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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 

#554: Consultants Are a Dime a Dozen - Why Should I Pick You?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, April 28, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2011
We are a 22-person consulting firm that never had a hard time marketing and selling a range of services. However, sales cycles are longer and hurdles higher to close business. Some of us feel it is just regular competition and others feel the consulting market is changing. Which is it?

A little bit of both but there is another factor that you may not be considering. It may be that your services were unique and high-value a few years ago but the way clients buy consulting services has changed in ways you may not be aware of. I assume that you have upgraded your services and freshened your marketing approach, but you may need to offer a key feature on which consultants never competed before.

If you were waiting for the definitive feature that will place you head and shoulders above your competitors, I regret to say that I don't know what that is for your firm and your market. It will vary with your type of services, your firm's ability to create and sustain this feature, your client's inclinations and industry, and what your competitors are dreaming up for their own strategies. But here are a few candidates.

Consider low margin, high competition markets where products are mostly substitutable. It is not a marginal improvement in price or performance of the product that wins over the buyer because these are always being improved. It is often something else about the buyer's purchase, use or service experience that no one has seen fit to address before. What is it the user or beneficiaries (not the direct purchaser) need that is not being supplied and whose satisfaction could significantly influence the purchaser? Find something that you can provide at low marginal cost that has high marginal value for your clients. There are features or service augmentations that only you can provide, depending on your specific capabilities and firm structure.

Tip: For example, limited lifetime warranty for consulting services - call any time, even 6 months or a year after the engagement ends (clients tend not to abuse this but the good will it generates is incredible). Your firm then becomes known as the "lifetime Warranty" firm, one that stands behind its work. Create a list of ten such ideas and run them by your clients to see which ones resonate.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  customer understanding  innovation  market research  marketing  proposals  sales 

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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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#529: Think Twice About Discounting Consulting Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, March 24, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 24, 2011
I have been successful winning new work recently by offering discounts. I am assuming that once I become known to the client, I can go back to my full rates. Is this your experience?

There are several issues here, first of which is your conclusion that discounting rates constitutes a "success." It is more likely that you have landed a client who values discounts at least as much as your work. If they did truly understand the value you bring to their organization, you wouldn’t have had a discussion about cutting your fees.

Discount chasers can, and always will, be on the lookout for other discounts. At best, you should consider discount shoppers only for cash flow and not those clients for whom you can do your best work and grow your capabilities. Furthermore, you are likely to be resentful of having to discount your fees when, as a professional, you will still provide top quality service.

Second, don’t assume you can raise your fees once a client comes to know you and love you. For the same reason as above, your relationship is built on that discount, not on your full value. If you do succeed in raising your fees, then it is likely at the expense of resentment from the client at your new "higher" fees being paid for the same service.

Tip: If your fees are fair and market-based then you should focus on better explaining why they match your value, not send the message that you believe your services are worth less than your full asking price.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  fees  market research  proposals  reputation  sales 

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#516: Losing a Sure Engagement

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, March 7, 2011
Updated: Monday, March 7, 2011
There are many times I have a solid lead on an engagement that just slips away. Everything seemed to be in place but something goes wrong at the last minute. Is this common?

I can't speak to how common this is among consultants but it certainly happens when most of us pursue a goal, whether it be a business deal, athletic competition (consider the number of athletes who dropped out of the Olympics at the last minute due to injuries or illness), or other objective. We tend to chalk up the wins but dwell on the near misses (or near hits, as the case may be).

Above my desk I have a poster of a painting by Charles Russell called Meat's Not Meat Til It's In The Pan. It shows a cowboy just after he has shot a bighorn sheep, anticipating a hearty dinner. However, the sheep has fallen off a cliff and is hung up on rocks below. Russell makes his point that sometimes everything can go exactly right, except for a small detail that prevents the outcome you expected. The meal the cowboy assumed he would be eating is now just out of his grasp.

Most of us have had one or more of these happen to us in our careers. A CEO asks us to start work and the Board suddenly decides on a new corporate direction. Our facility modernization consultation is shut down by the client's market dropping off. And so on.

Tip: The print is a constant reminder to not put any engagement on the books until work actually starts and you have a signed letter of agreement in hand. Meat's Not Meat Til It's In The Pan!

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  engagement management  marketing  practice management  proposals  sales  your consulting practice 

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#515: Prepare Carefully To Be Spontaneous

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, March 4, 2011
Updated: Friday, March 4, 2011
Every so often in a client meeting I am asked to quickly summarize progress on an engagement and plans are for the coming week. Any tips to make these presentations go better?

First of all, you shouldn't ever be caught by surprise by requests like these. Your client wants to be on top of his or her business. Effective consulting means understanding your clients, their situation, your project plan, findings to date, and where the engagement is headed.

Here's one way to be sure you are fully prepared for a "spontaneous" project summary. At least every week (or before project team briefings), prepare a summary of your engagement. The specifics will depend on the nature of your client and the project but here are a few items you might include:
  • Overall client need and objectives
  • Key project assumptions
  • Work scope for this period
  • Activities for this period
  • Key findings to date and significance
  • Emerging issues and uncertainties
  • Recommended change in project scope and cost
  • Requests for staff and information requests
Put this on a single sheet of paper and spend five minutes practicing your "spontaneous" briefing. Even if you never have to deliver it, this will help you sort out and clarify key factors driving you toward a complete and effective solution to your client's needs. Use this as a record of your project status, either for your own documentation or as a report to hand to your client.

Tip: If you can't summarize the key elements of your project on one page, and to your client in just a few minutes, you may need to think more about what are the most important items to convey.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting process  engagement management  practice management  presentations  proposals 

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