4 Tips to Get Your Money’s Worth from a Consultant



To get your money’s worth from a consultant, you might be surprised to learn you have to use best practices in your role as the client.

“Huh?” you’re probably thinking.

For strong results, it’s not just a matter of hiring a consultant, forgetting about it and expecting work to get done. You’ll get top results after retaining a consultant if you’re at the top of your game as a client.

bwi ambro www.freedigitalphotos.netMy conclusions are based on my experience as a confidential business-performance consultant since 1992.

To get your money’s worth, here are four tips:

1. Be 100 percent responsive

For maximum communication and efficiency, you need to be fully accessible and prompt in responding to your consultant.

Reach an understanding on your means of communication – the best ways for the two of you to communicate between meetings – whether it’s e-mail or telephone.

If you are planning to be away from your office for any reason, such as holidays or vacations, notify your consultant in advance.

2. Heed your consultant’s recommendations

Assuming you’ve hired a consultant for expertise you need, and one who is mindful of your welfare, it’s important to listen to your consultant.

Don’t put your consultant in a position to have to ask you: “Why did you hire me, if you’re not going to listen?”

A competent consultant won’t deal indefinitely with a client who doesn’t listen. The exasperation isn’t won’t be worth it.

3. Be fully aware of the agreement

Know all the details and all ramifications. It must be in writing.

Every situation is different, but there are eight essential elements you need to know:

  1. What will be offered
  2. The value it will provide
  3. Start date
  4. Deliverables
  5. Timeline
  6. Limitations on the scope of work
  7. Cost
  8. Payment schedule

For the most efficiency, you’ll find project billing is preferable to hourly billing, as the latter is too open-ended. For instance, if your consultant can’t finish a project on time, you won’t want to pay extra for cost over-runs.

By the same token, be sure to pay your invoices promptly. It’s really true that what goes around, comes around.

4. Hold your consultant accountable

If your consultant fails to adhere to the agreement, don’t settle for substandard deliverables. There should be no negative surprises.

On the other hand, if you get stellar results, be sure to express your appreciation. Recognition is important in relationships.  The two words, thank you, are like magic to a consultant. In turn, you’ll get the red carpet treatment from your consultant.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more tips:

Thought Leadership — Why Companies Hire Management Consultants — Companies want knowledge. A good idea can be worth $1 million and more. That’s why companies hire thought leaders. It’s also why you see many consultants position themselves as thought leaders and give away free information in how-to articles or studies, which lead to books, seminars and being quoted in the media.

Basics in Hiring a Consultant to Help You Improve Your Company — When you can’t solve a business problem, you probably need a consultant. Perhaps you don’t have the necessary experience to solve a problem and need to avoid a costly mistake. Or you’re busy time-wise and you might find it more cost effective to hire an expert.

6 Tips to Save Time and Money by Hiring the Right Tech Consultant — If you need to hire an information technology consultant, it can be costly in time and money, if you choose the wrong person. Use due diligence. Sophisticated tech vendors and consultants of all sizes have been known for cost over-runs. Again, certain precautions are needed.

10 Tips for Hiring the Right Attorney for Your Business — In running a successful business, you typically need the services of three professionals — a good tax accountant or CPA, insurance agent and an attorney. Know that talent and skill levels are crucial for your success.

There is a wide variety of opinions on consultants. Some people hate them, and some people hate them a lot.

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Photo courtesy of ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Consultants – Helping Clients Deal with an Emotional Crisis



No matter what kind of a consulting practice you have, it’s sometimes necessary to help clients deal emotionally with a business crisis. If you’re a management consultant and you’ve branded yourself well, the clients see you as a trusted confidante and visionary.

The key is to deliver on your image.

ID-10088766 stockimagesBusinesspeople profess to be objective and only interested in data and professional services. But in hiring you, they make an emotional decision.

It’s common for traumatized clients to become emotional in their anguish over business headaches, and they need a sounding board.

Types of issues

There are basically two kinds of troubling issues – external marketplace forces or internal problems that impede the control of costs, controls and quality.

If the issues don’t result in poor cash flow – in which case I hope you’re prospecting for other clients – the problems often stem cultural workplace issues or toxic employees.

Ideally, clients would turn to you as a trusted and comfortable sounding board.

It’s these raw emotions that serve as obstacles to clients’ success. They’re angry or fearful, and they need to work through their ordeals. (Actually, when they’re angry they’re fearful – fearful the problem won’t get resolved with good results.)

But with such emotions, they replay the problem over and over in their minds. They’re emotionally drained – worn out and lacking in energy.

Depending on the severity of the issues, you don’t have to respond like a clinical psychologist. Just use a common-sense approach.

But if the issues are serious – issues with which you don’t have adequate experience – refer them to a counselor or therapist.

Three phases

En route to solving such issues, typically, they’ll go through three emotional phases:

  1. Shock and denial (“How can these be happening to me?”)
  2. Anger and depression
  3. Acceptance of the issues leading to solutions

If you’re capable of helping your clients with their situations, the issues are solved in three basic steps:

  • Awareness
  • Acceptance
  • Action

Depending on the severity of the issues, you don’t have to respond like a clinical psychologist. Just use a common-sense approach.

Awareness

You need to listen with empathy. At the appropriate moment, respond with kindhearted empathy. Chances are the clients are obsessive about the problem. Try to drag out all the negative feelings.

Help the clients become more objective by asking: “How are you feeling today?” or “What are you feeling now?”

If they go on and on for multiple meetings, it’ll be synonymous to a merry-go-round of denial – as in “this can’t be happening to me.” When enough is enough, try to guide them. Pick the right moment, and ask something like: “Is there anything else?”

In most cases, the question will end the pity party, and you can get moving forward to solutions.

Do your best to get the clients to understand the big picture – all what’s associated with the problems. Identify the roots of the issues.

If you don’t understand the extent and origin of the issues, when you and/or the clients try to implement an action plan, all the bases won’t have been covered. The problem will fester and continue to grow like a cancer.

Acceptance

Again, in all discussions, use empathy. Be sure to validate the clients’ feelings with acknowledgement (e.g. “yes, it’s a big problem”). It’s important for clients to get out of the denial phase. It’s equally vital for you to be intuitive.

Such clients think their problems are terminally unique – that no one else has had to face such problems. That’s not true, but don’t make the situation worse by minimizing their feelings.

At the right moment, help them to become hopeful – confident in dealing with the problem. Use phrases such as: “If it were so easy, everyone could deal with this.”

But don’t try to fix them or the problem.

Action

Use your instincts to know when to proceed. Watch for an improvement in their energy, tone of voice or mannerisms.

In making recommendations, be careful. The clients might still be in a fragile state of mind or too sensitive. Use phrases like “you might wish to consider…”

After you and your clients proceed with a course of action, be sure to get closure. Ask the clients how they’re feeling or how do they feel now about the whole experience.

Finally, if your clients don’t thank you for your service, be sure to get your strokes, too. You deserve it.

From the Coach’s Corner, related tips:

Tips for Building Long-Term Client Relationships with Effective Meetings – How are you faring with your clients? Not sure?

Valuable Secrets for Profitable Deal-Making with Clients – If you’re in professional services or consulting, many times you’ve heard the phrase: “Give me a proposal.”

“Genius is the ability to renew one’s emotions in daily experience.”
-Paul Cezanne


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 





Photo courtesy of  stockimages at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Basics in Hiring a Consultant to Help You Improve Your Company



When you can’t solve a business problem, you probably need a consultant.

Perhaps you don’t have the necessary experience to solve a problem and need to avoid a costly mistake. Or you’re busy time-wise and you might find it more cost effective to hire an expert.

Reasons to hire a consultant include:

— Analyzing a problem

— Conducting research

— Giving you expert advice

— Setting up a new IT system, IT security

— Human resources training, coaching

— Financial expertise, pricing products and services

— Business turnaround

— Branding, marketing, public relations or crisis-management

— Special projects

Consultants, of course, come in all shapes and sizes to work on a short-term basis. It can be an advantageous situation because you pay for the guidance and information you need.

Some projects can take longer, such as coordinating and implementing a marketing program, installing a new IT system or maintaining systems.

Take precautions

Unless you expect to hire a long-term consultant, make sure you save time and money by getting an estimate with a completion date. However, it’s advisable that you pay on a project basis, not an hourly rate.

Be careful with some consultants because they might have basic abilities but not enough skills to manage a special project.

If you’re considering consultants who are unknown entities to you, check with your associates for recommendations, but check references. Research their reputations and read their writings to learn their philosophy.

Make sure there were no negative surprises.

The consultant should have a track record in completing projects on schedule, within budget, and with measurable results.

You’ll want five salient benefits: Efficiency, information, innovation, objectivity and productivity.

Finally, if you do hire someone and problems occur, but you think it’s a salvageable relationship, see: How to Get Great Service from Dysfunctional Vendors. The tips are applicable for consultants, too.

From the Coach’s Corner, more tips on hiring tech consultants and providers:

7 Tips to Hire Marketers for Traditional and Experiential Expertise Technology has evolved so big and fast with an over-saturation of hype, it’s resulted in over-stimulation of migraine proportions. Yet there’s an incalculable number of marketing agencies that claim to have all the answers in both B2C traditional and experiential marketing

6 Tips to Save Time and Money by Hiring the Right Tech Consultant  — If you need to hire an information technology consultant, it can be costly in time and money, if you choose the wrong person. Use due diligence. Sophisticated tech vendors and consultants of all sizes have been known for cost over-runs.

Risk Management – Picking the Best Cloud Storage Provider — There’s been quite a buzz about using the cloud. Personally, I’m still not sold on using cloud services for many businesses. There have been too many problems, and I prefer to maintain controls to alleviate uncertainty in business.

Strategies to Create the Best Possible Mobile Apps  Consumer and enterprise penchants for mobile technology have skyrocketed but we’ve only scratched the surface in developing quality, application solutions. Mobile apps are expected to support initiatives for a company’s return on investment. That includes competitiveness in the marketplace; efficiency; enterprise and consumer relationships; and revenue – better yet, profits would be more ideal.

8 Basic Tips for Selecting the Right Web Hosting Company — If you want to grow or have plans for a complex Web site, hiring the right Web hosting company can be daunting. How do you find a hosting firm that’s reliable and is responsive to your needs? Don’t take the selection process for granted. You can suffer from any one of many unforeseen challenges. 

“Some consultants are like the bottom half of a double boiler: They get all heated up but don’t know what’s cooking.” 

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Tips for Building Long-Term Client Relationships with Effective Meetings



How are you faring with your clients? Not sure?

To be certain you’re doing well, you must ask yourself three key questions:

  1. Do clients thank you on a regular basis?
  2. Do they pay your invoices promptly?
  3. Do they respond well to your recommendations?

ID-10046954If any of your answers is no, it’s a clue things aren’t going well.

Candidly, any no answer means it’s a red flag you won’t have a long-term working relationship.

The die will soon be cast  unless you get busy with some positive footwork. You have to make an assessment.

Is it because they don’t have confidence in you or they feel you take them for granted?

If the latter is the case, bear in mind that clients terminate relationships with consultants 70 percent of the time because they don’t feel appreciated.

Both stem from a lack of trust.

Start remedying your relationships with effective client meetings:

1. Always plan in advance. Prepare agendas. Rehearse your presentations. Arrive early. If your clients keep you waiting, don’t panic. Remember, “The longer they keep you waiting, the more they want you.” So sit quietly and find something to do.

2. Be an active listener. After some initial small talk, the first item on your agenda should be your clients’ concerns. So using strong eye contact before you start your presentations, ask your clients what their concerns or questions are.

Be mindful of this adage: “People don’t care what you have to say until they have their say.” Successful professionals know how to ask questions and listen in 80 to 90 percent of the conversations.

To be certain you’re doing well, you must ask yourself three key questions:

Do clients thank you on a regular basis?

Do they pay your invoices promptly?

Do they respond well to your recommendations?

Remind the clients of the current objectives. Trust me, especially at the highest of levels, they often forget. As you go through the agenda, take notes. If you’re criticized, don’t get defensive. Continue to take notes. Empathize.

If there’s a disagreement, don’t worry and don’t always try to win every argument. If the clients have ideas and if they’re not unproductive, congratulate them for having a good idea. Clients want professional services, but they still dislike know-it-all consultants. But if you have to pursue a point, use a diplomatic phrase such as “You might wish to consider…”

In the event you don’t know the answer to a question or concern, set a time to get back to the client. Clients are impressed with well-thought answers or suggestions.

3. Make every client meeting an event. Dress as becomingly as you can – even if you have casually dressed clients. Soon, they’ll realize how important you consider them.

Smile and be well-mannered to everyone in the organization. Even if you’re having a bad-hair day, don’t allow yourself to appear to be distracted or look tired. Remain standing until you’re invited to take a seat. Use your best posture at all times.

Find a reason to compliment the clients and their employees, and offer a friendly handshake. When speaking, act with confidence. Know that you have the power to light up the room. As you go through the agenda, make sure there’s agreement on action to be taken.

Summarize, and reiterate the objectives. Be sure to thank the clients with a handshake and a smile when the meeting concludes.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related articles:

“The first thing you’ve got to remember is that it’s your clients’ money you’re spending.”
-Richard Morris Hunt


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Image courtesy of ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Valuable Secrets for Profitable Deal-Making with Clients



If you’re in professional services or consulting, many times you’ve heard the phrase: “Give me a proposal.”

You’ve responded by spending several hours and investing hard-earned dollars in putting together a first-rate proposal. You’ve tediously explained your background and your approach.

Well, perhaps it’s productive in only two instances:

  1. For a large firm that has the luxury of personnel dedicated to responding to requests for proposals.
  2. You’re really tight with the prospect and you’re a cinch to get the deal.

Otherwise, ouch, the sales opportunity costs are too high. I speak from experience in having seen the movie – or, as they say: “Been there and done that.”

Yes, you think that many people will hire you off a detailed proposal. That’s true.

But many prospective clients are arrogantly tempted to think and react: “If that’s all it takes, I’ll do it myself.” However, the prospect usually fails in execution of your ideas, and you’ve suffered unnecessarily from sales opportunity costs.

It’s far more profitable to successfully brand yourself so you don’t have waste time writing proposals. Stand out by pre-selling yourself with successful self-marketing, which includes a great elevator pitch.

About 18 percent of the population will only buy from you if charge the cheapest fee. Avoid such prospects.

Note: Size doesn’t matter but image, professionalism count. From my article, The Seven Steps to Higher Sales, there are five value perceptions that motivate quality prospects to buy from you:

  • What clients think of you, and your employees – 52 percent. The key characteristics are integrity, judgment, friendliness, knowledge, empathy and value. 
  • Image of Company – 15 percent. They are concerned about the image of your company in the community. They want to be proud of you. 
  • Quality of Product or Service Utility – 13 percent. The client is subconsciously asking the question – “What will this do for me?” 
  • Convenience –12 percent. Clients like easy accessibility to do business with you. That includes your Web site, telephoning you, and the convenience of communication with you. 
  • Price – 8 percent. Price is important, but it’s the least concern among the five value-perceptions.

So, instead of writing proposals, what’s an effective alternative?

Strategic consultant advocates a deal memo

A widely acclaimed Los Angeles consultant and valued friend of mine, Joey Tamer, advocates using the “deal memo” with prospects. (Ms. Tamer made her stellar reputation as a strategic consultant to entrepreneurs in technology and digital media, and to experienced consultants in all fields to maximize their practices, and she’s a frequent contributor to this business-coaching portal.)

“The deal memo is an outline of proposed terms for providing services to a prospective client or products to a prospective customer, or both to a strategic ally,” she says. “It is a Hollywood term that has come into use in other industries.  It is a useful, short-form way of verifying what you have proposed or agreed in a meeting, before you move to a long-form proposal or contract.”

Joey Tamer

      Joey Tamer


Why a deal memo?

“Too often I have seen people act as ‘vendors’ and provide a full outline of their strategies and tactics (as a proposal), only to have that valuable information ripped off and implemented without them.”

Her deal-memo format outlines the following:

  1. What will be offered
  2. The value it will provide
  3. Start date
  4. Deliverables
  5. Timeline
  6. Limitations on the scope of work
  7. Cost
  8. Payment schedule

“This deal memo is never longer than a single page, written in authoritative language in bullets,” she explains. “It is polite but clear. With this page in hand, any misunderstandings, confusions or objections can be discussed or re-negotiated before concluding the agreement.”

She also suggests “a template or two that will apply to most of your offerings…a quick way to sort out the tire-kickers from the prospects you can actually close, saving you lots of time in proposal-writing, contract-writing and re-negotiation…”

Her next step: “I write a contract (not a proposal) only after this discussion and the resolution of details is complete.  And I send an invoice for the first upfront payment with the contract.

Ms. Tamer says two important elements are often omitted in agreements, but should be included:

  • The value that will be delivered. Of course you understand the value of what you are offering.  You are very close to that information every day. You know what happens if you don’t deliver that value. Although your clients or customers may agree that your offer and deliverables are valuable, they may not be able to articulate them — to themselves or to their management which must approve the deal. You need to do that, in writing, to support your value-based pricing. Defining the value the clients or customers will receive from these deals will settle their minds, will give them ammunition for moving the deal through their bureaucracy, and will defend your price to all concerned.
  • The limitations on the scope of work. Specifying what is not included in this offer at this cost is critical to good relations with your clients or customers. Addressing these limitations in your discussions, and writing them into the deal memo at the beginning saves misunderstandings later. All clients or customers will push the limits as far as they can, to get what they want or what they believe they deserve. For you to maintain your profit margins, this “scope creep” must be defined, addressed and controlled.  Of course you can provide more when asked, as long as there is additional payment for it.

Ms. Tamer’s Web site: www.joeytamer.com

From the Coach’s Corner: see these related resources: 

6 Tips to Increase the Quality, Quantity of Your Client Referrals — To obtain great referrals, Make sure you’re a good steward of your already-existing circle of associates and clients – potential centers of influence.

Consultants / Service Firms: Why Hourly Billing Isn’t Best — One of the first lessons I learned in business-performance consulting was to sell results, not my time. Here’s a case study on client relationships and billing practices.

Your Dream is to be a Consultant? Develop Your Vision Plan — So you’ve got the entrepreneurial bug. You have nothing against your boss, but it’s time for you to run your own show. Here’s how to develop a vision plan.

“My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.

-Peter Drucker


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Marketing Financial Information? Be Careful Choosing a Medium



If you’re in the business of communicating financial data, don’t succumb to the charm of state-of-the-art technology, especially online video. In choosing a messenger medium, a conservative approach is best. Trust is paramount.

That concept was underscored by a 2012 academic study that concluded the use of online video by CEOs to release a financial restatement will not be fully trusted by investors, especially when blaming others for accounting errors.

The study’s researchers: Frank D. Hodge of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, W. Brooke Elliott of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Lisa M. Sedor of DePaul University.

ipad-407799_1280A headline for the article regarding the study at accountingtoday.com read: “Study Examines Use of Video for Financial Restatements.”

The site explained the study was published by the American Accounting Association in The Accounting Review.

Apparently, it’s OK to use a YouTube video when management is contrite for reporting errors.

But such contrition for errors and a restatement raises suspicious eyebrows when management points the finger at outside accountants.

“Video announcements of this kind require very special care,” said Dr. Hodge, according to accountingtoday.com.

“Managing the response of investors to events as negative as restatements (which, according to the GAO, reduced market capitalization of companies by $36 billion over a three-year period) is a formidable undertaking,” he explained. “Doing so via video over the Internet makes it all the more formidable.”

The study reveals a CEO who apologizes in online video for the need of a restatement – on a rating scale of 1 to 7 – receives a 6.15 rating. But a CEO who attributes the errors to outside accountants only gets a 4 rating.

On the other hand, such CEO statements in print were accorded ratings of 4.75 and 4.55, respectively.

“In a networked world, trust is the most important currency.”

-Eric Schmidt

The use of such online video also affected the amounts invested by fund managers. The amounts only decreased 3 percent if the CEO accepted fault.

But if the CEO pointed fingers, the investments dropped by nearly 26 percent. If the same information was presented in print, the decreases were 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Methodology for the fictional scenarios: The researchers compared the opinions of 80 managers who had an average nine years experience. They were divided into four groups.

“Restating financial statements is inconsistent with investors’ positive expectations regarding an investee firm and its management, thus damaging investor trust,” the researchers wrote.

“Although excuses can be effective, individuals who deny responsibility for a failure (i.e., excuse their behavior by blaming others) risk being viewed as more deceitful and as possessing lower character than are individuals who accept responsibility for the failure,” they explained. “Beliefs about another’s character are key components of trust, and once violated trust is difficult to repair. Even when the violator issues an apology, accepting responsibility by making an internal attribution repairs trust to a greater extent than does denying responsibility by making an external attribution.”

The study makes sense. However, my view as a business-performance consultant is that a video should only be used to direct viewers to the source of information – not conveying the full information.

From the Coach’s Corner, suggested reading for consultants:

How Twitter Levels the Playing Field for Small Cap Companies — Good news for venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who are known to kvetch that that their companies fall below the radar screen of Wall Street analysts and the media. It’s widely known that mainstream media coverage seems to favor large companies over small ones. It’s a valid concern.

Insights into How Twitter Users Can Forge Opinion — If you want to influence public opinion on Twitter, the trick is to get your message out early. Once your message is stabilized on the social medium, it’s too difficult for your competitors to overcome your lead according to research.

Performance Gap Solutions for Consultants in Income and Image — How’s business? Is it time for a little biz coaching? If there’s a disparity between your income goals and your current financial situation, it would appear that you have a performance-gap issue.

Consultants – 5 Strategies to Build Trust with Clients — The five strategies that enhance relationships between consultants and clients.

Tips for Building Long-Term Client Relationships with Effective Meetings — How are you faring with your clients? Not sure? To be certain you’re doing well, you must ask yourself three key questions.

“In a networked world, trust is the most important currency.”

-Eric Schmidt


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 






Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.