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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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#494: Make Positioning Your Consulting Services Clear

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 3, 2011
Updated: Thursday, February 3, 2011
Too often consultants try to be all things to all people and, as a result, lose credibility. But what happens if you do a lot of different kinds of consulting work spanning more than one specialty area? What's wrong with being a generalist?

There is a time for being a generalist and a time to be a specialist. You might appear to be useful to a wide prospect base if you are not too specialized but your best value comes from providing a deeper, more nuanced and forward looking expertise in a specific field. Some consultants have separate, customized biographical information that they use for each of the different audiences they serve. For example, they might have one bio for speaking engagements, another for mailing to specific category prospects. Also, you might have general processes for diagnostic work and different service sheets for each industry segment.

That said, you may be a generalist in marketing your services, but recognize that your client is hiring you for a particular problem that requires specific skills. Once you are engaged and into a project, you will need to shed the generalist mindset and narrow your focus. The more you consider yourself a generalist, the more you will have to work to narrow that focus once you start to serve the client.

Tip: You can't be all things to all people, but you can be different things to different people. Position yourself appropriately for each audience and, once you are engaged, keep focusing to provide more value in increasingly narrower areas of need.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consultant role  consulting process  engagement management  marketing  proposals 

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#452: Explaining What a Management Consultant Does

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I have what I consider a clear "elevator speech" or "value proposition." What I am not so confident of is my ability to express in the next 2-3 minutes what I can do for a client. What I do is pretty complex and depends on the client's need but I seem to fumble the explanation.

This is not unique. In the absence of specific details on the client situation, needs, capacity for change, resources, and history, it often requires some restraint for a consultant not to reply "it depends" in response to an inquiry of "what can you do for me?"

Where we get tied up is in balancing a clear general response with our wealth of knowledge and experience in similar situations. This is not the time to tell everything you know, especially since, until you know more about the situation, your experience may or may not be relevant, or the information premature.

Explain to a high school senior what service you provide to managers and businesses. Ask them to explain back to you what you do, and be open to clarifying questions. A blank look from them or a flurry of clarifying questions will tell you a lot about your success in explaining yourself. Once you can explain your service in a way that doesn't require specialized knowledge, you will have the basis for a 2- 3 minute introduction to your services.

Tip: Removing all the jargon, historical examples, and arcane references to the best practices literature on consulting will give you a clear, understandable and concise pitch that connects on an emotional, not intellectual, level. And remember, it is not what you do that is interesting, but what the client becomes as a result of what you do, that is of greatest interest.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  communication  marketing  proposals  prospect 

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#441: Try This Simple Marketing Exercise

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 22, 2010
Updated: Monday, November 22, 2010
Try the following exercise. On a piece of paper, list the most compelling reasons a prospect should hire you as a consultant over all other competitors.

If your list contains things like experience, education and training, or an inventory of the services you provide you've probably missed the most powerful answer you can give - what you can do for the prospective client in terms of performance results. Of course, these results will be based on the things you can do well, your experience, your education or training, and your previous accomplishments. These support the primary reason a prospect will hire you - the confidence they have in your ability to deliver the results you have described.

Tip: You will help establish and implement a process that is projected to reduce defects by x%, or you will help design a training program that will increase overall engineer test performance by a minimum of 15% over last year's cumulative results. Examples like these are the true reasons consultants are hired to achieve the client's desired results. Always support your projected results with a clear and confident description of how you intend to achieve them. This is where your proven skills, experience, education, and training come in - to build the client's confidence in your ability to execute your planned approach to achieve the results expected.

Remember - first focus on identifying the prospect's desired results, and then figure out what specifically you will do help them achieve these results. Finally, build your prospect's confidence in your ability to achieve the results by pointing out your previous experiences, skills, education and training, etc. in which you delivered those specific results.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#436: Consulting Humor: Explain Your Fees

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 15, 2010
Updated: Monday, November 15, 2010
Since humor is based on pain, old and well worn jokes about consultants tap into some uncomfortable truths about how some clients perceive our services. We are well advised to pay attention to the implicit messages in this week's jokes (Yes, we'll do jokes all five days. Trust us, there are a lot more).
The dominant value of management consulting services is in diagnosis, not necessarily in implementation services.

A company had a boiler that was working intermittently. They tried everything they could do but nothing worked. Finally they called in a consulting engineer, who they knew to be expensive but the best in the business.

He arrived and set to work studying the boiler, checking connections, temperatures, and overall operations. He then stepped back, stroked his chin and after a few minutes, made a mark on the side of the boiler. He then picked up a sledge hammer and took a full swing and hit the mark.

The boiler gasped and sputtered, then started to work perfectly.

The consulting engineer then gave his bill to the client. The boss was shocked and said "I'm not paying $1000 for hitting a boiler with a sledge hammer." I need to see a detailed invoice.

The consultant's bill: "Hitting the boiler: $25. Knowing where to hit the boiler: $975." (This is an old joke; each time it is told, the prices go up)

Takeaway: When setting billing rates, explain to your client that much of what you are being compensated for is diagnosis. The 10-20-30 years of experience you bring drives to a solution that the client or consultant can then implement. Consultants get a bad rep when they try to diagnose without enough experience and then try to prescribe solution without enough skill.

See more at (or contribute to) IMC's Consulting Humor blog

Tags:  fees  proposals  sales 

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#423: Get Client Recommendations That Have Value

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
All my clients are willing to provide references to my future prospects. However, since I don't know what aspects of my work will be important, I'd rather not get a generic recommendation, so am reluctant to ask for a written recommendation.

Since management consulting is based on trust, a recommendation is important. Almost every prospect will contact a reference, whether or not you provide a written recommendation or not. The absence of a written recommendation can only hurt you in comparison to glowing references in your competitors' proposals. Assuming references are appropriate for your type of work and the bidding process, have a few written references on hand.

You make a good point about generic references. They are so common and often written so blandly that they could apply to anyone. Take a look at references for other consultants and select formats address personal, professional and work styles. Consider if you were hiring a consultant (maybe you would for a subcontractor or teaming partner). What would you want to know up front: Are they easy to get along with? Technically competent? Ethical? Committed to consulting as a profession? Able to react to changes in the scope of work? Effective communicator? And so on.

Tip: Providing your client a recommendation to be signed is unethical. However, you can provide a set of attributes or qualities (similar to those referred to in the questions above) to which he or she can address if they are comfortable. Advise your client how you plan to use the reference and ask whether they want to be informed in advance of your using it (e.g., they may not want a competitor to know of your relationship, or want a heads up if someone will call). Inactive clients appreciate being asked and it is a good way for you to update them on your recent work.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client  client development  client relations  market research  marketing  proposals  prospect  referrals  reputation  sales 

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