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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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#720: Management Consulting is Like Sex . . .

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, December 16, 2011
Updated: Friday, December 16, 2011
Large consulting firms have developed an institutional brand and formal "approaches" to differentiate themselves. However, as the consulting field for independents becomes more crowded with retired business executives and retired/departed large firm consultants, differentiation is getting a lot harder. If everyone is selling the same strategic planning, process improvement, training, etc. services, what is the best way to make a compelling case to a prospect that your services are truly different and valuable?

It is unclear whether competition is any easier for large firms than it is for independents. Large blocks of consultants are selling the same services that can be described in general terms focusing on process, knowledge management, strategy, marketing, etc. Every large firm sells more or less the same "technology consulting, strategy, leadership, etc. services. Independents sell many of the same services, just at a smaller scale. Management consulting, like most free agent knowledge work, is highly competitive. In differentiating yourself, what is important is not the "title" of your pitch, but the "subtitle."

Look at new business books. Many have a title interesting enough to get you to look closer, but it is the subtitle that creates the emotional hook. To make up an example, consider "Twenty-Second Century Management: Be First in Your Market to Tap Emerging Tools, Technologies and Cultures." The title raises an eyebrow, but the subtitle would probably make you open the book for a closer look.

So it could be for your services. Don't start by describing "what" you do (e.g., planning, training, finance). Go right to the value with a "title" that is an attention grabber. But, and this is important, once you stimulate an interest with your provocative lead (e.g., like the title of this Tip), be prepared to back it up with a compelling reason why your service really is different. Your prospect will remember the hook and be satisfied that you know what you are doing if you tie it all together.

OK, to validate the point and follow up the Tip title, there are a number of one liners that, if you are honest and mature, provide the basis for thoughtful discussion about the management consulting profession, and your particular services. For example, It's all about chemistry (between consultant and client). Nobody wants to admit that they don’t really know what they’re doing (particularly new consultants and new managers). Everyone thinks they are good at it (there is no objective evaluation standard for consultants' work). All remember it as being better than it actually was (witness consultants' claims in their marketing materials). It is not the size of the consulting team but the effectiveness of the consulting process (large vs. boutique vs. independent consulting firms). There are many more but this is a good place to claim victory and move on!

Tip: You won't soon forget the subject of this Tip and are already thinking of your own one-liners to supplement those above. This is just one approach, but with this type of engagement you get a prospect to enthusiastically engage with you. With a bit of wry humor, you have made it possible for your prospect (hopefully now a client) to look forward to a great consulting experience.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  client relations  innovation  marketing  proposals  prospect  reputation  sales 

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#700: Get Prospects to Return Your Calls

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, November 18, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 18, 2011
How do I get people with whom I am not currently doing work to return my phone call? When I get voice mail, I have a hard time finding the right words to compel the action of a return phone call.

People vary in their responsiveness. Most of us were raised to return all calls, but when you are out all day and return to 10 voice mails, we have to do some triage.

The first to get ignored are unsolicited requests or offers when there is not a clear benefit (usually someone wanting to sell me something they have no idea whether or not I need). I also don't answer ones where it is unclear what they want or the request is a long and rambling one. I usually get to all others eventually.

My suggestion for you is to script the voice message - I mean really write it down, not just go over it in your head. Follow the AIDA principle of marketing: Attention (why should I continue to listen to this voice mail?), Interest (is there something of relevance to me?), Desire (is this something I want?) and Action (what should I do to take advantage of the offer?). If a call is a request for my time without a hint that there is something in it for me, I am less likely to answer it.

You just need to know what is of interest to the person you called. Part of your script should be to clarify this. If you are soliciting business, how well do you understand the needs of the person you are calling? If you don't, they certainly know this and won't hear what they need to hear in your voice mail.

Tip: Leave a voice mail that proves to them that you are really interested in getting in touch with them. Leave them a date and time you will call back if you don't hear from them sooner, or tell them that you will send them a letter describing in more detail your intended discussion, and make sure you follow up.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  market research  marketing  prospect  sales 

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#689: There is Some Value in Cold Calling by Consultants

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, November 3, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 3, 2011
I want to extend my practice to an industry in which I have no experience, but for which I think I could provide good service. I have no contacts but would like to know if cold calling is an effective way to make myself known.

Cold calling, as traditionally defined, is generally a bad strategy for consultants. The idea of getting a name off a mailing list or the lobby directory and calling unannounced is likely to result in two things. First, you annoy the person, most likely a senior manager, you are trying to dazzle with your capabilities. Second, you leave an impression that you are somewhat desperate to get work, so much so that you are trying to shortcut the effort required to build a relationship. In essence, you are trying to make withdrawals from a business relationship "bank account" before you have made any deposits.

Recognizing that you are new to the industry and do not have a ready referral network, why not try a "modified cold call," that minimizes the downside of traditional cold calling. This does require some research and, although it is a "cold" route to get to prospects, you do arrive at a prospect's door armed with something valuable to offer.

You probably know enough about the industry that it is an attractive consulting target for you. So, you probably know enough to draft a white paper on key trends in the industry and, given your understanding of the companies, you will recognize several of those companies that are leading positive trends or are in serious trouble. These may well be your prospects, if you can prepare a cogent argument of how your services can bring value to their rise or reverse their decline.

Tip: Prepare a company specific plan of action or white paper targeted at the company or subsector in which the company works. Contact (this is a "cool" call) the appropriate executive with an offer to discuss a specific action they could take to improve their lot. You may have to send the piece ahead to get the appointment, but this should be sufficiently intriguing to land you a face to face conversation about a specific action for which you could provide value. Make sure you have a testimonial/referral or two to back up your claim you can deliver this service.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  communication  marketing  sales 

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#686: Don't Pitch a Prospect Until You Know You Are Ready

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 31, 2011
Updated: Monday, October 31, 2011
My track record of getting appointments 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. They have the AIDA down pat. They have a storyboard. They conenct emotionally with the prospect's pain, not just their aspirations. For some consultants, however, this need 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 as something only a novice consultant does. The confidence you gain from a perfectly practiced pitch wears off onto the prospect.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  consulting process  customer understanding  market research  marketing  meeting preparation  proposals  sales 

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#676: Be Cautiously Creative with Your Sales Collateral

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 17, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Given that consulting prospects have little time to get to differentiate you from your colleagues (and all the laid off executives flooding the consulting market), what are some ways to get people's attention long enough to develop some rapport?

Most professional service providers today have a common challenge when it comes to getting noticed above the crowd. All are presumed to have competent technical skills, a set of marquee clients who provide glowing referrals and some "unique" technical approach that is presumed to stand out on its merits. However, what once served as a sufficiently large marketplace for your combination of these characteristics to differentiate you, it is increasingly hard to see how one consultant is so much different from others. Instead of refining our offering, our target market or both, it is tempting to juice up our collateral as part of our visibility strategy. This can backfire badly if done poorly.

Consider the efforts of professionals who one would presume are tuned in to what works in the area of marketing collateral - designers. look at some examples of creative resumes by young designers. To the untrained eye, many of these look quite creative (the title of the article calls them "billiant") and one would think they would catch the interest of potential clients or employers. Now look at the comments of those viewing these resumes - it is not a pretty picture. The commenters are in the design business to which these resumes are aimed and they are unimpressed. What went wrong? Too much emphasis on being creative and not enough on the basics of communication, value, and clarity.

Tip: Be cautiously creative when presuming that splashy (but still professional) creativity can differentiate you from your peers. Being unconventional to be different is a double edged sword. If you do want to make a point with the format of your collateral, invest in market research with colleagues, clients and marketing professionals to make sure your targets are getting the same message you think you are sending.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  innovation  publicity  sales 

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