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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 

#244: Creating Value Even Without a Client

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, February 18, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2010
Our firm gets calls from people who simply can't afford our fees. What can I do with them?

Assuming you are right that your fees are out of their range, you can still offer to take a look at what their problem is and quote on it. Sit down with them and say, "I recognize that our fees, although competitive, may exceed your budget. However, we have looked over your situation and I have some comments and recommendations. Rather than charge you for a trip, a day (or more) of my time, I just figured this would be more valuable at no cost to you. And if you have any follow-up questions just send me an e-mail. My pleasure." Does this sound like a waste of time. Not really and here's why:
  1. You usually learn a lot from the experiences of seeing peoples’ data, problems, models. It would be more instructive than the case studies you look at during your professional development work over the year.
  2. You will earn their respect, maybe even make a friend, for very little time investment (perhaps less than quoting a large fee and not earning the business).
  3. When they grow ... they will remember you (especially if your observations and recommendations are on target).
Tip: These situations can create the most avid referrals you can ever find. They contacted you and you provided value with professionalism and for free. Think of how they would view you if you just turned them away without any discussion or consideration.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  advice  client development  fees  goodwill  professionalism  prospect 

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#229: Picking the Right Metric to Show Your Value

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, January 28, 2010
Updated: Thursday, January 28, 2010
Every consultant says they can deliver great results for their clients, and most of us claim personalized service. How can a consultant compete if everyone is using the same measures of value?

Two ideas come to mind. First, there may be some value to using the same measures as other consultants, making it easier for your clients to compare the value of your services "apples to apples." If you say you are going to return X% on investment (i.e., your fee), or you can reduce personnel costs by Y%, at least you have something quantitative and in terms by which a client would evaluate other investments. The down side of this is you may be rigorous or conservative in your calculations but your competitors are not bound by your standards. You have no way of knowing whether your plausible 35% ROI will compare to your competitor's 1000% ROI, based on entirely different criteria.

Second, you are always better off casting your value in as few terms as possible and in terms that target your client’s or prospect's point of pain. If sales effectiveness is the problem, you might frame your value as an increased sales close rate. However, look closely at the presumed point of pain to find the right benefit metric. If the presented pain is cycle time, it might be that the real issue that matters to the client is unit cost of produced goods, and cycle time is only one part of the cost calculation. Frame your solution metric in the same terms as the problem, not just the symptom.

Tip: In addition to your chosen metric, I suggest another one that is not always used: Speed to Value. This is defined as how long before your results start to appear. All managers are impatient about results. Some may have waited too long before calling you. Show them that, in addition to delivering on their point of pain, your services will return results within weeks, days or hours.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  customer understanding  proposals  prospect 

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#194: The Close is a Challenge for Both Consultant and Prospect

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 10, 2009
When the close for a consulting engagement takes a long time or never happens, I always wonder what I could have done differently. How can I get over this feeling that I didn't do enough?

In good times, clients call us out of the blue and referrals reach out to inquire about our services. The new normal is that businesses are more prudent about investing in outside advisors instead of fully using existing staff. Your need to make the case of your services as a wise investment hasn't changed, but the bar has been raised. The world changes even if you don't and your attitude going in to a pitch determines to a large extent how you feel after.

Consider your discussion with prospects as an proposed exchange of "value for value." You have something of value (expertise) and they have something of value (compensation). Assuming you have correctly characterized the opportunity or challenge they face, you may or may not reach agreement on fair compensation or the path forward. That evaluation by the client is only partly under your control and they may not see your value or be able to compensate you adequately for it. Remember, the close is as much a challenge for the prospect as it is for you. If you are even having the conversation, they see intrinsic value in your expertise. A "no" only means that your perceptions of the value differ, and is usually as much a disappointment to the prospect as much as it is to you.

Tip: As many books on closing will tell you, a "no" does not mean your services have no intrinsic value. It just means that they don't for this client at this time. Lest you think this lets you off the hook, a "no" is also an opportunity and a challenge to refine both your selection of prospects and sales pitch so that you can find the best chance to get to "yes" next time. Although it may be a disappointment at the time, consider a "no" as advice on how to increase the value of your services.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  communication  customer understanding  market research  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#192: When Your Win/Loss Ratio Seems Low

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I have been losing a lot of prospective engagements lately. Even when the clients specifically call me to see what I can do for them, the ratio of wins to losses is way down.

There is certainly a lot of competition in the market today and, as the economy starts to recover, the consulting market has not yet hit bottom. Although various consulting markets are on their own schedules relative to the economy, generally consulting lags the business cycle by one or two quarters. When the economy started down, the consulting market was still relatively good. Now that the economy is picking up, clients are still cautious about engaging consultants. This is especially true in markets where management salaries are being cut and staff laid off. It is hard to justify to staff why a company is paying consultants when staff is being cut back (even if this is a logical investment from a business standpoint).

At a minimum, don't get upset by your win/loss ratio. Remember that George Washington only won three of the nine major US Revolutionary War battles he commanded. He knew that some losses were acceptable against unfavorable conditions. He was positioning himself for battles he knew he could win, even though he knew he needed to at least partially engage in battles he would probably lose.

Tip: Focus on the types of engagements that play to your strength but more so to the emerging needs of clients. Instead of thinking about what consulting services you prefer to provide, consider what services your clients need most to emerge from the recession in a stronger position. Pay attention to their reasons for why they can't use your traditional services right now. Turn a rejection of your services into a learning opportunity.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  learning  marketing  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#171: Growing Your Clients Base: Cultivating vs. Acquiring Leads

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 9, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Which do you think is more important in growing a client base - filling a pipeline at the front end or transforming cold leads to warm ones?

This is an easy question to answer, based on how well most consultants perform at each process. Many consultants do not like to sell or cultivate clients, so this is where they spend less time. We get a stack of business cards, an email from a colleague telling us we "should meet this person," or an inquiry from a person who is not quite looking for consulting services. We often have no formal mechanism to either evaluate or process these leads, so they are often dropped. In this case, these are people already in our prospect bank that we don't even recognize as being there. Also, individuals in our bank that we do recognize are just not worked according to a plan as well as they need to. So, it is not identifying people to put into the bank that is the rate limiting step, but moving them from stage to stage, eventually turning them into clients.

Tip: It may be the use of terminology we use that affects how we decide to process leads. The concept of a "pipeline" involves inserting an object and pushing it, unchanged, through the length of pipe to exit the other end. This is not how prospects become qualified leads and eventually become clients. If we think in terms of farming, where we prepare the ground, plant seeds (many more than we expect to grow into full-size plants), cultivate and water, fertilize and thin, support and watch over, we are better served with a metaphor that more closely represents the actions needed to create healthy clients.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  marketing  prospect  your consulting practice 

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