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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 

#388: Take A Cue From the Board

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I'm looking for competitive intelligence on a prospect. I have looked at the Leadership Library and recent annual reports, asked competitors about their differentiators, figured out where the executives spend their community time, set up a press clipping and Topix analysis, and asked around. I really want this client. Anything else I can do to get an inside perspective?

Sounds like you are well along in scoping out your prospect. You have covered the factual, news and opinion angles. Good for you. Not enough people do this kind of research on a prospective client before trying to engage them.

Here's one area you may not have thought of: the Board of Directors (or a CEO advisory body). Directors are presumably selected because they bring financial, market, technological, management or other resources to the company. Collectively, they provide the governance to drive a company efficiently and effectively forward.

If we assume this is true for a moment, take a look at Directors individually and as a group. What does each one bring? What areas of expertise and perspective do they have? Have there been any recent shakeups on the Board or any Directors brought in for a specific reason? Finally, do you know any of them well enough to talk with them about what the company needs? There are worse references to have than a company Director.

Conversely, it may be the case that the Board itself is one of several problems the company faces. In this case, your analysis of how well the Board is constituted might provide an additional topic of discussion with the executive to who you are offering your services.

Tip: Use caution when approaching individual Directors and/or discussing your conclusions about the role and performance of the Board with your future client. Recognize that you are not on the inside and are going to be missing a lot of information. However, properly qualified, the executive is likely to be impressed with your thoroughness in looking beyond traditional competitive intelligence sources.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  boards  client development  customer understanding  market research  marketing  prospect 

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#366: Make Sure Your Referrers Know You as Well as You Hope They Do

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, August 9, 2010
Updated: Monday, August 9, 2010
I want to make sure that clients have an accurate picture when evaluating whether to hire me. My proposals and presentations are great. Sometimes I have not gotten a job that I thought I was more qualified for than anyone else. What am I missing?

A referral is a testimonial by someone who sees value in what you have to offer. But this doesn't happen without some intervention on your part. Four things must happen to get great referrals. The referrer must (1) recognize specific value in what you have to offer, (2) know that a referral is of value to you, (3) know to whom they should make a referral, and (4) have a reason to make the referral.

First, be clear what you want them to value. They hired you for a reason but you might want referrals in another area. Tell them specifically what skills and behaviors you want them to tell others about.

Second, clients are not mind readers. Your relationship is based on you helping them, not the other way around. Tell them you'd appreciate a referral. Most will be happy to do it if you just asked.

Third, make a list of specific people or types of people you'd like a referral to. Don't make your clients do work to give referrals on your behalf. They can look at a list you've given them and think of people to whom they could make a referral that you didn't even know existed.

Last, make it worth their while. Why would they take time and risk their reputation? Because you can provide a client's colleagues with the same value you provided them. Like a recommendation for a great restaurant, create a desire in your client to make the referral.

Tip: Here's a novel idea: ask people who you think are your top potential referrers what you do, for whom and for what value. This is not a thought experiment - actually ask them. You might be shocked.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  client relations  market research  marketing  prospect  recommendations  sales 

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#345: How Much Do Consultants Need to Compete?

Posted By Mark Haas CMC, FIMC, Friday, July 9, 2010
There are thousands of consultants and business advisors against whom I compete, each with a different focus and competitive advantage. How am I supposed to compete against them all?

This is a great question that reminds me of the joke of "How fast do you need to run to escape from a bear?" The answer: "Just a little bit faster than your friend." You don't have to be the best in all markets, capabilities, technologies, etc. to be effective. You just need to be better (i.e., more valuable to a prospective client) than the alternative. Look at any athlete, actor, surgeon, chef or painter. They are judged - by the person evaluating or receiving the service - as having the right skills, applied in the right way, at the right time. A universal evaluation standard does not exist.

Rethink your strategy. Instead of starting with your abilities and figuring out how to enhance them to beat others, look at a prospect and figure out how to provide greater value than they are currently receiving. The recipients of your service are totally disinterested in your skills except to the extent that their condition is better in the future than it is now.

Tip: Compete against the service received by your prospective clients instead of service providers like yourself. Focus on the nexus of service between you and the client and not on either one by themselves.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  customer understanding  marketing  prospect  sales  your consulting practice 

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#332: Using a Mind Map to Prepare Your Elevator Speech

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, June 22, 2010
For all the discussion about having a perfect elevator speech, I consider them worthless. Each person you talk to has a different perspective and warrants a customized view of your services. Why have a stock speech?

Let's consider what the "elevator speech" is intended to do. It is a way to focus on the vital few elements of your value proposition so that you can quickly express them. It does not mean that this is the only content you can or should have to describe who you are or what you can do. It certainly does not mean that you expect the conversation to end once the elevator speech is over. In fact, you want the conversation to expand, and this is where people who only prepare a single elevator speech lose out.

Are you ready for the (hopefully) inevitable question from a prospect? Are you prepared to address any aspect of your speech? One way to prepare is to create a mindmap of your elevator speech. For each element (e.g., geography, discipline, industry, client type, pricing, consulting philosophy, past clients, expected outcomes, contract terms, work style, proposed services) map out how you might react to a range of the prospect's follow up questions. The map can get quite big, and you will likely uncover areas you didn't expect. Now you are ready to give the elevator speech, recognizing that it is only the opening act.

Tip: Show the mindmap to your colleagues or current clients. Does it resonate with them? Do they recognize you and your firm's services? How would they follow up if you were giving them the elevator speech? What did you discover?

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  prospect  sales  your consulting practice 

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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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