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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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#77: Toolkits for Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I hear all the time about the XYZ Power Matrix, or the ABC Market Chart, but I can't seem to find many of these in the literature. Two questions: (1) are all these "processes" legitimate, and (2) are they written up somewhere?

As if managers have not created enough of these tools, processes, tips, protocols and approaches over the years, consultants are not afraid to do the same. There is a steady stream of "new" concepts, but most are variations of ones that have been used for years. For example, most consultants have heard of the Balanced Scorecard, but don't realize that this concept is over 75 years old and has been "rediscovered" repeatedly in several disciplines, including other than management. The same is true for minimax decision making or the profitability matrix. If you believe there is nothing new under the sun, then you probably shouldn't worry too much about not being able to track down every named concept you run across.

Tip: There are a few encyclopedias of management that list these processes. Browse through business school or online booksellers for a range of management dictionaries and encyclopedias. One I like (and is available for $0.01 used from Amazon) is The Vest Pocket CEO: Decision Making Tools for Executives. It lists more than one hundred of the kind of decision making processes that you talk about, most in a one or two page format.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  intellectual property  knowledge assets  learning  planning  process  professional development 

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#74: Being Ready for a Conversation About Your Services With Any Prospect

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, June 18, 2009
I don't have a brochure or hardcopy sales collateral (those are "so 1990") but instead rely on my website for prospects to get a full description of my services. Is this sufficient, especially since my services vary so much, depending on the client?

Just because a sales or marketing strategy is old does not mean it is not effective. Recognizing that a website can provide more dynamic and extensive descriptions than your sales package, consider the purpose of such hardcopy collateral. It serves more than just a source of information, which your website is probably most capable of providing. Having

To a prospect, your brochure or flyer is something tangible (a piece of paper) to represent an intangible service (management consulting). Having a one page (and only one side, at that) focuses attention on a few key benefits or features of your services. You can elaborate, as appropriate, in your discussion but the prospect needs to be clear about what it is you are providing. If you can't get this reduced to a few core principles and benefits, you may not really understand your business value as much as you think. The exercise of "writing a brochure" is not so much in the having as in the creating. Dwight Eisenhower said that “plans are useless but planning is indispensible.”

Tip: At all times, have a one page description of your services. If needed, you can have more than one, but each needs to be complete in itself. Be prepared to use this as a talking guide to review your core services and how these services would be adapted to each client's needs. Your sales presentation will be more refined as a result, with each discussion following a familiar path. After each discussion, adapt and improve your one-pager as needed.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  planning  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#60: The Customer is Not Always Right

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 29, 2009
Updated: Friday, May 29, 2009
My clients range from wonderful to challenging. What are some tricks to trade the latter for the former?

What you consider wonderful and challenging depends on what you value in a client. Is it intellectual stimulation, socially productive work, or just a fast pay cycle? Regardless, the clients you have are a function of the clients you seek and cultivate. When you set your marketing and sales plan in motion, are you placing a high enough weight on those factors you value and excluding prospects (or evolving clients) who exemplify factors you don't like? Consultants are susceptible to the same blind spots when it comes to selecting clients as any other consumer - we sometimes ignore factors that would improve our decisions.

Perhaps one of the common blind spots is the assumptions on which we evaluate our current clients. for example, as advisors, we seek to serve the interests of our clients and assume their purposes, their approach and our role is all to the good. Unfortunately, the customer is not always right (for us). Are we pursuing a high fee client for one that causes us endless aggravation? Do we decide to enter into a relationship with an interesting engagement that results in our putting up with long hours? Have we stuck by a client whose speed of payment and intellectual challenge of the task long ago slowed to almost nothing? It might be time to reevaluate how we select (or at least pursue) our clients.

Tip: What may look like a dream customer to others may just not be right for you. Think about the 80/20 rule and identify that 20% of your business you would elect to get rid of if you had the chance. Be very clear about your evaluation protocol, including revenue, lifestyle, work environment, professional growth, etc. Now work hard to replace that bottom 20% and, when your task or engagements are at an end, find a colleague to refer those customers to. You can choose to replace the when that customer is not right for you.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  customer understanding  marketing  planning  prospect  sales  your consulting practice 

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#55: Keeping Up With Emerging Trends

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, May 22, 2009
Once we come out of this recession, we want to move our consulting practice into strong markets. It's hard to see from here what those markets are going to be. What advice do you have to help us predict the future?

Rather than trying to predict the future, first figure out what is driving change now. Your objective is to develop skills that can help managers get to the future, a year at a time. This is mostly seeing trends in technology, demographics, markets, social and business attitudes, and regulation. There is a skill to separating genuine trends from fads. The emergence of a hot new business or technology does not prove a sustainable trend.

There are also companies and services that can help you separate a fad from a trend. For example, check out Trendwatching.com. This provides a nice set of tips on how to know the difference and how to develop a good strategy to build your own skills in tracking and finding trends relevant to your practice.

Tip: This is also exactly why your network is so important. People with different perspectives, consulting specialties, age, culture, etc., are some of your best sources of possible trends. Ask people in your network about what they see changing in their areas and see how you might work together to provide consulting services.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  planning  trends 

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#46: Different Types of Review Processes

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 11, 2009
What is a "Murder Board"?

When a project management function wants to subject a project to intense scrutiny, it convenes a group of experts to try to find faults in the scope, sequence or content of the project plan. This can be applied to a project plan, a summary of findings or recommendation for implementation. The "murder board" is a term often used for the team convened to see if they can push hard on a project plan to see where it will break. This process goes by other names, depending on the subject of the scrutiny and type of firm in which it is employed. For a hard review of a proposal, it is usually called a "red team." Some consulting firms call final briefing reviews "gauntlet drills."

The process is presumed to have gotten its start in the middle ages where the Church appointed a "devil's advocate" in proceedings to determine if an individual was worthy of sainthood. It was this person's job to find any and all fault with the candidate, legitimate or not, to defeat canonization. This set a high standard and required an irrefutable case to proceed. Presumably, by this logic, if one can't find anything bad, then the subject of an inquiry must be good.

Tip: The complexity and severity of a rigorous review process should correspond to the consequences and risks of the plan or product being reviewed. For a simple, short-term project with minimal risks, the reviews can be cursory. For a complex engagement plan for a major multi-year project, you may want to convene a team made up of members of your own practice as well as representatives from other practices in your firm or specialists from outside the firm. Regardless, you would do well to craft a protocol for the criteria and process for your own project or product reviews. Build a book of these over time to handle each type of project plan, client briefing, or implementation plan you provide to clients.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting terminology  planning  process  proposals  quality 

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