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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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#144: Would You Know a Perfect Client If One Fell Into Your Lap?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 1, 2009
I know I am supposed to define my "perfect client" and then they will magically appear asking for my help. I just don't buy that the universe unfolds according to my whims. Is this really worth the effort?

It depends on to what extent you think the universe is responsive to you at all. So you don't believe wishing brings good things. However, you would be hard pressed to refute the truth in the adage that luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. In such a case, your perfect clients may be all around you but you just don't recognize them. Without the exercise to say what makes them more or less attractive, they all look the same.

What makes a difference to you? The complexity of their problems? The size of the organization? The size of your fees? The level in the company of your client sponsor? The client's geographic proximity to your office? The length of the engagement? The opportunity for follow on work? The people, of either the client or your own team, that you work with? The opportunity to learn something new? These are all candidates for defining a perfect client.

Tip: If you have never done this before, it can be a little daunting. Start with your past clients, arraying them against a list of criteria like those above. Score them from 1 to 5 on each attribute. Weight the attributes (e.g., learning is twice as important as fees) if you like. Score your clients and see if the ranking feels right to you or not. Were the highest ranked clients your “favorites?” Revise the model as needed. Once you feel comfortable, evaluate prospects by this protocol and start looking for clients with attributes that naturally have the greatest weights.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

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

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#143: Premature Elaboration

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 1, 2009
What is the best (or even a good) way to demonstrate the most value for your services during initial discussions with prospect.

We are often so eager to show how much we know that we don't wait until the client has fully explained where his or her organization is, how it got there and completely understands the issues they face. As soon as some consultants hear a problem they have solved before or recognize, they are quick to show how much they know. Even when you have solved the presumed problem before, you owe the client the opportunity to describe why it an issue for the organization and the nature of the solution for which they are willing to engage you. Hold your conclusions until you have explored the issues together. Remember, it is about addressing the client’s problem, not showing how smart you are.

Tip: The title of this tip says it all. Not that every analogy is appropriate but initial consultant-client conversations can be considered like dating: show exceptional respect, listen more than talk, and think longer term.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  communication  marketing  proposals 

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#138: Buyers Want More than Just Knowledge from Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I ran across a recent survey about why clients buy consulting services that I think Daily Tips subscribers would find interesting

The Productivity Institute recently surveyed buyers of consulting services to find out what characteristics were most important in selecting a particular consultant. Unlike the 1970s through 1990s, when technical expertise was the key selection determinant, it seems that some other criteria are moving to the front. Given that 20-30 years ago performance improvement tended to be more about process and today it is more about human capital, it makes sense that consultant selection priorities may have changed

Survey respondents were asked to name the three characteristics they considered most important when hiring consultants. Over half selected as the most important criterion a consultant's communication skills, beating out what we have come to consider most important: being smart and honest. This may cause a bit of disbelief in many of us who pride ourselves on being, above all else, smart and ethical consultants.

The second most important characteristic was the ability to work with others. Having heard from many clients about consultants who came across as aloof or even arrogant, this makes sense. The third characteristic was experience. For over a decade, we have seen the increasing importance of interpersonal skills in helping diagnose, facilitate, discuss, cajole and exhort client staff to improve performance. Knowing the answer does no good if you can't get information from clients and stakeholders, explain your findings, or encourage staff to embrace your recommendations.

Tip: The assessment of your interpersonal skills starts with your first interaction with the client organization. This means being genuinely respectful to staff, learning all you can about the culture (not just digesting the annual report for data), and listening more than you talk when you meet with a prospect. Talk to current or past staff to get a sense of the place. If the prospect did his or her due diligence, you are probably qualified technically to perform. The initial interview is to see if you are in sync with the culture and the client. And this is just the first part. Future tips will address the nuances of consultant communication and how to engage with the culture of the client’s environment.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  communication  customer understanding  proposals  prospect  trends 

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#137: Use the Rule of One in Selling Your Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I provide a lot of complementary consulting services, which I consider a competitive advantage over colleagues that only provide one or two specific services. How can I best get this message across?

Consultants tend to sell intangible products and services that are sometimes difficult to explain to prospects. This is why we are advised to use the "Rule of One" that copywriters use in creating ad copy. The point of this rule is to write about one thing at a time. Get to the point and make sure the reader (or prospect) understands the main benefit before elaborating all of your many services. If he or she is sufficiently interested they will ask for more details. Don't be guilty of what Mike Bosworth calls "premature elaboration."

Tip: In fact, the rules of copywriting provides a good example of how to sell your consulting services. Think about some compelling ad copy you have seen. It usually focuses on a single strong benefit. Also, it will tell a story about how the buyer could replicate the benefit already afforded to one of your past customers. Finally, make the story such that the prospect can see himself or herself using your services to resolve a difficulty they are having.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  customer understanding  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales  writing 

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#132: Testimonials

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, September 16, 2009
What kind of testimonials do clients find most compelling?

Remember that consultants sell competence but clients are buying for confidence. A testimonial is one way to lower the perceived risk that the intangible consulting services a client is about to buy are plausible, realistic and risk free (or at least "low risk"). While you, as a consultant, might like to hear about all the wonderful experience and skills you bring to the table, when you ask for a testimonial, think more about what a risk-averse executive or manager needs to hear.

First, consider the greatest value your clients have received. What have they said was the most important benefit you provided? Then build your testimonial around that. Consider including the following (in a sequence that works for you):
  • The project issue or challenge (the preamble for why consultant services were required)
  • The intended outcome of the engagement (the value provided)
  • The actual outcome (especially longer term, in unit terms of dollars, output, or other measure that might translate to a prospective client)
  • The reason the client selected your firm (this is the key element to convincing the next client why they should select you, and should include why any reservations were quickly overcome by your performance)
  • The core strength you brought to the project (what aspect of your firm's offering you want to highlight)
  • The reason the client selected you above other consultants (here is the second most important aspect of the testimonial to induce your prospect to select you)
Tip: There is some value to planning your "testimonial portfolio." Consider the range of compelling reasons you would like to place before a prospect. Since each testimonial can't realistically present all of these reasons, work with your client to create a testimonial that fills the gaps.

P.S. If you are soliciting a testimonial for a firm ratr than yourself, remember, clients are less impressed by a testimonial about a firm when it doesn't necessarily relate at all to the consultants proposed for an engagement. If possible, collect testimonials for the individual consultants on the team rather than the firm in general.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand management  client development  goodwill  marketing  proposals  prospect  referrals  reputation 

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