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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 

#181: "What Was Your Greatest Consulting Success?"

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 23, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 23, 2009
Occasionally a prospect asks about my best and worst consulting engagements. I have a great one and, regrettably, one that didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. Is there any way to polish up the bad one?

Not every prospect asks the question but we do owe them an answer to the real question they are asking. That question is "if we use your services for the project we have talked about, where are the risks and (of less interest but asked for balance) how might you surprise us in a good way?" They are really not as interested in the specifics of your past work unless it affects them (which is logical).

Consequently, avoid the temptation to select the same "best" and "worst" engagement to relate to all who ask. Offer the prospect a choice of one or two of each to discuss. You will have a good idea of what the prospect is thinking but lay out the choices with an explanation. For example, say, "In this case, the client was bought out in mid-project and we were never able to complete the engagement as designed' or "In this case, we ran into a tough relationship with one of the client's managers who kept changing the contract scope." This is an opportunity to show the breadth of your ability to adapt to a difficult situation. The alternative is to pick a story that doesn't help the client understand your abilities.

Tip: You would be better prepared by creating an assessment of each of your projects. For each project, summarize the problem, solution and result as well as a description of "what went well" and "what went poorly." This is great education for your professional development. It would also be interesting to add to the "what went wrong" a prescription of what you would do now to resolve the problem. How does this differ, now that you are older and wiser, than how you reacted originally?

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  learning  marketing  proposals 

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#166: Connecting Your Services with Your Client's Self Identity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 2, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 2, 2009
What is it about some consultant's services that get them an engagement and others, with almost identical services, never get called back?

Conventional wisdom says that sales efforts work better when they like the offered service, they like and trust you, and the price is right. All well and good, but what do they like about what you are offering? What is it about the specific service or about you that makes them comfortable enough to approve the purchase? Conventional wisdom stops short of a real explanation.

It appears, however, that science is starting to fill in the gaps. Recent research in the field of neuromarketing is giving clues to the specific brain mechanism that causes a person to buy one good over another. Research at Emory University showed that the brain's medial prefrontal cortex is largely involved in making choices. Scanning MRI images of this area of the brain, which also is highly involved in self-identification and our personality, showed high activity when people were offered a choice that aligned with their self-concept. See How the Brain Reveals Why We Buy.

At a high level, this is logical but contains an important nuance. Success in sales is more than being personally likable or having a product that makes intellectual sense. Your prospect needs to believe that your services, or at least the benefits that accrue from using them, fit with their self-image. Give them a scenario that shows them integrating your services into their organization in a way consistent with their values, managerial style and ability to communicate value to their organization. Trying to sell an "innovative" service won't work if it’s use is at odds with the way they see themselves.

Tip: The Scientific American article referred to above shows that even when an "obviously" better product is matched up against a product to which the customer can better identify, the latter product wins. This means you need to really know your prospect's personality, style and preferences before pitching your services. Think sync before sizzle.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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

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#154: Training our Referrals to Sell You Effectively

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 15, 2009
I am not getting any referrals from my network. I am constantly recommending them but get nothing in return.

There are a couple of issues here. Let's assume that you are technically competent, professional and provide services in demand for businesses in your area. Let's also assume that the individuals in your network are reasonable, honorable people (they are in your network, after all!). This leaves a possibility that they just don't know exactly how to refer your services. This is a common mistake most of us make with some in our networks.

Remember, referrals are mostly looking out to sell their own services (if they are other management consultants), run their own businesses, or just go about their lives. We are not their primary objective on a day to day basis. We may not even be the only person they could refer. It is our job to make it as easy as possible for them to refer us. This means "training" them in our capabilities, experience, and interests and providing them with whatever collateral they find most useful. Finally, it is most useful to guide them to your most desired clients. Helping your referrals know where to go, what to sell and what steps to take after the conversation with a prospect will significantly increase your referral activity.

Tip: Some consultants prepare what is called a "sell sheet" that describes, often on a single page, the consultant's experience, attributes, unique value, consulting approaches and services, and a "how to engage" summary. Draft such a sheet and run it by a colleague who knows you well to see if it resonates with them. Offer to review their sheet and compare format and content to share ideas with each other. Once you can provide your referrers with clear talking points, watch your referral traffic soar.

P.S. How good of a referrer are you being to others in your network? If you had to create a sell sheet for your colleagues from a blank sheet of paper, how good would it be? Work with them to make sure you can effectively refer them.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  marketing  networks  proposals  referrals  sales  sustainability 

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#150: Managing "Pickup" Consulting Teams

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, October 9, 2009
I know clients increasingly want the right team of experts and don't want to pay for people just because they work at the same company as the star consultant. However, isn’t it problematic to assemble and manage a team of people you don't know?

That's the point of having a robust network of talented and ethical consultants. Yes, assembling and managing a team of independent experts is an acquired skill and takes some hard work. It is much like playing pickup sports, where many individuals, who have neither played together nor faced the other team before, create a team that has to perform. Each individual is a talented and successful individual in their own right, usually capable of running the team themselves. In pickup games, however, adaptation, flexibility and humility are required to weave together a team that often can beat a team that has played together a long time (the 1980 US Olympic hockey team playing the USSR comes to mind).

I am not minimizing the risks of managing such a team and recognize that it takes some extra work that a larger company may not have to do. However, there are benefits for both the consulting team members as well as for the client. For the consultants, each member must clarify and defend their cherished positions, methodologies and assumptions, in contrast with that situation if they were working with the same people they always do. This really keeps you on your toes and rapidly advances your expertise. For the client, the self-assembled team brings robust, innovative and validated thinking to a problem that a larger firm, usually having developed a branded standard methodology and using in-house research for which they usually consider a strength, cannot provide. These are the kind of comments clients who are trending toward use of boutique and independent consultants make when talking about their need for nimble, creative and cutting edge thinking.

Tip: Your ability to attract and serve these kinds of clients and win sizable engagements that used to automatically go to larger firms all comes down to your network. You need to know well and spend time with consultants from a range of disciplines and get to know how they work, what they know and their ethics. Certification is one good marker of a candidate for your future teams, but spending time in professional associations, doing pro bono work, and just talking over an issue you or they have will give you a sense of whether they are the right person you want on your "pickup" team.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client service  collaboration  consultant role  consulting colleagues  innovation  networks  practice management  proposals  sales  teaming  trends  virtual teams 

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#146: Positioning Your Services on Price

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Sunday, October 4, 2009
Although there is considerable pricing pressure on consulting services, our firm still has a modest amount of business for our standard services at our regular rates. Should we be developing a low cost version of our services?

In a word, yes. If we as consultants truly believe that we exist to provide services that meet a client's needs, then alternative versions of your services fit this criterion. Providing only a single version, and this applies to more as well as less, comprehensive versions, can limit your market attractiveness. A single offering can only be compared to services of other consultants, which puts the comparison out of your control.

According to both market research and common sense, your bread and butter service offering may well be enhanced by offering a higher and lower priced version. Think of different versions of a software product. Many show charts of features with checkmarks next to those features that come with the "basic," standard," and "premium" packages. Each has a price with it that allows a prospect to evaluate, within your set of offerings, which version best meets their current needs. This way of arraying offers allows you to frame the decision around your own strengths.

Tip: For each of your typical services, configure a limited service or duration version, as well as an enhanced version. Run these by past clients and maybe colleagues to see how well these alternatives resonate, and revise as appropriate. This creates two opportunities. First, you might be surprised that there is some demand for your basic and enhanced packages. If so, you may have limited your services because clients have selected other consultants whose services were more to their price/value liking. Second, considering the design of basic/enhanced versions, especially when such versions just don't work for your services, may give you insights into entirely new types of services to offer, including teaming with other consultants.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  fees  marketing  product development  proposals  sales 

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