different examples of strategically-placed opening lines to help illustrate the point:
  • "Here's how we might want to approach this problem."
  • "I would bet my reputation on this approach."
  • "After a careful and thorough analysis of the relevant data, the key to solving this problem lays in the following area:"
  • "I'm not certain there is any one elegant solution to this problem."
  • "Here's what I have seen work very effectively at other organizations."
  • "There are a number of effective ways to address this issue."
How confident do you think you would be in accepting the subsequent solution after hearing each of the above opening lines?

Tip: The next time you are planning to suggest, present or recommend something think carefully about that opening line. Be creative and be certain to have your main objective in mind when choosing it.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  meeting preparation  presentations  recommendations 

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#419: Always Have a Streamlined Version of Your Briefing

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 21, 2010
Occasionally I am presenting to a client and, due to some longwinded prior presentation, I am left with 45 minutes for my 90 minute time slot. I don't want to talk twice as fast or cut out important findings. Should I just ask to reschedule or is there another approach?

Unfortunately, this happens to many of us. One of the first rules of consulting is to "always have a five-minute version" of every presentation. Unfortunately, when presenting to a board, for example, you may not be the main event and other issues can run long. If you know your material well enough, you can easily skip a few slides here and there and advise the audience you are doing this due to lack of time.

Any presentation can be shortened. Years ago I went skydiving, waking up at 5am to drive to the airfield and go through 4 hours of classroom and physical training so we would be thoroughly prepared for all contingencies. When we got out to the plane, the instructor yelled over the roar of the engine, "You are all so excited that you have forgotten everything we talked about today so you just need to remember three things" (one of which was to smile). It actually did work out fine based on the shorter instructional version.

Tip: If you are concerned about this, request that your client schedule you first (or early), make clear that you need the full planned time or would prefer to reschedule, or prepare a short and long presentation (advising the client that they are paying for two versions). Ultimately, management of time available for your presentation is grounded in your client's respect for your time - and you. If these exist, you are unlikely to face a short time slot.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  meeting preparation  planning  presentations  speaking  teaching/training 

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