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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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#954: Order Before Midnight! - The Place for Incentives in Professional Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, December 31, 2008
In tough economic times, many businesses provide incentives for buyers of their products and services. As unseemly as it might be for professional services providers to offer such inducements, does doing so make any sense?

Never say never. A decade or two ago, no lawyer or doctor would dream of advertising their services. Now it is commonplace, and, in some cases, rather dog eat dog. Management consulting firms never used to advertise but now magazines (mostly business), television (usually public channels) and sporting events (of course, mostly the more "refined" sports like golf and tennis) are home to ads of big name firms.

As for incentives, they come in all forms. An incentive is any tactic, financial or otherwise, used to make a buyer select your product over another. In a sense, we all use incentives already. Although maybe not a rebate or discount on fees, it might be a modest free consultation, white paper, access to our research, or inclusion in a semi exclusive special group. These range in impact from economic (free) to social (being a member of a group). When economic conditions create pressure on substitutable services (i.e., your services are not unique and may be pressed into becoming a commodity), many consultants should consider some form of differentiation, even if it means an incentive of some kind.

Tip: Consider what drives buyer behavior in your market. For many in tough economic times, it is not so much sticker price but the aversion to making a mistake and wasting money or time. Any incentive you can provide that reduces perceived risk and begins to contribute some value to a prospective or current client will be appreciated. Be creative without diminishing the perceived value of your core services (i.e., don't cut your fees). For example, think about a loyalty program for your best clients (maybe invite them as your guest to an IMC program) or participation in a industry executives roundtable (invite a dozen executives to meet one another at a hosted dinner to discuss a specific topic in your industry, which you would facilitate). Well-designed incentives can really work for consultants.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  fees  marketing  prospect 

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#942: The Follow Up Call

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 15, 2008
Updated: Monday, December 15, 2008
I am building a prospect pipeline with a contact application and have prepared for a series of networking events to attend to kick off my initial contacts. Other than capturing the names and relevant information from people I met and consider potential leads, what else do I need?

You are off to a good start. Capturing leads in a formal way, whether it is on a ruled sheet of paper or in a software contact manager, is essential to managing a prospect pipeline. A box of scraps of paper and business cards as a strategy for getting clients is looking for trouble. Let's not get into how the contacts make it into your list, but the critical next step after first contact: the follow up call.

Following up means doing it before the memory fades (yours and theirs) and doing it in a way that leads to a higher probability of a good business relationship. Once you have identified a person who is marginally qualified, you should follow up to set a time to discuss a mutual business relationship. This is your chance to decide whether and how you commit valuable time to pursue the relationship or you will drop them in the "cool" (as in not worth pursuing right now) contact list.

Tip: The follow up call should be done within 3-5 days, preferably the next business day. You should have a follow up call script that includes a reiteration of the circumstances that brought you together, the premise of why your two businesses might productively work together, your interpretation of pressing needs of the other person (and questions you could ask to verify), an example of work you have done that relates to this need, an offer of a contact or piece of information of value to the other person (goodwill), a possible working relationship you could mutually benefit from, and suggested next steps to move toward a working relationship. Preparation and some forethought, along with not letting the prospect get cold, are the keys to turning a business card stuffed onto your pocket into a live prospect.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  contact information  goodwill  marketing  process  prospect 

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#941: Don't Let Expediency Ruin Your Reputation

Posted By Mark R. Haas CMC, FIMC, Friday, December 12, 2008
I have two prospective clients asking for my time over the next few months. Neither is a sure thing but I don't want to tell either one that I can't provide consulting services because I might be busy (I can't do both at the same time and this is something I have unique knowledge of, so I can't subcontract it). Should I just hope that I get one and not the other?

There seem to be two issues at play. The first is your desire to run your business by serving clients and keeping your client pipeline full. The second is your responsibility to your clients and your reputation by being honest with your prospects and yourself. This conflict is a pretty common one. Another factor is that of all the strategic planning methods proven to be effective, "hope" is not one of them. You should, and can, deal with this directly.

Despite the temptation to play the odds on this, your reputation depends on not getting caught promising, or letting your client infer, that you are available to do the work when there is a chance that you might not. Be honest with your prospects. Let them know that the nature of the consulting business is that not everything is certain and project delays, especially on ones that consume a lot of your time, are costly to your business. Tell them that you are not gaming or hard selling them but that you are being responsible just as you expect they would be to their shareholders or employees in the same circumstances. Let them know that all of your clients are important to you, that you value your reputation, and you want to be absolutely clear that you have potentially competing claims on your time.

Tip: There may be a way, depending on your prospects' circumstances, to alter the timing of your potential commitments so that a delay or part time availability may work for one or both. Be creative. They may be willing to offer you a retainer to be available but if they do not use your time, you still get paid and maybe even provide a partial credit for your time in the future. Maybe you really can train someone to help out if both prospect come to fruition. The one thing you don't want is for filling your pipeline to ruin your reputation by having to tell a client who is counting on your commitment that you have to break it.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client  ethics  planning  prospect  reputation 

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#936: Are You Ready to Deliver Your Pitch

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 5, 2008
Updated: Friday, December 5, 2008
My track record of getting appointment with prospects is pretty good but there are times the pitch just doesn't go over very well. I always do my research and have a lot of ideas ready to pitch but, more often than not, they just don't seem to connect.

Experienced consultants develop protocols for much of what they do. After many years of delivering similar services, they have honed efficient setup and processes for delivering most of their services. For some consultants, however, this push for well-defined processes seems not to apply for prospect meetings.

You say you do your research on the prospect ahead of time but you also say you arrive with lots of potential ideas. This may be where you run astray. Think of it from the client's perspective. They have lots of issues to deal with but probably only a very few they are prepared to talk to you about. To a prospect, your talking about a lot of things you could do for them sounds like you are selling yourself, not solving their problem. If you really have done enough research, you will know the top three issues the prospect needs to address. If you are the right person for the job, then you will have a very tightly scripted pitch to get right to the point of pain. Doing that will keep prospects focused on what you can do for them, not what they need to do for you.

Tip: If you can't identify 1-3 issues the prospect has a passion for, has a need to fix, and lacks the capability in house to solve, then you don't know enough. It may be that you could meet with the prospect to listen and gather more information, but it is better to understand the issue well enough to be able to craft your rather robust process to solve it. Finally, it is worth the effort to dry run your pitch. Don't consider practicing your pitch something a novice consultant does. The confidence you gain from a perfectly practiced pitch wears off onto the prospect.

© 2008 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  prospect  sales 

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