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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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#423: Get Client Recommendations That Have Value

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
All my clients are willing to provide references to my future prospects. However, since I don't know what aspects of my work will be important, I'd rather not get a generic recommendation, so am reluctant to ask for a written recommendation.

Since management consulting is based on trust, a recommendation is important. Almost every prospect will contact a reference, whether or not you provide a written recommendation or not. The absence of a written recommendation can only hurt you in comparison to glowing references in your competitors' proposals. Assuming references are appropriate for your type of work and the bidding process, have a few written references on hand.

You make a good point about generic references. They are so common and often written so blandly that they could apply to anyone. Take a look at references for other consultants and select formats address personal, professional and work styles. Consider if you were hiring a consultant (maybe you would for a subcontractor or teaming partner). What would you want to know up front: Are they easy to get along with? Technically competent? Ethical? Committed to consulting as a profession? Able to react to changes in the scope of work? Effective communicator? And so on.

Tip: Providing your client a recommendation to be signed is unethical. However, you can provide a set of attributes or qualities (similar to those referred to in the questions above) to which he or she can address if they are comfortable. Advise your client how you plan to use the reference and ask whether they want to be informed in advance of your using it (e.g., they may not want a competitor to know of your relationship, or want a heads up if someone will call). Inactive clients appreciate being asked and it is a good way for you to update them on your recent work.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client  client development  client relations  market research  marketing  proposals  prospect  referrals  reputation  sales 

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#407: Look at The Consulting Services Procurement Process as an Opportunity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Our firm has been successful in developing relationships with senior managers of client organizations, which has made securing consulting work fairly easy. However, as the average tenure of CEOs continues to decrease rapidly, is this strategy at risk?

The average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is down to 3.5 years, with high turnover rates extending down through the management ranks. You should be concerned about over-reliance on senior relationships for steady consulting business.

But there maybe a larger issue in play here - the way we consultants view the procurement process. Whether we are approached directly, are tipped off to a need by an insider, find opportunities through research, respond to an RFP, or turn up possible work through cold (or warm) calling, we really need to pay increasing attention to changes in procurement of consulting services. We have mentioned before in these Daily Tips about decreasing size and increasing specialization of client requests for consulting engagements. They are less interested in brand or size than they are in the specific skills of the few people most suited for the job.

The key is to recognize that clients see consultants a bit differently than they have in the past. Telling clients that you are different because of personalized service, deep experience in the market, or "recognized" expertise largely falls on deaf ears. They want to see a commitment to understand their "here and now" need, not tell them that you have solved their problem many times before. This means spending a lot more time to understand the precise issue they face and not presume you have the perfect consulting process, much less the likely answer, at hand.

Tip: A good coverage of this way of looking at the procurement process is in the Consulting Times, titled "A Match Made in Consulting Heaven?" (pp 12-13) that addresses specifically how consultants need to better embrace the procurement process.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  customer understanding  learning  market research  marketing  proposals  referrals  sales 

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#400: Get Slightly Famous to Bring Business to You

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, September 24, 2010
Updated: Friday, September 24, 2010
Some consultants have a steady stream of business from their fame from books, speaking or research. I don't have anything other than my skills and experience. How can I generate some interest in my business.

Familiarity creates comfort and at least one of the components of trust. We are comfortable with things we recognize, including taking advice from people we know. How likely are you to consider a movie review from a stranger compared to one from someone you know? Celebrity endorsements are effective because the people doing the endorsements are familiar to us, even if we really don't "know" them.

So, if we aren't a celebrity, how do we create the comfort that will make it likely that prospects will welcome our calls? Furthermore, what do we need to do to turn the corner and actually get them to seek us out?

We don't have to be really famous to get attention. In the absence of a full blown media campaign, though, we do need to identify that one thing that allows us to just be "slightly famous"? How do we define that one niche of our work for which we could be known? How do we translate that, without a complex marketing plan, into a presence in our target industry? How can we use cause marketing to differentiate ourselves from others? How do we actually create brand loyalty, not just awareness?

Tip: Using his journalism skills, results of his research and experience creating brands for his solo practitioner clients, Steve Van Yoder has captured the straightforward elements of bringing clients to you in Get Slightly Famous: Become a Celebrity in Your Field and Attract More Business with Less Effort. The concepts are relatively simple - not necessarily effortless. Unlike lots of books on creating marketing gravity for your practice, Get Slightly Famous lays out a focused process for better defining your unique value and attracting media, attention and business. As the economy starts to recover, this is the perfect time to get your publicity in gear.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  market research  marketing  referrals  social media 

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#394: Expand Your Referrer List

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, September 16, 2010
Updated: Monday, September 20, 2010
Apparently I wasn't paying close enough attention, but as my clients retire or move, industries change, or companies merge, I find my list of prospective clients shrinking. How can I be sure to have a good quality contact list to assure a steady stream of prospects?

We all know that it's who you know that counts in this consulting relationship business. Whether you need cool or warm leads, having a list of prospects is only part of the issue. You also need to work on maintaining a list of referrers who both know you and know your prospects.

Technology can help in some cases. For example, business networking groups like LinkedIn now lists several hundred thousand management consultants. If you have about 100 connections, you are likely to have about 50,000 second order links and millions of third order links. Way more than you need to get to almost any prospect!

You are wise to build your contacts list as much as your prospect list. Define what kind of individuals would be good referrers. Set a target of adding 5-10 new qualified contacts each week. Capture information about each potential referrer in a managed contact list. Include demographic and personal information so you have a way to connect to them. Note their needs so you can take advantage of opportunities to contribute to the relationship.

After a year, you will have several hundred contacts. If you have categorized each one, you will have opportunities to send all contacts in your (for example) technology category an article about some new technology that they would find interesting. If you limit this to about 10-15 categories, you can nurture the relationships and stay top of mind.

Tip: Be sure to "make deposits before you make withdrawals" in the relationship bank. Actively manage your contact list, each month looking through every contact to see how you might help each contact.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting colleagues  referrals  sales  your consulting practice 

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#296: Referring Other Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, May 3, 2010
Updated: Monday, May 3, 2010
I sometimes want to recommend another consultant to my client but feel that it might take away additional opportunities for my consulting business. After all, there is limited money in their budget and only so much time to devote to a consultant. Am I wrong in being concerned about this?

Your feelings are very natural, but think of it this way: you are there to help the client in any way you can. If you believe that recommending another consultant will add value or provide much needed assistance to the client, you can rest assured that you are doing the right thing by making the recommendation. Sound referrals will help build trust and demonstrate your interest in the client's ultimate success even if it does not translate into direct business for you. Here are a few guidelines when recommending someone to your client:
  1. Issue a clear disclaimer so you don't end up appearing to guarantee the performance of the other consultant.
  2. Recommend more than one consultant for the job (if appropriate and possible). Let the client make the choice.
  3. Let the client do the interviewing and selection.
  4. Try to avoid opportunities for uncomfortable "pairing" if you will be working alongside the other consultant.
  5. Always be supportive and helpful to the other consultant in every way you can.
  6. Don't look for a referral fee from the client.
Tip: Recommend another consultant any time you genuinely feel it will be helpful. Putting the client's needs first is why you are there.

© 2010 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client relations  client service  consulting colleagues  engagement management  recommendations  referrals 

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