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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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#418: Leverage Your Professional Association Capabilities

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, October 20, 2010
How do I find out more about these marketing organizations that promise to find projects for independent consultants?

Without mentioning names, there are a dozen or more high profile companies (some are organized as nonprofits) that, for a fee, will provide consultants with a list of "qualified" prospective clients. They market the availability of consulting services, often made up of a list of those consultants who have paid for an annual or other type of subscription. These companies vigorously market their access to consulting expertise to clients and serve as project brokers to subscribing consultants.

There are two issues with these companies. First, how does it make sense for someone unfamiliar with either the client or consultant to serve as a broker? Doesn't it make more sense for consultants and clients to deal directly with each other? Second, there are a lot of ethical issues with these brokerage companies. Claims to clients and consultants by many of these companies often go unfulfilled, as some IMC members who had thought it might be a good idea to try these services. One of our members recently brought to our attention one such company that had even selectively plagiarized the IMC USA Code of Ethics and passed it off as its own. Wow!

Tip: Be aware of the danger in these kind of companies. Take advantage of your professional association to check if the organization is legitimate and follows ethical practices. Ask your colleagues and in IMC chapters to see what your consulting friends experience has been.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  ethics  networks  proposals  sales  your consulting practice 

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#407: Look at The Consulting Services Procurement Process as an Opportunity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Our firm has been successful in developing relationships with senior managers of client organizations, which has made securing consulting work fairly easy. However, as the average tenure of CEOs continues to decrease rapidly, is this strategy at risk?

The average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is down to 3.5 years, with high turnover rates extending down through the management ranks. You should be concerned about over-reliance on senior relationships for steady consulting business.

But there maybe a larger issue in play here - the way we consultants view the procurement process. Whether we are approached directly, are tipped off to a need by an insider, find opportunities through research, respond to an RFP, or turn up possible work through cold (or warm) calling, we really need to pay increasing attention to changes in procurement of consulting services. We have mentioned before in these Daily Tips about decreasing size and increasing specialization of client requests for consulting engagements. They are less interested in brand or size than they are in the specific skills of the few people most suited for the job.

The key is to recognize that clients see consultants a bit differently than they have in the past. Telling clients that you are different because of personalized service, deep experience in the market, or "recognized" expertise largely falls on deaf ears. They want to see a commitment to understand their "here and now" need, not tell them that you have solved their problem many times before. This means spending a lot more time to understand the precise issue they face and not presume you have the perfect consulting process, much less the likely answer, at hand.

Tip: A good coverage of this way of looking at the procurement process is in the Consulting Times, titled "A Match Made in Consulting Heaven?" (pp 12-13) that addresses specifically how consultants need to better embrace the procurement process.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  learning  market research  marketing  proposals  referrals  sales 

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#382 : You Can Now Buy Consulting Services From The Menu

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, August 31, 2010
It seems that increasingly I am underbid by someone offering fixed rate services at rates that I can't compete with. My consulting service is impeccable and clients seem to keep coming back, but I am afraid my competitors will continue to cut into my business. Any advice?

You are not dreaming about this phenomenon. Services are increasingly being commoditized and sold off schedules. This started in force with the federal government that, along with health care, is the largest consumer of management consulting services. Want a strategic plan? Buy it off the schedule. Need to train your staff in lean manufacturing? Again, pick from a menu of vendors, some much lower priced than others.

Some consulting services are really commoditized. They are becoming undifferentiated in the eyes of the consumer, despite our feelings of how unique they are. This has become especially true of assessments and training. Need to "check out" your people? "Hire a firm to do a DISC, Harrison, MBTI, Prevue or any other one. They're all the same so just get me the cheapest one."

To see an example of this phenomenon, go to GSA Advantage, the government's procurement schedule. Search for "strategic plan" and see if your prices and offerings can compete with the 4,000 companies who will sell you one. (Note that the federal government negotiates rates that are discounted from commercial rates.)

Tip: Create a menu of your services. How would you sell a specific outcome (e.g., marketing plan, performance measurement system, process design, more effective sales force, supply chain security) for a fixed price? Not easy, is it? Put yourself in a client's shoes. Menu pricing makes it easier to see if you are providing something of value and not based on your hourly rate - you may be over or under pricing your services. With that warning in mind, the only way to compete with commoditized services offered by your competitors is through differentiation of your services in the mind of the client - the a la carte items that can't be sold as substitutes of each other.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  competition  market research  marketing  product development  proposals 

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#381: Negotiate Your Consulting Fees

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 30, 2010
Updated: Monday, August 30, 2010
While no one wants to say the economy is still in recession, clients in my primary market are negotiating harder on fees this year. How can I maintain my fees and still appear like I am sensitive to their economic pressures?

Fee pressure is more likely if you price your services on an hourly or daily basis. When you bill by time, that time becomes a commodity. Unless you differentiate your "day" from that of others who provide similar services, your client will go for the cheapest substitutable commodity. Make sure you can show that your "day" is different (and more valuable) than that of your competitor.

If your services are not priced as a commodity in the first place, you will avoid a lot of the desire to negotiate. Setting fees based on the value of the project to the client means the client is more likely to have to give up some value to lower price. Even if you estimate the fee based on a combination of daily rate (to make sure you are pricing it high enough) and value based fees (to make sure you are compensated for the value you bring to the client), be prepared to quote a fixed fee.

Have a set of alternatives ready, both as add-ons as well as decrements to the original offer. If the original offer is unacceptable, show how more or less (depending on the mood of the client) creates greater value.

Tip: Don't just show how you can cut your fee, even if you are removing corresponding services to match. Human nature tends to shy away from extremes (the highest cost option seems "too expensive" and the lowest cost option seems "too cheap"). When you only cut back your proposed fees, your original offer becomes the most expensive and a client's tendency is to find it even less attractive. When you offer add-ons, they may reject the most costly option, but the original offer appears more palatable.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  fees  proposals 

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#351: Be First in Something to Stand Out as a Consultant

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, July 19, 2010
Updated: Monday, July 19, 2010
I'd like to increase my visibility as a consultant. I do great work. I just don't seem to get as many leads as I would like, and don't convert many of them to clients. What would you advise?

Although strongly endorsed and disputed as a good strategy for diversified corporations, Jack Welch's desire to "be number one or two or get out of the business" has an element of merit for consultants. While you don't actually have to be first or second among consultants globally, you can corner the perceived top rank in some intersection of discipline, industry, geography and mode of presence (i.e., how you interact with the public or prospects).

What would you do if you wanted to be the "Number One" consultant in your field in both perception and reality? What would you do? What do other "top of the heap" consultants do? Make a list then pick those areas you could pull off. Here's a starter:
  1. Speak at more events.
  2. Write more articles.
  3. Plug the holes in your own repertoire of skills and experience by building up one or two to be your premier offerings.
  4. Network more intensively but selectively at industry events and wherever your prospects are likely to be.
  5. Communicate through P.R., letters, e-mails, your Web site, personal notes, phone calls but make them notable and valuable to the recipient, not just a throw-away greeting or thank you.
  6. Volunteer to serve on one or tow committees where your prospects are likely to be and where you can build both skills and reputation.
  7. Write a book, special report, study or anything that is valuable to your audience and will get the attention you need (and offer it for free as a contribution to the profession or industry).
  8. Think "making deposits before taking withdrawals." It isn't automatic for most of us to give altruistically. Make a list of all the ways you can contribute.
  9. Get listed, do interviews, get your name out there.
  10. Be unique. Specialize. Have a "hook" by which you are uniquely identified. One highly regarded collection of approaches to make your offerings really stand out is POP!: Stand Out in Any Crowd
Tip: This is a starter list but add to it depending on your industry, discipline or command of media. Of course it is hard, but the point is for you to stand out from the crowd and that means focusing on one area and putting in a lot of effort.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client development  market research  marketing  product development  proposals  reputation  sales 

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