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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 

#343: Promises and Delivery

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I've heard other consultants advise "always under-promise and over-deliver." Is this a good approach?

This is logical if your goal is to avoid "under-delivering." However, "under-promising" might be a poor strategy to secure business and please your client, who is likely looking to do the absolute best possible with the available time and resources. A better approach might be to make a meaningful, realistic promise of delivery and then work very hard to absolutely deliver (or over-deliver) on that ambitious promise.

There are many ways to do this. You can single out one facet of the assignment on which you can make a strong commitment, perhaps even making your fee partially or totally contingent on its delivery. At a minimum, you should mutually review the risks and mitigation strategies you will both take to assure satisfactory delivery of your services so that the client gets the outcomes they expect.

Tip: Be very clear with the client what you plan to deliver and when. You are dancing close to an ethical line if you tell them one thing and plan to deliver something else (even if it is an improvement on the cost, quality or speed of your initial commitment). The ultimate risk of under-promising: it may be so unambitious that you may not get a chance to deliver it because you lost the job to another firm with more realistic and ambitious plans.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  communication  engagement management  ethics  goodwill  proposals  sales 

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#328: Consulting Among Friends

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 16, 2010
How do you respond to consulting colleagues who, with no prior relevant experience, take on contracts in your area of specialty and then come to you for help? Am I being competitive by not wanting to share my years of education and experience that give me an edge?

It is difficult to see someone with less experience serving a client for whom you presume you could provide better service. There are two responses, either of which might reduce the odds of this happening in the future.

First, determine how the client selected your colleague instead of you. What does your colleague provide, in the client's eyes, that you do not. It may be that you are not known to the client and your colleagues was the only presumably qualified consultant available. In this case, (sort of) shame on you for not having a better market presence, and it is something you can address. On the other hand, consultants usually think they are selling competence, when in fact clients are buying confidence. There are lots of consultants around with enough skills and experience, many with more than enough for the job at hand. It is possible that the client trusts your colleague even without the superior technical expertise you know you have.

Second, decide under what conditions you will help your colleague with your expertise. Treat them like any other client for whom you would devote time. Of course, you can provide 15 minutes of general advice as a friend, but at some point it becomes paid consulting. Just like you could ask a friend who is a doctor about what kind of flu is going around without feeling you are crossing the line, but you wouldn't want to ask them to do a complete physical outside of a professional setting.

Tip: Respect the client's choice of consultant. Treat it as an opportunity to learn and grow. As to your friend, offer to work together for a fee - don't be embarrassed about asking, since this is what you do for a living and you invested a lot in the acquisition of that knowledge.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  learning  proposals  prospect  reputation  your consulting practice 

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#327: Multisourcing Consulting Engagements

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, June 15, 2010
I have noticed that several of my long term clients have been bringing in other consultants to handle some services that I used to provide for them. They say they are happy with my services but this is troubling - should I be worried?

This is called multisourcing or unbundling, and has been a growing trend since the recession about six years ago. A decade ago, a proven consultant could work on retainer basis on a range of projects. This was convenient for both the client and consultant. However, clients have changed their approach to purchasing consulting services.

Kennedy Information reported a few years ago a trend that clients were becoming more price sensitive and, with the exception of large systems integration contracts, were looking for the best talent and lower overhead often found in smaller, boutique or specialized consultancies. Increasing senior partners were departing larger firms to start their own practices. Also, more consultants were joining firms and advising executives on hiring and management of consultants. In sum, clients are more sophisticated about locating the best talent at the best terms.

Tip: What to do about this? Be proactive and talk to your clients. Discuss, for each consulting service you provide or could provide, what value they expect from you and how your services meet those expectations. Where they are not enthusiastic about a particular service you provide, find out what changes in services they want, or are likely to want soon. Clarify in your own mind what specific benefits (e.g., innovation, price, ease of access, experience, market expertise, research data, responsiveness) you bring and then talk it over with your client. This is no time to wait and see if your client starts shopping around for other consultants.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consultant role  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales  trends 

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#318: Getting the Attention of Prospects

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I am doing what I believe is a competent job of marketing and making myself visible to prospects but competition is pretty fierce. How can I make my offering stand out more?

Getting the attention of a potential client or prospect can sometimes be challenging. This can often be achieved by making the extra effort and doing research to identify their concerns or needs and addressing them directly within the title of a presentation or agenda for a discussion.

When visiting an existing client or new prospect, the goals for a practitioner are to a) have the client pay attention and take him or her seriously, b) have the most relevant people attend the discussion or presentation, and c) have a receptive audience that is very interested to hear what the consultant has to say. If you specifically address the most pressing issue(s) or concern(s) in either the title of a presentation or in the agenda for a discussion, you might be surprised at how successful you are at achieving these goals. Here are some examples:
  • "Potential Solutions for Increasing Marketing ROI Within the Next 6 Months Using _______ (prospect's competitive advantage)"
  • "Focusing on the Customer: Re-evaluating Your Customers Key Expectations and Requirements in the _____ Market"
  • "What _______ (prospect's) Competitors are Doing to Capture Your Market Share"
Tip: Try putting yourself in the shoes of the client or prospect and attempt to determine in advance what their top concerns are. By linking your agenda or presentation directly to these concerns, you have a much better chance of key personnel attending and listening to what you have to say. "I would like to come by to talk about my consulting services" or "I would like to come by to talk about how you might re-energize your recent ad campaign." Which would get your attention?

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  market research  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#309: The Small Close

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, May 20, 2010
Closing consulting engagements sometimes takes longer than expected, even when we've had long discussions with the client and everything seems to have been negotiated. Why do some consultants seem to have more success with the close?

We'd all like to have an easy close to the engagement for which we have been talking with a prospect. This would seem to be good for bothparties. However, even when the client has come to us with a request and we think we are ready to start the engagement, the close doesn't come so easily. Why is that? Is the client getting cold feet or have we confused or complicated the issue? Did we expand the client's understanding of the scope of the issue (a good thing), or did we propose an unnecessarily elaborate approach to satisfying the client's need (shame on us)?

Closing is rarely a straight and sure path. Buying is an emotional process and if you force the buyer into a yes or no decision before they are ready, the answer will likely be "no." You know how you react when salespeople push you, so consider how a manager who is being asked to cede executive power to a consultant feels when pressed. The alternative to the yes or no decision is what is called the "Small Question."

The Small Question is part of what is called an assumptive, or small, close, where you assume the buyer has already agreed to purchase your services. Instead of asking for the sale, ask for something that would be a part of the sale. For example, you could ask if the prospect would find it more useful for you to brief the board or coach him or her to do the final briefing at the end of the engagement. Or, ask if the sales training should include developing a series of online training sessions. Finally, you might ask if it makes sense to conduct a pilot before going company-wide.

Tip: A yes answer to one of these questions is likely a yes answer to the engagement, but is much easier to make for the prospect. Once they have said yes to a critical part of the entire project (usually a high value part), they are on the path to saying yes to the whole engagement. Gauge the client's comfort with your small question and explore successively larger ones.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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