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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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#154: Training our Referrals to Sell You Effectively

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 15, 2009
I am not getting any referrals from my network. I am constantly recommending them but get nothing in return.

There are a couple of issues here. Let's assume that you are technically competent, professional and provide services in demand for businesses in your area. Let's also assume that the individuals in your network are reasonable, honorable people (they are in your network, after all!). This leaves a possibility that they just don't know exactly how to refer your services. This is a common mistake most of us make with some in our networks.

Remember, referrals are mostly looking out to sell their own services (if they are other management consultants), run their own businesses, or just go about their lives. We are not their primary objective on a day to day basis. We may not even be the only person they could refer. It is our job to make it as easy as possible for them to refer us. This means "training" them in our capabilities, experience, and interests and providing them with whatever collateral they find most useful. Finally, it is most useful to guide them to your most desired clients. Helping your referrals know where to go, what to sell and what steps to take after the conversation with a prospect will significantly increase your referral activity.

Tip: Some consultants prepare what is called a "sell sheet" that describes, often on a single page, the consultant's experience, attributes, unique value, consulting approaches and services, and a "how to engage" summary. Draft such a sheet and run it by a colleague who knows you well to see if it resonates with them. Offer to review their sheet and compare format and content to share ideas with each other. Once you can provide your referrers with clear talking points, watch your referral traffic soar.

P.S. How good of a referrer are you being to others in your network? If you had to create a sell sheet for your colleagues from a blank sheet of paper, how good would it be? Work with them to make sure you can effectively refer them.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  marketing  networks  proposals  referrals  sales  sustainability 

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#153: Work Your Network Like a Project

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2009
Over the past few years, a number of my colleagues have retired, leaving my network a little sparse. How can I refresh it without weakening it?

Treat networks like any asset on which you depend to generate income. Many assets occasionally weaken if they are not deliberately provided new investment. The problem comes when we look at our network as one big group of people. We don’t detect it is declining until it is significantly weakened. Breaking it down into parts and treating its care and feeding as a project makes for a more effective and sustainable referral source.

First, consider the individuals in your network in terms of categories and work each category separately. Categories might include geographic location, economic sector, how long you have known them, whether you have worked directly with them or not, likelihood of a referral, whether the referral is from you, to you or mutual, whether the person has colleagues who could serve as adjunct network resources, and whether or not the person is in an area of business in which you are interested in growing your business. These are just a few but you can come up with many more. Determine where the strength of your network comes from and monitor whether this category is growing or waning. If the age category is starting to grow older, indicating potential weakening through retirements, then start looking specifically to supplement your network in those areas.

Tip: Retirement of a network source does not mean they cannot still be useful to you or vice versa. In some cases, these individuals may be able to help you actually strengthen your network by making introductions to people they might not have felt comfortable doing so before. Also, they may be better able to work directly with you, now that they have left their employer and are less likely to have potential conflicts of interest.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  networks  practice management  prospect  referrals  sustainability 

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#150: Managing "Pickup" Consulting Teams

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 9, 2009
I know clients increasingly want the right team of experts and don't want to pay for people just because they work at the same company as the star consultant. However, isn’t it problematic to assemble and manage a team of people you don't know?

That's the point of having a robust network of talented and ethical consultants. Yes, assembling and managing a team of independent experts is an acquired skill and takes some hard work. It is much like playing pickup sports, where many individuals, who have neither played together nor faced the other team before, create a team that has to perform. Each individual is a talented and successful individual in their own right, usually capable of running the team themselves. In pickup games, however, adaptation, flexibility and humility are required to weave together a team that often can beat a team that has played together a long time (the 1980 US Olympic hockey team playing the USSR comes to mind).

I am not minimizing the risks of managing such a team and recognize that it takes some extra work that a larger company may not have to do. However, there are benefits for both the consulting team members as well as for the client. For the consultants, each member must clarify and defend their cherished positions, methodologies and assumptions, in contrast with that situation if they were working with the same people they always do. This really keeps you on your toes and rapidly advances your expertise. For the client, the self-assembled team brings robust, innovative and validated thinking to a problem that a larger firm, usually having developed a branded standard methodology and using in-house research for which they usually consider a strength, cannot provide. These are the kind of comments clients who are trending toward use of boutique and independent consultants make when talking about their need for nimble, creative and cutting edge thinking.

Tip: Your ability to attract and serve these kinds of clients and win sizable engagements that used to automatically go to larger firms all comes down to your network. You need to know well and spend time with consultants from a range of disciplines and get to know how they work, what they know and their ethics. Certification is one good marker of a candidate for your future teams, but spending time in professional associations, doing pro bono work, and just talking over an issue you or they have will give you a sense of whether they are the right person you want on your "pickup" team.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  collaboration  consultant role  consulting colleagues  innovation  networks  practice management  proposals  sales  teaming  trends  virtual teams 

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#119: Managing the Consultant's Social Networking Image

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, August 27, 2009
I know that employers now examine a candidate's Facebook page to glean insights into their character. Do you think clients do the same for consultants they are considering retaining?

I am not aware of this happening but if I were researching consultants, I would look up their LinkedIn page first, then Facebook, then one or two others, depending on the industry or disciplinary focus. If I were the CEO of a nonprofit, I might look to see if they had a presence on Care2, or one of the newer business sites (e.g., Ziggs, Ecademy, or Focus).

These social networking sites are increasingly important because they are more regularly indexed by search engines (because of the constant addition of content) than most consultants' websites. So, when a client looks for "Pat Jones consultant supply chain security," they are increasingly likely to come across you in a social media site before your own website.

Tip: This is not just making sure your personal and company profiles are current and accurate. We've heard stories about job offers to recent college grads being rescinded after an employer saw their Facebook page, so we don't need to talk about profile content. However, of more interest to clients may be the dialog and ideas you provide in discussion forums. Your knowledge and perspective (and communication skills) are why your client presumably wants your services. Being part of the discussion in your discipline or industry can build your reputation, but flaming people or offering uninformed or poorly communicated posts can cause a client to have second thoughts.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  communication  marketing  networks  professionalism  prospect  publicity 

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#111: Are Your Networks Social Enough?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 17, 2009
With the incredible array of online information sources about people and organizations, it doesn't seem that useful to spend a lot of time and money at in-person networking events. Are networking meetings dying?

You are describing two different activities, both of which are useful in developing your business. The first is information discovery, the collection of information about the environment, markets, players, and activities. This is a function that your online searches, clipping services, alerts and subscriptions can go a long way to fulfilling. Although the Internet seems like an endless source of this information, there are some specific skills needed to capture relevant, timely and accurate information (i.e., don't believe everything you read on the Internet and what you read may be accurate but out of date).

The second is information integration, the vetting, processing, and correlation of collected information. This is a function that you can best accomplish by spending time meeting with others and discussing the information you (all) have collected. Is the information you collected valid and current? Is it relevant to the issues to which you want to apply it? What other information is available that your sources might not have? Can the information you do have be used in other ways that might benefit others?

The most creative organizations actively switch between discovery and integration. A recent MIT study showed that about 40% of the variation in creativity can be attributed to this interaction between information processing modes. Furthermore, although the organizations and individuals with highly effective discovery processes are more productive than average, those with highly effective integration processes are significantly more productive. The conclusion is that online searches may be useful, but the person-to-person integration activities is the source of the highest productivity.

Tip: Robust information discovery processes are important but don't consider them a replacement for networking. What you may want to do, however, is to make sure your personal interactions are useful by focusing on the integration and information validation and exchange rather than the typical "exchanging business cards and shallow chit chat" focus of many networking encounters. Make your face to face time all about information integration.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  collaboration  consulting colleagues  contact information  knowledge assets  knowledge management  market research  networks 

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