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Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of The Society for Advancement of Consulting, LLC - Issue #19: April, 2005

Monthly tips to improve the business and practice of members of the Society for Advancement of Consulting, LLC
  • Three phone calls and a letter: That's the maximum follow-up with a non-responsive prospect before you appear desperate. Don't burn any bridges with the letter, but indicate that you can't be of help or allocate priority time if you can't talk.
  • If you have a payment schedule, consider enclosing invoices for all of the payments along with the first one. The due dates can reflect the actual terms, but sometimes these have a way of making it into the accounts payable system earlier.
  • Once a year or so, obtain a copy of your credit report (you are entitled to this by law) from the credit reporting agencies. The fee is about $10, though you can get one for free if a lender tells you that you were turned down for credit as a result of a particular agency's report. I've found egregious errors, such as debts of other people, wrong phone numbers, "late payments" that were actually disputed payments, and so on.
  • You cannot deduct free consulting time you provided a non-profit, but you can deduct cash donations and physical donations (e.g., an old computer). These are almost always best done for tax purposes from your personal account, not your business account (where charitable deductions are limited).
  • Never get involved in client bantering and friendly insults. No matter how much you may feel like "one of the team," friendly joshing by an insider can easily be perceived as inappropriate insults from an outsider.
  • Take a dramatic writing course if you must, but be bold when describing your value proposition and typical client results. "We help you to identify obstacles…." pales in comparison to: "We dramatically improve results by removing both known and unknown obstacles to success."
  • Rapid implementation of a project is dependent upon: 1) complete buyer support; 2) co-opting the critical sponsors and champions; 3) moving rapidly yourself; and 4) carefully monitoring early progress to fine-tune the approach and correct early problems.
  • When a prospect says, "You've never worked in my business," reply, "Well, that's the point, isn't it? You can always find industry experts, but I'm the one who can bring best practices from a wide array of industries and organizations."
  • You're on a marketing trip-on your dime-so long as you're traveling to the prospect to gather information and build a relationship that allow you to submit a proposal and pursue business. But you're on a consulting trip-and their dime-if you're asked to make an assessment, interview people with the purpose of providing feedback, suggest alternatives to the buyer, etc.
  • When a prospect insists that there are people who will do the work cheaper than you, reply, "I'm sure that's true. And there are people who will do the work you do for less than you charge. But why do you suppose your customers choose you and stay with your irrespective of that fact?"

This is a cash flow business, not a lending bank. Allow your client no more than a 30-day grace period after a fee or expense reimbursement is due, and then follow the above sequence. And, whenever possible, try to be paid your full fee in advance.

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