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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 

#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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#191: Making a Powerful Impression with Stand Alone Presentations

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, December 7, 2009
Updated: Monday, December 7, 2009
I would like to find some way to differentiate my consulting company. We have nice collateral, both design and content, but it seems many others do as well. How do I separate myself from the consulting marketing noise?

In any competition for mind share, the key word is memorable. To stand out from the clutter, your few seconds in front of a client must be high quality, relevant to the prospect's needs, and have an element of intrigue. There are legendary stories of product sales pitches for which a demonstration was vivid and relevant and became the new standard for that industry (usually until the creator of that novel pitch came up with something even more memorable).

It is important is to weave your service value into a story. An archetypal story with a setting (in this case, the business environment), protagonists (your prospects and their competitors), conflict (the "unsolvable" problem or opportunity they face) and resolution (that would be your services) is a powerful weapon to get them to consider your firm. This is more than a case study, which appeals to the intellect. Create a narrative that appeals to their emotion - it is likely to be the only one they hear.

Tip: Also consider format. Most consultants know the "Shift Happens" or "Did You Know" videos. Consider the impact (as evidenced by the number of viewings on YouTube) these messages have. Rather than putting your "corporate capabilities" into a folder of slick sheets, what if you created a 3-4 minute presentation that got right to the point about the pain your solutions could reduce? Because it is about the client and not the consultant it is more emotionally engaging. The unique and fast pace of the format makes it more intriguing and easy to absorb. The fact that the structure leads directly from their problem to your solution makes it effective. Finally, if you host it on your site, if allows people to look around for other services they might need. If it is really good like the Did You Know videos, it might just go viral!

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  marketing  presentations  proposals  sales 

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#166: Connecting Your Services with Your Client's Self Identity

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, November 2, 2009
Updated: Monday, November 2, 2009
What is it about some consultant's services that get them an engagement and others, with almost identical services, never get called back?

Conventional wisdom says that sales efforts work better when they like the offered service, they like and trust you, and the price is right. All well and good, but what do they like about what you are offering? What is it about the specific service or about you that makes them comfortable enough to approve the purchase? Conventional wisdom stops short of a real explanation.

It appears, however, that science is starting to fill in the gaps. Recent research in the field of neuromarketing is giving clues to the specific brain mechanism that causes a person to buy one good over another. Research at Emory University showed that the brain's medial prefrontal cortex is largely involved in making choices. Scanning MRI images of this area of the brain, which also is highly involved in self-identification and our personality, showed high activity when people were offered a choice that aligned with their self-concept. See How the Brain Reveals Why We Buy.

At a high level, this is logical but contains an important nuance. Success in sales is more than being personally likable or having a product that makes intellectual sense. Your prospect needs to believe that your services, or at least the benefits that accrue from using them, fit with their self-image. Give them a scenario that shows them integrating your services into their organization in a way consistent with their values, managerial style and ability to communicate value to their organization. Trying to sell an "innovative" service won't work if it’s use is at odds with the way they see themselves.

Tip: The Scientific American article referred to above shows that even when an "obviously" better product is matched up against a product to which the customer can better identify, the latter product wins. This means you need to really know your prospect's personality, style and preferences before pitching your services. Think sync before sizzle.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  client development  client service  customer understanding  market research  marketing  product development  proposals  prospect  sales 

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#161: Give Your Clients a Choice of Services

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Monday, October 26, 2009
To reduce operating costs, we have trimmed our consulting offerings to just one high margin service. Should we keep just this one, which seems to be in demand, or build more?

Risk and opportunity are the first things that come to mind. Specifically, the risk of a single product and the lost opportunity of such a limited set of offerings. Let's discuss risk first. Your one offering may be in demand now but the market may change and reduce demand, another competitor might offer the same or a substitute product, or you might lose the people or control of an technologies for information components of your service. Without a robust service offering, you put your company at risk.

A one product company loses opportunity. First of all, you become known for that product rather than your suite of possible services. Eventually, prospects don't think of you offering anything else. Second, by not having a route for people to buy lower cost or more commoditized products, few people will place the trust in you to even try your product. You may like all clients to arrive at the high margin, high value service but, by reducing a choice of what types of your services to use, you are making it hard for them to buy.

Tip: Consider the value of a portfolio of services. First, provide a few low cost or free white papers, tips (like these), or blog of relevant topics. Next offer some modest cost, commodity-based, easy to use, short term services, such as workshops, seminars, assessments or one-day consultations. Then offer a suite of medium-term services, perhaps through partnering with subject matter experts, to broaden the appeal and value of services across a client's enterprise. Finally, offer some high value, high margin, and high touch services at the executive level. This portfolio approach allows a user of consulting services to enter your desired path to high value services at any point, and move up the pipeline to the point where they find value/cost equilibrium. This will lower your risk, increase opportunities and provide valuable market data on what service offerings you need to expand.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  brand  brand management  client development  customer understanding  market research  marketing  planning  practice management  product development  reputation  sales  sustainability 

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#154: Training our Referrals to Sell You Effectively

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, October 15, 2009
I am not getting any referrals from my network. I am constantly recommending them but get nothing in return.

There are a couple of issues here. Let's assume that you are technically competent, professional and provide services in demand for businesses in your area. Let's also assume that the individuals in your network are reasonable, honorable people (they are in your network, after all!). This leaves a possibility that they just don't know exactly how to refer your services. This is a common mistake most of us make with some in our networks.

Remember, referrals are mostly looking out to sell their own services (if they are other management consultants), run their own businesses, or just go about their lives. We are not their primary objective on a day to day basis. We may not even be the only person they could refer. It is our job to make it as easy as possible for them to refer us. This means "training" them in our capabilities, experience, and interests and providing them with whatever collateral they find most useful. Finally, it is most useful to guide them to your most desired clients. Helping your referrals know where to go, what to sell and what steps to take after the conversation with a prospect will significantly increase your referral activity.

Tip: Some consultants prepare what is called a "sell sheet" that describes, often on a single page, the consultant's experience, attributes, unique value, consulting approaches and services, and a "how to engage" summary. Draft such a sheet and run it by a colleague who knows you well to see if it resonates with them. Offer to review their sheet and compare format and content to share ideas with each other. Once you can provide your referrers with clear talking points, watch your referral traffic soar.

P.S. How good of a referrer are you being to others in your network? If you had to create a sell sheet for your colleagues from a blank sheet of paper, how good would it be? Work with them to make sure you can effectively refer them.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  client development  consulting colleagues  marketing  networks  proposals  referrals  sales  sustainability 

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