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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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#545: Keep Your Referral Pipeline Full

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, April 15, 2011
Updated: Friday, April 15, 2011
Competition among consultants makes new clients harder to come by these days and companies seem to take longer to hire consultants. How can I hear about opportunities as soon as possible?

Learning about potential engagements early means having someone "on the inside" looking out for you. If this isn't someone who actually works for a prospect's organization, it means having people who know the organization well - and know what you could do for them. We are talking about referrers.

First of all, let's talk about what referrers are and what they are not. They are not limited to people you approach at networking events and ask for referrals. These contacts rarely know you well enough to make effective referrals.

Instead, look for people who understand the role of a management consultant and would be able to describe both you and the value of the services you provide. We hear about how you should develop a broad list of potential referrers, such as your mail carrier, dentist, and college roommate. This may work for the best known and common professions but this approach is less effective for management consultants.

A complete referral strategy is more involved than this tip can explain but I suggest you identify a dozen people you are confident understand what you do and the value of your services. Next, provide them with a list of about a dozen target companies for which you would like provide your services and (this is important) for each company, include a short description of what service you might provide and what value each services would provide. A sentence or two for each company is about right.

Tip: The value of this exercise is two-fold, but only if you actually complete it. First, writing it down helps you focus on specific targets, services and value you might provide. Second, it puts you on record with an explicit list of referrers, with whom you should check in regularly. Once you have this list under control, meaning that people on your list are really looking out for you, consider making separate lists for different aspects of your practice.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  networks  proposals  referrals  sales 

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#531: Think About Networking in Terms of "Net Positive"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 28, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 28, 2011
I occasionally get tired of having to go to networking events for my consulting firm. It is part of our overall marketing effort for senior consultants but is it effective for every consultant to participate?

Depending on your type of consulting practice, networking by every consultant in your firm may be more or less effective, but this depends on what you expect from it. If you believe that networking is a "have to" type of activity instead of an "opportunity to" activity, you are likely to be disappointed by your time spent doing so. I have two thoughts.

First, the strongest elements in a network are deep relationships. Take the time to find the right people to make part of your network, considering that half of the people you meet may not be right for your, or their, networking needs. Let "slow and steady" be your guide. The more times you connect with a person, the deeper your relationship.

Second, every individual benefits from a personal network, regardless of how "connected" your firm is. If your senior partners build powerful networks, that's great, but you still need to develop your own. Your personality, consulting approach and emerging needs extend beyond those of your firm.

Tip: Approach networking as an opportunity to help others, not rack up a collection of business cards. Your value as a networking partner is invisible until you make the offer to provide it to others.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  goodwill  marketing  networks  trust  your consulting practice 

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#513: Association Volunteer Work is a Productive Investment

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I see other members doing a lot of non- compensated volunteer work for our association. Can this type of effort pay off? How do I get involved?

Volunteering almost always pays off in both the short run as well as the long run. You will be amazed at the doors that will open and the opportunities that will arise from such a small investment of your time. Volunteering can provide a convenient way to develop a new skill or sharpen old ones. It gives you an opportunity to work with other talented folks, make new friends and enhance your professional network with additional valuable colleagues. You will also often experience a strong sense of accomplishment and will frequently receive recognition for your efforts. You will feel more a part of your organization, and fulfill your obligation to your profession, than you ever have. In short, volunteering is one of the best investments any consultant can make.

Getting started often begins by simply asking an organization where help is needed (and where your skills might be best applied). Most professional associations are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers.

Tip: Volunteering often provides you with something more important than a direct business payoff. You will learn, grow, and meet many great folks. Remember, though, to always approach your volunteering unselfishly, and always be as positive, productive, and giving as you are able. If you must have a "business case" for volunteering, consider how clients look at a service provider who doesn't think enough of his or her profession to commit time to supporting it.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  networks  professional association  professional development  professionalism 

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#474: Give Referrals With Adequate Qualification

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 6, 2011
Updated: Thursday, January 6, 2011
I am always hesitant to refer another consultant. What if they don't perform well? I feel it can hurt my reputation.

Consider a referral as important as any recommendation to a client of strategy, process or other improvement based on your professional judgment. Don't consider it a "throwaway" recommendation for which the client should take all the risk (i.e., "After all, I just gave them her name. It is up to them to vet her before hiring her.").

Also, before you provide names of consultants, be sure you understand how well you do know them and how well you understand the risk you are assuming, as well as imposing on your client. Just because you know someone socially (even if it is for 20 years) doesn’t mean you can vouch for their professional capabilities in a consulting engagement setting.

Tip: Be clear how well you know the referral and explain what you know and don;'t know about them. It may still be useful to say to a client that you have never worked with this person you are referring but they have an excellent reputation with people you do know and trust and yo have known the referral for 20 years and regard his or her highly professional and ethical. If you really don't know that much about the person, say so and decline to make a referral.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  consulting colleagues  ethics  networks  referrals  reputation 

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#462: Consultants Are Only As Good As Their Networks

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I want to expand our boutique consulting firm but I am not sure how much time to spend in building my networks vs. building skills in various areas.

Every job has three attributes: knowledge, technique and judgment. A hundred years ago, an individual could have command over a particular discipline or industry in these three areas. Over time, the amount of knowledge has increased exponentially. About half of the technical knowledge a college student learns in freshman year is outdated by senior year. Technique also evolves, as new materials are invented, best practices are shared and refined, and new systems give rise to new disciplines. Finally, the effectiveness of the judgment of an individual decreases as the complexity of the problem increases.

In each of these attributes of a job, the network is increasingly important for effective performance. Shared knowledge trumps what is contained in a single brain, if it can even all be remembered. The thousands of even well-known techniques, or continually evolving variations thereof, are only available through a well-connected network. Finally, diversity of perspective and judgment based on probabilistic decision calculus (whether "two heads are better than one" or the wisdom of crowds) beats solo decision making.

Tip: The fields of medicine, engineering and law are great examples of where a single individual cannot provide the services needed in a complex world. This principle is no different for consultants, whose effectiveness depends on the knowledge, technique and judgment derived from their networks. Whether growing your business or serving clients, strengthening your networks is your most productive strategy and should be your top priority.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  knowledge assets  networks  professional development  sustainability  trends  your consulting practice 

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